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Quick Opinion: Want To See What A Live Can of Worms Would Look Like? (It’s Better)

So, we all know there’s been a small but ever-expanding chorus of people calling for Ten’s new, controversial program Can of Worms to be broadcast live.

I happen to be one of them, and think that not only would this make for a more edge-of-your seat viewing experience, but would also alleviate the need to make such jarring edits (in order to adjust the show to run the appropriate time).

And today, I got a mini-taste of what this would look like when Ten released this segmentyoutu.be/ffdB6hDIOQk featuring the Wrong-O-Meter which didn’t make the cut.

Take a look at it, and tell me that the show wouldn’t be made instantly better if it was all more like this. You might notice a couple of things; you actually see guests thinking about their responses (making it seem less constrictive and more organic), Dicko actually gets out of his seat and- gasp- speaks without the aid of an autocue. And yes, though pauses and stumbles over his words a bit, it seems instantly more natural and engaging.

So Ten, just bite the bullet and make it live! But what do I know…

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News: Solid Ratings For Can Of Worms Episode 2

Following on from my mostly positive review of episode two of Can of Worms, it seems the rest of Australia thought the same thing. In Can of Worms’ second outing, it actually built on its pretty good ratings from episode 1 of 930,000, to post a very solid 980,000.

This means more than a couple of things about the show, here they are;

Andrew Denton’s good track-record was enough to overcome a very uneven premiere, which opened up cans of worms than it probably wouldn’t like.

The show was advertised as being from the makers behind “The Gruen Transfer” and “Enough Rope”. If it was from any other producer, the premiere would almost be enough to turn everyone off- especially judging from the negative Twitter reception.

The show was actually markedly better, and is winning positive reviews from some very noteworthy reviewers.

Reviews from respected people such as David Knox at TV Tonight not only provide an authoritative view, but lets viewers know they are onto a good thing.

The fact that it built on its previous week’s episode shows that any publicity is good publicity, or at least, it didn’t damage the brand irreperably.

Though I disliked the inclusion of Jason Akermanis and his comments about suicide (he labelled it “selfish”), it is clear he was regarded as an aberration.

 

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Review: Can of Worms Episode 2

The best thing I can say about this weeks “Worms” is that it definitely smoothed out the rough edges this week.

There was less jolting tone shifts, and while it is far from a “winner”, in terms of quality, it is sure finding its footing.

One of the only problems I have with the show lies right at the core of it- which is worrying-in the “worms” themselves.

First of all, how is the question about “burqas” opening a “Can of Worms”- surely that is one Can that has never been closed in recent memory.

So, doesn’t that actually preclude it from being an actual Can of Worms??

The only way I could excuse it is that it hasn’t actually been in the media for a couple of weeks- but then what does that say about the show? It’s got its finger horribly off the public pulse? What about something about the Carbon Tax, or would that be too current? Remember this show is only filmed one day before it airs, not two weeks.

So basically, if it’s going to use “current” issues as catalysts for debate, why not use current ones?

In the “Moral minefield” segment, there were also questions such as “Have You Ever Used a Disabled Toilet”… Yes, not “Is Using a Disabled Toilet Wrong”… If you get the distinction.

Meshel Laurie’s role in the show still puzzles me. She sits on the end, and sometimes explains how a game works, and sometimes doesn’t. And when she does, it is still something that could be largely covered by Dicko.

However, she really comes into her own when she is allowed to act as a kind of moderator who reacts to things said in the debate- which she started to become largely in the last “swearing” debate.

And the guests? Well, they were a vast improvement on last week’s as I predicted. They were all able to showcase their strong personalities as well as bring up examples from their lives to add to the debate. And the fact that there was only one comedian really worked- having two or more can really put pressure on the guests to make the show funny, when the focus should be on the debate.

And the “comedian” Tom Ballard tried very, very hard indeed. He made, by my count three callbacks- these included saying or was OK to use a disabled toilet because he was a “poofter” (this related to an earlier question asking whether it was acceptable to call someone a “poofter”). However, overall, he came off as intelligent and eloquent, and actually very opinionated.

Jessica Rowe was, well, nice. She isn’t really the type of person that goes out to upset anyone, but isn’t afraid to take a strong point of view. She also spent most of the show being outraged, or offended at comments made on either side of her. Hence, she was symbolically placed in the middle. But while Jessica was pretty good, surely the show can find a woman (or two) who might actually outrage or offend people (I’m talking people like Em Rusciano, Mia Freedman- NOT people like Catherine Deveny here).

