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News: Top Gear Season 17 Coming Soon to Nine

Australian Top Gear fans can rest easy- the show’s seventeenth season, which began just over two weeks ago in the UK, will finally have an airdate in Australia.

Today Nine have begun airing their “The best is still to come” promos, which feature a montage of the second half of the year’s shows, including Underbelly: Razor, Hamish and Andy’s Gap Year, Top Design and Bear Gryll’s Worst Case Scenario.

There is also a mention of new Top Gear, though, which tells us it isn’t far away.

It won’t be seen for the next two weeks but my tip is TUESDAY JULY 19 at 8:30, given Sea Patrol has its final ever episode airing the week before at July 12, it will leave a hole in the schedule.

The other possibility is Thursday July 21, given its human body series has its finale the previous week, however Nine seems set on airing docos in that slot.

Season Seventeen episode one features a tribute to the E-type Jag, among other things. It is one of six episodes for the season.

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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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Opinion: Can Nine Reclaim Some Glory?

Channel Nine is currently undergoing a resurgence of sorts, after a very lacklustre start to the year.

After heavily promoting the fourth series of The Block in its new 7PM timeslot, it has proven a decent new alternative in its first week on air.

Of course, its strong first week figures will be slightly inflated due to the massive publicity push, but it has arguably begun to turn around Nine’s fortunes.

And let’s face it, any old show that can pull half-decent figures for Nine (we’re talking over a million) will be more than welcome on its schedule, as its first half of the year has certainly been one to forget for the network.

After starting the year touting itself as the “Home of Comedy” it put forth its first offering in the form of Ben Elton Live From Planet Earth. And we all know how that one ended:

Low ratings combined with the worst critical reception to a show in recent memory made for a genuine, out-and-out stinker of a show.

Faced with failure, Nine felt it had no choice but to flog the hell out of its imports in Two and a Half Men and Top Gear, two programs that had done very well for the network in 2010.

However, repeating these “hit shows” ad nauseam led to viewer fatigue, and pretty soon they began turning off in droves.

Today, Top Gear is nowhere to be seen on Nine’s main channel, with Two and a Half Men pushed late into the night. You can find it now at 10:30PM on a Tuesday night.

Continue reading after the jump…

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TV News Wrap: Friday May 27

Not much in the way of news today… just some notable guest-casting coups;

  • Martin Short and Alan Quinn will also pop up on Season 7 of the Showtime series Weeds.
AUSTRALIAN NEWS
  • You can watch Hamish and Andy’s going away drinks party on the Herald Sun website from 6PM today. They will fly to the US to produce their show, Hamish and Andy’s Gap Year for Channel Nine.
  • I can’t believe that there’s even speculation that someone will replace Adam Hills on Spicks and Specks for a number of reasons. 1) Because the combination of Adam, Myf and Alan is the show, when one element is taken out, it ceases to be Spicks and Specks; 2) Even if they tried, there would almost certainly be backlash, whoever they chose to replace him and 3) ABC would not even consider it because of these reasons, at least not for a couple of years.

TV News Wrap: Sunday May 22

  • Fans of the recvently cancelled Fox TV show “Breaking In”, starring Christian Slater, might be able to hold on to some form of hope, after The Hollywood Reporter has reported that the show “…Might Get Renewed” if you watch the finale on Tuesday night in the US, which stars Mike Tyson and Voltron. This is because Fox has floated the possibilty of renewal if it gets good ratings on Friday.
  • They have also thrown up a very likely reason as to why it was cancelled in the first place (even though it attracted ratings of around 7 million): “… (Fox) may find Breaking In too niche (read: too geeky) and not strong enough with female audiences.”
  • TVLine reports that another British actor has scored a major role on big-budget Fox show Terra Nova, it’s Rod Hallett from The Tudors (he played Sir Richard Rich in the show).
  • In other casting news, Ana Ortiz, best known from her role as Ugly Betty’s sister in the ABC show, is heading to Detroit to star alongside Thomas Jane in the HBO show Hung. In keeping with the show’s theme, she will be playing a woman who needs anger management and a prostitute… so no guesses as to what sort of things she will be getting up to in the show’s third season. Ah well, you gotta what you gotta do to get by in the acting biz, don’t you? Here she is/was in Ugly Betty as Hilda (on the left).

