I know I shouldn’t expect too much from free-to-air television. But like anyone else, I have been bamboozled into thinking that 10 digital channels must mean more ‘choice’. And numerically this is true. I certainly have a wider range of options than I did when I was a kid watching three channels on a black and white Healing television.
But lately, I have come to feel that switching on the old telly (actually the kick-arse Viera that my brother owns) in the hopes of finding entertainment makes about as much sense as expecting Senator Barnaby Joyce to complete a coherent sound bite.
I think it might be time for certain shows to cash in their chips. I’ve always enjoyed RockWiz more than Spicks and Specks and although both are showing signs of creaking, I feel that the ABC’s music quiz show has had its day. I was watching Spicks and Specks’ 80s music special last night. I am the natural audience for this kind of retro nonsense – yet I didn’t dig it.
It was all a little too ‘relaxed’. A few months back it appeared that Australian Idol’s Wes Carr genuinely pinged host Adam Hills by calling him ‘Dad’. This reference was less about Hills’ age and more about where his jokes seemed to be coming from. I think the whippersnapper might have called it right. On an average episode, like last night’s, it feels as though Hillsy’s dad jokes are vying for groans with team captain Alan Brough’s version of the same.
The show’s quiz format is basically an excuse to showcase certain talents. Therefore a contestant like comedian Hamish Blake is a liability when it comes to answering questions, but the speed of his gags tends to lift any episode he is on. Sometimes the musical guests offer something unexpectedly good. One of the games involves singing the tune of a pop song using unrelated words from a book. It is a difficult thing to do well, even for professional singers. The night Martha Wainwright did it, she sang so beautifully that it persuaded me go back and give her music a proper listen.
Last night Brian Mannix turned out to be very much the opposite of a must-see talent. After Mannix groused about the shitness of certain 1980s bands like Ultravox, Hillsy made the error of asking him what he thought about certain other bands of the era. He may have been saying ‘put up or shut up’, but Brian went into boring and crass detail to make his point. For those who might not remember, Brian’s own band, The Uncanny X-Men were considered a pop novelty at best, so watching him dump on one-hit wonders Flock of Seagulls, was about as edifying as hearing your angry neighbour complain about the shortcomings of the local council.
Fortunately we were saved from discovering Brian’s thoughts about young people’s music, Twitter or sexting. The show ended with some energetic break dancing by a ‘crew’ who are probably fighting promoters off with a stick, but it was all a little bit tired and lame.
In general, if given a choice between seeing Australian talent on other shows of this format, (Good News Week and Talking ‘Bout Your Generation), I’d rather these faux quizzes than nothing. And with the way money is leaking away from the free-to-air platform, maybe we’ll be getting a lot more nothing coming our way soon. However, I also wouldn’t mind if the TV Brains Trust presented us with something a little fresher than this cheap-to-make, but played-out telly genre.