Review: Ben Elton Live From Planet Earth

The Bounce, Let Loose Live, The White Room, You May be Right, The Nation, Hamish & Andy, Micallef Tonight, The Matty Johns Show, The Mick Molloy Show, Warnie.

I could go on.

All of these shows have cropped up on our screens over the past decade. And all are infamous for one reason; they were axed because a)Ratings were paltry or b)They were pitiful excuses for comedy.

Sometimes they were a combination of the two – actually, far too often they were.

They are also unique in the way that they were not axed because they petered out towards the end of their run.

No, they are all textbook definitions of “flops”, axed after two or three episodes. Sometimes they were allowed to complete their run of 13 episodes of so (in the case of the Nation).

No, commercial networks haven’t exactly had the most success in creating a successful comedy, light entertainment or quiz program.

Over the past decade, one could only point to Rove (and its various iterations), Spicks and Specks and Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation as genuine success stories.

Not exactly a great hit-rate.

So why on earth would Nine take a risk with yet another live, or as-live comedy?

Well, maybe it was because Nine believed they had a hit on their hands.

Well do they?

There was quite a nice opening riff on the absurd classification system in Australia. Oh-Kay…

The monologue involved some fairly topical gags about Julia and the floods.

Yet jokes about spam and “knob”-size were fairly run-of-the-mill stand up comedy fare.

And calling Tony Abbott a “dickhead” will always be a crowd pleaser.

If one has an issue listening to Elton’s English accent commenting on Australian issues, just think- one wouldn’t have a problem with a person of Indian descent, or Italian descent commenting, so why should this be any different?

In case you have an issue with a “Pom” hosting an Australian show, it’s actually more representative of  Australia than anything else on TV – maybe we can soon graduate to maybe someone of different ethnicity hosting something on commercial TV.

But that’s a topic for another day.

Back to the real “comedy” of the show.

The two Ja'mies- I mean schoolgirls. You see, it's not ripping off Lilley because THERE'S TWO OF THEM.

I really enjoyed the schoolgirl and upper-class wine swillers… The first time they were done on Summer Heights High and Kath and Kim.

And fake Hollywood reporters… why do I feel like I’ve seen this before?

I think it's got to the point where actual Hollywood reporters are funny than the people mocking them

And then came a “sight gag”… that lasted for far too long.

Sorry.

And OK, we get it, some female bodybuilders look masculine. If this show is cancelled, don’t they know that will be shown on 20 to 1, Great Hits and Misses.

Or Today Tonight in two weeks time.

However, the one saving grace throughout all this was the surprising brevity of it. That will make it easier to chop segments such as the “fat chef”.

Oh, and in case you didn’t get the joke: THE CHEF WAS MEANT TO BE MATT PRESTON. YOU KNOW, FROM MASTERCHEF? HE’S FAT.

Oh, and in case you missed that visual gag, he was called THE. FAT. CHEF. Yep, that’s what we’re dealing with.

"I was really glad I managed to make the Fat Chef fart." Cutting. Edge. Comedy.

You know when you’ve been beaten to a joke- and a one dimensional one at that- by Sam Newman that it’s time to push the panic button.

However, before anyone had the chance to turn off, along came one Genevieve Morris, a manificent character actor probably best known for her rendition of Barbara from Bankworld.

Her character, interviewer Elaine Front was an absolute winner and threatened to steal the show from Elton himself.

And while I had hoped the live sitcom would introduce some new characters- some that weren’t so over the top and caricaturistic. All the acting was top-shelf though, with Veronica Milsom reprising her role as Lady Gaga from Hungry Beast (maybe it’ll lead to a gig on Saturday Night Live in the US?).

And The Mick Molloy Urinating on Set Award goes to the actor who played Amy Winehouse.

“I’ll just run a comb through me minge.”

Yes, “contemporary” comedy is apparently making as many crude jokes as possible, without the actual humour of actual pioneers in this area such as Judd Apatow and his range of adult comedies.

