Australia is pretty good at making its own stuff, and its just as good if not better at making its own versions of stuff from overseas. Game shows and reality TV especially. We’ve got The Chase, Masterchef, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, and much, much, more. If it comes from the US or the UK and involves people getting eliminated or winning things than we better get an Aussie production going. But strangely that doesn’t seem to apply to panel shows.
The UK has a wealth of comedy panel shows that keep everyone giggling the days away (myself especially). Brits have got it made when it comes to shows like QI; they know that as viewers we don’t actually care about whatever game they’re playing, or even if we do we don’t care who wins. All we want is to see a collection of good-humoured people in a room together goofing around. Panel shows let us know about new comedians to look out for (many of whom seem to end up with their own panel shows), as well as showing the funny side of politicians, newscasters and other personalities. In the case of people that aren’t so well-liked, do something bad, or fail to get the jokes, well it’s just all the more entertainment for us. For example; the first episode of 8 Out of 10 Cats after Jimmy Carr’s tax evasion scandal.
Much of panel shows in the UK in fact barely spend any time on the actual playing of the games, and just let the banter go on and develop into a wonderful little premise that will even get the hosts cracking up.
The trouble with Australian panel shows is they seem to focus too much on their structure, and the games involved. The Chaser’s Media Circus was a show limited by this. Having attended one of the tapings, and watching the episode the next day, I found that much of the longer bits of banter were sacrificed to fit more of the other games into the show. The problem with this is that bits that people get going seem to end abruptly, and the games themselves are quite choppy, and unsatisfying in length. The show also seems to be confused as to what it is. Although it should just be a straight game panel show, there are occasional filmed segments that feel more in line with The Chaser’s War on Everything.
Channel Ten’s Have You Been Paying Attention? falls victim to the same mindset. The five guests are behind their own little podiums, making any interaction besides answering questions awkward. The show has some of the funniest Australians around at the moment and yet fails to bring me above a sensible chuckle.
Not since Spicks and Specks has Australia (and the ABC in particular) managed to make a panel show last longer than a couple of seasons. For a bit of perspective, Have I Got News For You? has been on air since 1990, and is currently in its 52nd season. We have plenty of funny people, so why can’t we do it?
Is Australia just too competitive to let go of the games in panel shows?