Those people eagerly anticipating Season 4 of Breaking Bad will be waiting for any scrap of information/footage relating to the new season (as to which there has been very little information released). I think this classifies as a “scrap”, but it’s something nonetheless.Here’s  a video of star Bryan Cranston emploring fans to send in a video of how much they love Breaking Bad. But if you look at 0:33 onwards, there is a snippet of Season 4 footage, showing Cranston’s character Walter White, still sporting his beard/moustache combo and throwing a burning pack of empty matches (possibly?) to the ground with Saul Goodman’s face and slogan on it. Make of it what you will.

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  • In Australian news, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that hit NBC show The Voice has been picked up by Channel Nine (both the US version and the rights to an Australian one). You have to wonder if Australia is ready for another reality/talent competition, let alone another singing contest, but with this show’s emphasis on well, the “voices” rather than their look, etc. it isn’t exactly the worst pick-up news. But once again, it will come down to the choice of host, and in particular, the judges/mentors/coaches.
  • TV Guide reports on the fact that Oprah’s favourite guest of all time is Dr. Tererai Trent, a woman from Zimbabwe who endeavours to give the gift of education to children. I’d imagine John Travolta would be fuming.

Between the Lines Review: A Nice Surprise, but can it Join the Ranks of “Specks”, GNW, TAYG?

I was pleasantly surprised by Nine’s latest foray into the panel/quiz show formula. Ten has its pop culture quiz show in Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation, its news quiz show in Good News Week. ABC has its music quiz show in Spicks and Specks and its sports quiz show in The Trophy Room. So how does this stack up?

Well, first off Eddie McGuire as host : he did the job just fine, there was never any question of that. As always, it always comes down to whether you are a fan of his or not, or rather, if you can tolerate him or not. But whether you like him or not, he knows when to let the guests crack their jokes or tell their stories, and when to keep the show moving (though it was not live).
But at the end of the day, even if you don’t like Eddie, he doesn’t dominate the show, so it would be tolerable at worst.

The two team captains were Mick Molloy and Ryan Fitzgerald, who were both quite funny. Molloy came with a few succinct one-liners that he’s used to delivering on Before the Game while Fitzgerald was quite good at responding to situations and making jokes up on the spot.

The comedians were Peter Berner and Ed Kavalee, and they were predictably brilliant, however, I couldn’t help feeling a pang of nostalgia and excitement for the two shows these two were/are involved in (The Einstein Factor and The Joy of Sets).

The stars Lauren Burns and James Tomkins didn’t really have a lot to offer except for a couple of amusing anecdotes, but I guess you need them on there given it is a sports show. And having 6 comedians on a show can sometimes be too chaotic.

So it’s really no different to most panel-type shows- it will live and die by the quality of its guests. For example, I would watch if people like Ed Kavalee were on, but not if someone like Ruby Rose were on.

Also, speaking of female guests, many have remarked that there is not a strong female presence, which opens it up to a barrage of criticism. Here’s a suggestion for another female guest- Mieke Buchan. She is also on Eddie’s Triple M breakfast show, and has good chemistry with him. Also, and most importantly, she knows her sport- she is also associated with Channel Nine as she does voiceovers for the AFL Footy Show.

And speaking of chaos, if you stack it up against GNW, Eddie keeps his show under control. Which isn’t to say that the chaos doesn’t work for GNW.

It is also a bit more structured than Talkin Bout Your Generation, as that show requires a looser format to allow Shaun Micallef room to weave his magic, the elaborate games to play out and allow the guests to have some good ol’ fashioned fun.

However, it is not as structured as Spicks and Specks. It does borrow heavily from its games such as the “pick a subject” questions, and the “true or false” anecdotes. However, I for one couldn’t care less. If a show is good, I don’t care if it borrows elements from other shows. After all, we’re all friends here….