Don Burke sat in the “controversial loud-mouth” seat, but strangely, he wasn’t nowhere near as irritating as Jason Akermanis was the week before. Sure, he was a bit cranky, a bit “Grumpy Old Man”, a bit deranged ex-TV personality… He was still an interesting spectacle to behold. Though he did go a bit overboard in some parts- staring at Jessica Rowe’s breasts, dropping F-bombs (because there was a worm about swearing, see)… He is probably the ideal type of guest for the show; unpredictable, uninhibited and slightly unstable. And though you may disagree with some things he says, at least he is never completely unreasonable- an important factor in a show like this; even when views are put forth that you don’t agree with, at least they could make you consider their point of view.

Most importantly, though, the guests actually interacted with each other, and actually debated.

This was also an aspect that was applied to other aspects of the show, with more audience interaction, and actual live tweets- what a novel idea…

Dicko was also better, and the few moments where he actually went off-the-cuff were some of his best moments on the show. But, until he appears more natural on the auto-cue, they need to cut the “witty” throws to ad-breaks and introductions to new worms. Seeing him pause awkwardly as he reads not only devalues a decent show, but stifles Dicko’s personality further (he already has to remain semi-impartial as a host).

Overall, a considerable improvement on the first episode, and at least it shows that producers are listening to viewer feedback. It focused the show on debating issues, and made for a less cluttered product. It still needs to focus its worms a bit more, but with some more good guest selection should more than make up for it.

News: Can of Worms Episode 2 Guests

Following Can of Worms’ lukewarm reception after its first episode, it has today released its guest-list for episode 2.

The guests are Don Burke, Tom Ballard and Jessica Rowe.

My initial thoughts are that this is at least a more interesting selection than episode 1. Don Burke would at first seem to stick out like a sore (green) thumb to viewers, and it would seem as if it’s a comeback of sorts for him, after only being seen on commercial TV on a couple of Burke’s Backyard specials. However, he has appeared on Paul Murray Live on Sky News quite a few times, in which he has proved capable of conversing on various hot button topics.

Tom Ballard could almost be described as the antithesis of Don Burke- young, and all over TV of late, with numerous appearances on the 7PM project, Good News Week and a comedy special on ABC. He is also on youth radio station Triple J every weekday morning. His ironic, honest brand of comedy has won many people over, however would probably be exclusively known amongst the younger generation.

Jessica Rowe fits somewhere in the middle. She is good value, and is eloquent and all the rest of it, however her infamous short stint on the Today show likely will follow her around for the foreseeable future.

In my review of episode 1, I bemoaned the lack of somebody who can be brutally honest without compromising their comic sensibilities, and Tom Ballard could well fit this description, so he is the main drawcard this week for mine.

In addition, I should also mention the promos this week for Can of Worms… On TV this week, they have promised the show will be “awkward”. Yes, “awkward”, not “controversial”, not “smart”, not even “funny”. Is this some sort of crappy market research ploy? Do “the kids” today want awkward TV over all else? Well, I certainly don’t… It’s just so lazy and neither here nor there. If it wants to create an average show, then they should just go right ahead, but if they want to create another “Gruen”, why can’t they make a show that’s sharp, funny, insightful… Etc. Give me a break…

Review: Can of Worms

Firstly, what the hell is this show?

I mean, there’s creating a new format for a show, then there’s just cooking up a giant mishmash of genres.

Coming in to the show, I imagined the show as being made up of long-form debates which drew upon various moral and ethical dilemmas… but that only turned out to be a small part of the show.

I was also hoping the show would adopt a serious edge to approaching these issues.

Instead, when I turned on, I saw people talking in a game-show/chat-show hybrid format featuring a whole range of issues.

***

So where can I start with the format? It was just awful, awful, awful.

First of all, there was the “Wrong-O-Meter”, which only managed to trivialise a whole range of issues by making little buttons out of them (Kennett’s Golliwogs, anyone?), while also giving the show a certain tacky cheapness which can only be passed off as kitschy on one show and one show only: Spicks and Specks.

And pardon me if I’m missing something, but isn’t one of the briefs of the show not to sit on the fence? And isn’t the “Wrong-O-Meter” asking for a specific shade of grey? Sorry, when does “A Bit Wrong” not constitute sitting on the fence?