But once again the criticism isn’t that it wasn’t unfunny or cringeworthy, it’s just that the most obvious joke was used in every case.

Then followed an insensitive “public school teacher”. That’s about all that you need to know.

Asian students were called things like "Ain't-shit". Oh, I think I forgot to mention that this sketch was RACIST. Silly me.

But by the end Elton had almost won me over with his brand of stand-up- quick, outrageous rapid-fire comedy. It’s about time we got a grumpy
old man, of sorts, Let Loose on TV. We have had a cheeky Rove for ten years after all. I could get used to it.

At the end of the day. It’s an Australian production employing talented Aussie actors and comedians. It’s also live and very slick- usually a hallmark of Nine productions.

The show’s not achingly funny, but who expected it to be on the first night? And how many shows are, anyway.

Hopefully they have got all the fart jokes and other easy jokes out of the way in the first show, so that we can see some genuinely new material.

Though not live, The Wedge’s main weak point was its inability to come up with new characters. Its initial range of characters was funny, yet they were done to death.

If Planet Earth begins introducing new characters and utilising the full range of its talented cast, it could take off. If it remains exactly the same as this week’s show, then don’t bother. After all, we’ve seen all these characters again and again (and now again), we know all the jokes.

And the Australian audience deserves better.

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Posted on February 8, 2011, in TV and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Did you notice some of the sketches- such as the Fat Chef- had absolutely NO set?

    • Wow, I didn’t notice that the first time!
      Looking back at the footage, there was actually a solitary cushion on the floor… maybe that qualifies as a set these days?
      Probably minimalist set design to accommodate the many, many changes between sketches.

  2. This show was god damn awful and so out dated. The jokes were cringe worthy and not funny at all. Was crude and sexist really. A bunch of Year 9 students could write and create and perform better than this. Who ever said that performing and acting was a competitive game?

    • Yes, you do have a point. But I guess we’ve got to the stage in Australian comedy we’re you’ve almost got to take what you can get. Almost. Not when it is this crap. There was one or two good moments, as I said, but nowhere near funny.
      For the sake of the Aussie performers, I felt like I should give it another go next week… But it looks like there’s no point, with ratings of 455,000 it won’t make it past its second week.

  3. No one does Nigella like Ronnie Ancona, a complete rip off that was done ages ago. The main issue with Australian comedy is that there is not a way in which to develop comedy writing and performing BEFORE it gets to TV. In the UK most comedians are either stand-ups or develop their skills on radio first. Then they transition to TV when the Beeb know they can deliver. Hence, the string of hits. Here is Oz we don’t have it. We used to, with Comedy Company, Full Frontal, Frontline etc, but since those days nothing has really worked. It’s a shame, it’s one of the reasons I’m moving to the UK (no joke!).

    • Yes that is an excellent point- one that isn’t brought up often enough. I suppose the closest equivalent would be community TV channels and the new generation of comedy: Rove, Hamish and Andy and Jess Harris (who is adapting twentysomething for ABC1).
      Then there’s Triple J I guess, which has seen the emergence of such “talents” as Merrick and Rosso.
      However- as you said- resources to foster upcoming comedians are disturbingly low.
      I guess its fitting then that a Brit is hosting and writing this show.
      And it’s for this reason that you have to admire Denton and co. on the ABC for encouraging young talent on Hungry Beast- while it wasn’t the best comedy to come out of this country, it had its moments.
      So I wouldn’t say all is lost yet, with the old guard to get another run on Channel Nine in another series of the Games and Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee’s the Joy of Sets. Maybe this will be enough to inspire another ragtag bunch of comedians (à la, the Chaser, etc.).

  4. What absolute rubbish. Most of the performers on that show have been performing live for year. You should check out some live comedy in Australia so you know what you’re talking about.
    I agree though – the show was simply awful. If you go to the UK please take Ben Elton with you. What a has been jerk.

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