There was, however, one part I disliked was the segment in which the contestants had to pick the “real” Gary Cosier. It isn’t really the fault of the comedians, as they are there to make jokes, but they proceeded to take potshots at the five “Garys” based on their physical appearance. It only served to demonstrate the sort of blokey ribbing with more than a hint of nastiness that would cause many to switch off. For example, Molloy kicked it off by saying one of the “Garys” “is clearly on day release”. Ed Kavalee’s were less malicious, saying one looked like he wants to “go (him)”, while another looked like “Con the Fruiterer”. Molloy, though, finished by saying one looked like he was born in “1896”. On the other side, Berner said “Get two Kerry Bousteads and tape them together” to get one of the “Kerry Bousteads” in the line-up.

I just hope five women aren’t put up next week or else it could get very ugly…

So in the end, it turned out to be a decent show. Not exactly a rip-snorter, but it has the capacity to turn out some decent laughs every week. However, it all comes down to the ratings tomorrow…

Between the Lines: The Crappy Art of Replicating a Formula

Here’s one for ya, how big a failure will Nine’s “new” “TV show” be?

A. A “Let Loose Live” failure

B. A “Ben Elton” failure

C.

D.

Too harsh? Possibly. But I’m usually all for giving new Australian shows a go. But I’m less “forgiving” when it comes to Australian shows that are slapped together and thrown into viewers lounge rooms which try to capitalise on the success of another show.

Take the Todd McKenney abomination, You May Be Right. It tried to capitalise on the success of Dancing With the Stars, of which Todd McKenney was the nasty, yet intelligently catty judge, as well as the runaway success that was (and continues to be) Spicks and Specks. With these two elements together, surely Seven was on to a winner? All it needed now was to plug the rest of the panel holes with “celebrities” and other such “funny-funny makers”, as they’re known in the industry. It also, laughably, centred around not only music, but also TV shows and movies, because, you see, this automatically made it better (and different) to Spicks and Specks.

However, it was an unabashed failure. Incidentally, in 2010, a similar attempt was made to presumably relaunch You May Be Right, or at least the concept of it. This time, it came in the form of The White Room. Yes, there were games, a panel, celebs… but, get this: there were TWO hosts this time. Thus, it was better, etc.

Anyway, the point remains, replicating a winning idea remains a difficult, and mostly scorned tactic, especially in the mind of the viewer.

However, it can be done, as was proven in 2010 with the success of My Kitchen Rules, or in other words, MasterChef @ Home But With That French Chef That Was On MasterChef Once Or Twice But Is Now On This Show. And although it’s basically the same show (people put food on a plate to be judged, rinse, repeat), Channel Seven managed to successfully make it look different to MasterChef (though its lower production values may have just been a budget issue). They also didn’t try to top MasterChef (and this was subsequently reflects in its ratings), and hence why many people have commented that it has served as an entree to the main course of MasterChef.

The problem with Ed’s new show, however, comes in the fact that they are trying to throw together all manner of formats and pass it off as a fun new show.

Let’s break it apart: it’s a sports quiz show. But wait, there’s more! From TV website TV Tonight comes the press release:

“Competitors will take part in Q&A segments with pictures, video clips, guessing games, special guest rounds, performance rounds and sporting challenges.”

I sincerely hope Q&A was not slipped in there gratuitously, given the success of the ABC program… actually, I wouldn’t put it past Nine.

And “guessing games” really sound like they will be the winner amongst that group.

Each episode will feature guest appearances from sporting identities who will provide anecdotes from their careers. The teams will then be required to say whether the stories they’ve just heard are true or false.”

Surely it goes without saying for Spicks and Specks viewers, but it sounds eerily similar to a certain game on that show, where contestants must pick the correct anecdote from a choice of three.

“Between The Lines will also include a special segment that gives viewers a rare peek into the locker room to hear never-before-told tales from Australian sporting heroes.”

Soooo, a sports quiz show. There hasn’t been one of them since The Squiz on SBS, and H2H on the ABC. And, of course, we all know where we have seen the “quiz” aspect.