Then there was the first “worm” (sorry to nitpick, but shouldn’t it be the first “Can”? Nevermind…), “Is it Offensive to Call Someone a Bogan?”. And while it may seem to be a decent-enough question, it’s hardly the most pressing question facing our nation, is it? And even if you take that as read, who even cares all that much about the word “bogan” to argue either way?

Guests were thrown question after question after question, drawing on all manner of topics from “relationships”, “sex” (there goes the “family friendly” appeal) and “gender” in the “Moral Minefield” segment.

Then there was another segment (I didn’t catch its name… because I didn’t care), but it involved a board and some words. In this case it was whether some young people terms were “Danger Danger” or “Fine by Me” when it came to kids’ activity online. But the problem was, the terms ranged from the bizarre in “Smut Mining” and “Brick Juicing” to the bleedingly obvious “Backdooring” and “Grooming”.

And after they were all sorted into their groups (not at all seriously, I might add- “Backdooring” was placed in “Fine by Me…”), the results were revealed by Dicko. But everyone had stopped caring long ago about the show, including the guests.

***

And speaking of the guests… what can you say, really? Yes, they were all probably crapping themselves before they came onto set, given that it’s a new show and all, but none of them said anything that was all that memorable, or anything that made the show in its first week.

Craig Reucassel was probably the best value, and was good when it came to the funny bits, but his instinct is to be funny all the time, not debate semi-serious issues. And he cracked some great gags, the type you’d expect to see on the Chaser’s War on Everything. And speaking of that show, I couldn’t help but think Ten would be better off just giving the Chaser their own show (surely they’d all be up for it now, especially since they’ve all appeared on commercial TV shows).

George McEncroe got the role of “only female guest” (if you exclude Meshel Laurie’s regular gig), and was OK- she’s intelligent but looked unsure of how to roll with the format. This was evident at the end of the show when Dicko asked what they’ve learned from the show… yet another pointless element to the show, not to mention a useless excercise- George offered up a weak line; “I wish I was being raised in Craig’s joint…”, then looked immediately at Aker for his answer- a classic sign that someone is uncomfortable.

Meshel Laurie, while not a “guest” as such, was one of the better parts of the show, and will hopefully get even better. However, she needs to have a better defined role- is she a co-host or a Wheel of Fortune letter girl?

But who knows what the guests were told before they walked on set- be funny, or be honest? Because we all know it’s pretty hard to do both, unless you’re as gifted a comedian as, say Louis CK, to draw on a particularly random example*.

And unfortunately for the two guest comedians, they ain’t no Louis CK, so the show’s shifting tone – or lack thereof- left them uncomfortable. This was also a problem that The 7PM Project encountered in its embryonic stages- comedians such as Dave Hughes were suddenly forced to pass serious opinions on serious topics on live TV- leaving Dave Hughes, and more significantly the viewer, squirming.

Unlike Good News Week, this show doesn’t afford comedians the liberty of being able to crack dick jokes every opportunity they can, so there’s no safety blanket.

So, for the sake of all involved, the show needs to settle on its tone.

***

I knew that “Aker” would be a problem, but I guess that it’s a compliment to say that he wasn’t the worst part of the show, nor was he worse than I thought he would be.

But then again, he was pretty damn shocking- not funny, but not at all eloquent and just bordering on pathetically earnest.

When he was presented with the term “Brick-juicing”.

He said; “(something indecipherable) juice a brick? I’m not gonna drink that shit!”

He also said “I’ve got two (daughters), that’s fine by me”… when he was presented with the term “backdooring”. First of all… WHAT?! Second of all… WHAT?!

I don’t know if there is any point picking it apart… because it’s just so, so wrong on so many levels, but why stop now? First of all, both of his daughters are under 18, so there’s that. Secondly, he’s saying that because they’re girls, that “backdooring” is OK? As in, it wouldn’t be permissible if they were male? As in… well, you know the rest.

Just. Get. Off. My. Screen.

***

OK, so that may be a little harsh. And when it came to the next segment it was clear that the show could be worthwile… but it was just executed so strangely. For example, Aker was asked about when he was bullied at school. And it allowed the guests to talk about the issue of teen suicide. However, when Aker opens up by saying suicide is “selfish”… it just made me cringe in all the wrong ways.

I mean, I get where he’s coming from, and I’m guessing this is the exact thing that Denton got him on the show for, and though I’m not a psychologist, I’m guessing the last thing someone who is being teased at school and being called negative words, the last thing they want to hear is that on top of all that, they’re “selfish” for contemplating something so horrible. (Please correct me if I’m wrong here!)

But even if the discussion about suicide was valid (and most of the time it is- the more we talk about such issues, the more we can understand it, usually), it was in stark contrast to most other aspects of the show.

Only a segment before, they were having a knee-slapping laff-fest over words such as “poke”. OHOHO, “poke” can also mean sex! See you after the break, where we’ll talk about bullying and suicide.

***

And now for the all-important host… Dicko. His autocue reading was not as wooden as, say, Andrew Bolt, but it wasn’t anywhere near natural enough to convince me he could carry this show past week one.

Then there were all manner of unnecessary parts, but where to start… again?

Throughout the show, the audience gave their opinion as to whether they agreed with the guests or not, making the guests seem like they were just debating for the approval of the audience. It also shifted the focus of the show from “What do you think about this issue- be honest, now” to “Does the rest of Australia agree with your opinion? You better hope they bloody do…”

Then there was a Chaser-style segment with Dan Ilic, who went out on the street armed with a clip-board and asked people if they wanted to monitor their child’s internet activity… or something to that effect. Presumably it was meant to prove some sort of point, but to me it just seemed to be an awkward effort to shoe-horn Ilic into the show. Why not just have him as one of the guests and cut out the segment altogether?

Many have also likened the “Can of Worms National Poll” graphics to Hungry Beast’s flashy graphics. I don’t really have a problem with that segment as such, but, as on Hungry Beast, it just seems to be a desperate, “show-boaty” time-filler.

At the end of the show, Dicko also has to crown, or award one of the guests with a shitty little medal (and not an ironically crappy one, like on Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation, but a real, last-minute, “Hey, let’s make this show EVEN BETTER by saying someone debated better than other people!!” medal).

And it was indicative of the show’s bad start that it gave the award to “Aker”… and just for “opening up”- surely that’s the bare minimum for a show like this.

***

I know that it’s not the point of the show, but wouldn’t you find it far more interesting if the guests were asked “curly” questions which actually pertained to their own careers or lives?

For example, why not ask a question about gay footballers, and use it as an opportunity to grill Aker on why he has the views that he does. At least then there could be some interaction between the guests and some bloody debate. If they wanted to, they could even open it up to the broader theme of “coming out” in today’s society.

Why not ask Craig Reucassel about whether the Chaser’s APEC stunt was horribly dangerous, or a necessary prank to expose security flaws/hypocrisy/whatever they were trying to prove. Yes, it would be dredging up old news, but it would be a darn-sight more interesting that the inconsequential crap we were presented with tonight. And again, open that up as a broader topic; “Can jokes go too far?” “Is there a ‘line’ when it comes to comedy?” Hell, isn’t that the very thing they promised in the ads, what with the whole wearing a “Hitler outfit” to a party? Surely that would at least relate better to the Chaser’s style of comedy that anything else they asked tonight. I’m sure even Andrew Hansen dressed up as Hitler for a prank… So what they hell were the people behind this show thinking?

And isn’t that what Andrew Denton spent all of “Enough Rope” trying to tell us? “Everyone has a story?” This seems the exact antithesis to that; who cares what you’ve done in your life, just bloody open your mouth and blabber about “rasterbating”.

***

The show is in desperate trouble of becoming a massive flop. At the moment it’s all over the place, with an awkward host, squirming guests and shamefully irrelevant segments.

It also needs to sort out its focus – the worst thing a new show can be is cluttered and unsure of itself. To have a show range from dirty humour to the morbidly serious to game-show wackiness is just plain confusing to new viewers… which is everyone, at this stage. Maybe if the show goes on, they can branch out and try new segments, but for now, they need to narrow their focus and their aspirations.

But in saying all that, it’s got potential; let’s hope it can smarten up quickly…

What did you think of the show? Did you see it as just a fun show, or did you find it too chaotic to make head or tail of anything?

*Louis CK would just a perfect candidate for the show- controversial, yet intelligent and screamingly funny. He also cares about stuff– and believes in what he says. Does Australia even have one of those? Any suggestions?

News: Can of Worms Ep1 Guests + Set Revealed!

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Before its premiere tomorrow night on Ten at 8:30pm, the Can of Worms set has been revealed. Here it is thanks to Can of Worms audience member @thatcarlaK… Go ahead and follow her!

And it seems to have clarified a few points of interest as to its format;

Firstly, it will not be a typical “panel show”, in the way that, well, there isn’t a panel as such. So, it won’t look like a “7PM project” or a “Gruen Transfer”.

In fact, it more resembles a talk-show set, with the clear delineation of “host” (Dicko) and guests.

But the look can also imply a lot about the show’s format. The separation of host and guests could suggest that Dicko will not take as active a role in the debate at hand than first thought. Though one would think (and hope) he will still do more than throw a question at the guests and watch it bounce around.

There’s also a board to the left of the picture- but I can’t discern its purpose yet. Some things are better left as a surprise though.

But that’s enough speculation for the moment- the set looks fairly dynamic but not too overpowering (see: The White Room), and it at least looks different to everything else we’ve seen on the box this year.

It has also been confirmed that there will be a Twitter-stream running during the show – one of my pet hates- you know, it’s just so bloody predictable for a show these days; a show can be “modern” and “hip” without having reams of tweets broadcast on TV.

It would actually be more interesting if the show just relied on the personalities they’re paying to provide the entertainment.

They need to stop cheapening the experience of watching a TV show. By seemingly breaking down the wall between TV land and viewer, it not only ruins the mystique, but also criminally gives viewers the perception that their views matter to the celebrities, when really it’s just being used as a vehicle to make the show seem more engaging.

Now, in this case, I’m looking at Dancing with the Stars and Q and A, so I am holding out hope that “Worms” changes my opinion on this.

In other words, will Dicko and co. read out tweets that even slightly criticise the opinions of the guests, or take a drastically different viewpoint?

If this doesn’t happen, I hope it doesn’t appear again to be blantantly tokenistic.

In other news Dan Ilic, a presenter on the show has tweeted: “Met @Jason_Akermanis tonight.. great bloke… you’ll love him in @canofwormstv tomorrow night on @channelten”, confirming that colourful AFL personality Jason Akermanis will appear on the first edition of the show, along with Meshel Laurie.

I can’t help but feel nervous about Akermanis’ appearance on the show tomorrow. I know he has a (well-deserved) reputation as a shit-stirrer, but for many, he has it for all the wrong reasons.

He is often seen as an old media troll of sorts, with opinions spouting forth from his mouth (mostly about AFL football) with often very little justification, proof and whatever else you need to form a decent opinion.

Yes, he might be a nice guy, but one often gets the feeling he says things because he knows the media will pick up on it- yes, who would have thought people do that?

And though he may be “nice”, he’s not exactly well-liked. Let’s face it, to say he’s left two AFL clubs in acrimonious circumstances would be an understatement.

Yes, put on controversial people, by all means, but in the first episode of a show to put on a notorious AFL loud-mouth… It just seems slightly risky…
(And this is a show that touches on issues mostly unrelated to the AFL, remember.)

But then again, having him in a debate situation would force him to extrapolate on his usual flamethrower-opinion soundbites, and if anyone can bring the best out of “Aker” it’s Denton and co.

Monday night’s ep will also feature George McEncroe and Craig Reucassel, two exceptional guests, if I do say so myself.

So bring on Monday night!

Opinion: Can of Worms: Will Denton open a Can of Beast, Tench or Gruen??

Another month, another “Zapruder’s Other Films” program premieres.

In recent times, Andrew Denton and Anita Jacoby’s production company has churned out shows including Hungry Beast, AFP, The Gruen Transfer and Gruen Nation, all to varying degrees of success.

On the whole, there is a consensus that shows that they formulate are new and inventive, if nothing else. Before their respective premieres, they are also shrouded in secrecy, with man of the key talent kept under wraps, as well as the format, premise and general feel of the show.

This is one of the reasons why it is difficult to predict the success of the show. Their policy of secrecy is a double-edged sword, as obviously not knowing anything about the show builds up a sort of mystique, and of course builds the curiosity factor. It also encourages people to watch the show for the central premise, rather than fob it off after seeing a personality one dislikes on the promo (Dicko is nowhere to be seen on the talking-head promos, despite the fact that he is the host).

On the other hand, the vague “Australia, we need to talk” tagline is not quite explicit enough for some people to feel an urge to tune in.

The “talking heads” that appear to discuss various issues which touch on “porn”, religion and the internet. So its clear that we’re in line for some modern, frank discussion. Presumably there is a newfound market for this kind of discussion, what with these type of discussions being brought up frequently on Q and A.

Obviously the show wants “Australia” to start talking. It wants families to start these type of discussions in their own house. This will create further word-of-mouth between friends, etc. etc.

Whether the show is aiming to set the agenda on new issues or rather react to issues in the news is unknown.

So, what do we know we can expect?

Read on to find out…

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