It is also trying to recreate the jokey, blokey atmosphere of the Footy Show by bringing in Dermott Brereton and Billy Brownless, while also bringing in the “new generation” of comics in Mick Molloy and Ryan “Fitzy” Fitzgerald (who are a part of the team on Ten’s Before the Game- one can only guess how this conflict will play out).

It is also combining the “winning” chemistry of Mick Molloy and Eddie McGuire, who have seemingly hit it off big-time after spending mornings together on the Hot Breakfast on Triple M.

There is also the light-hearted panel vibe which has seemingly been pioneered by the folk on The 7pm Project.

They have also had previous form together on TV – fun times.

We all know about Nine’s track-record in 2011. Let’s just say it hasn’t been fantastic.

And Eddie McGuire has had somewhat of a hit with his Million Dollar Drop, as well as Hot Seat, yet it is well known that interstate viewers don’t respond well to him in many other roles.

This isn’t to say I won’t give it a go… but these days, trying to replicate a formula almost invariably sets a show up for failure.

Note: I am aware that Spicks and Specks bares many a similarity to “Never Mind the Buzzcocks”, and the TV Guru has very perceptively alluded to this fact, but I am talking about trying to replicate the often intangible nuances of successful shows in Australia, for example, the chemistry between stars on the show.

101 Ways to Kill a TV Show: The Nine Way

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Right now, Channel Nine is currently in the middle of a full frontal military assault.

It’s called Operation Big Bang.

It involves bombarding viewers with as many Big Bang Theory episodes as possible.

And why? You may ask, surely too much of a good thing is, well, too much… But that isn’t the same way programming execs think.

Especially ones at Channel Nine.

You see, Nine are a desperate network. A network desperate to reclaim their number one title off Seven. They don’t have a massive stable of popular shows like Seven do. Seven have their Border Security type shows, which always pull decent ratings, they have a dominant news element- Today Tonight and Sunrise almost always beat their Channel Nine counterparts nationally; they have a hit Australian drama in Packed to the Rafters, and a promising show in Winners and Losers, they also have solid year-round staple shows such as Better Homes and Gardens.

In comparison, Nine has Underbelly, and the closest things it has to a staple show are 60 Minutes (which is usually trounced whenever a show like Dancing With the Star or MasterChef is up against it) and Australia’s Funniest Home Videos (which is given a good run for its money in Melbourne when it is up against Before the Game).

Yes, Nine is struggling, still. So, you might say, who could blame it for scheduling excessive amounts of hit shows? I’m certainly not, but if they want to extract any sort of longevity out of their popular shows, they need to adopt a different method.

And its not as of they haven’t had the chance to learn from their mistakes;

Year of the Ramsay

Back before MasterChef became popular in Australia, there was one AngryChef that took Australia by storm. His name was Gordon Ramsay. In 2008, after Nine had been scheduling episodes of his “Kitchen Nightmares” UK series without much fanfare, it noticed that it was receiving a bit of attention. Before long, it was receiving pretty good ratings, and also had half of Australian radio talk about it.
Nine, sniffing some ratings blood in the water, went in for the kill, and before long had scheduled three hour long Ramsay episodes a week. And luckily for Nine, there was plenty of Ramsay in the tank (he was, by that time, very successful in the UK). Every week from then on, viewers received, from Tuesday to Thursday, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Hell’s Kitchen and The F Word. Of the three, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares remained the most popular. At one stage, he was even interviewed on 60 Minutes.

However, after many weeks of F-bombs, abusive rants and a bit of trouble with ACMA (which may or may not have been related) viewers grew tired of the foul language… Or just Ramsay’s whole “act”, and began switching off.

Eventually, Ramsay was removed from the schedule altogether (though there is the occasional Nightmare on Tuesday nights, possibly in the hope that Ramsay-fever ignites again?).

And as all shows like this follow a pattern, the death knell finally sounded after Gordon Ramsay appeared on A Current Affair in 2009 and was interviewed by Tracey Grimshaw. He subsequently likened her to a pig at a cooking demonstration. He then received a barrage of criticism, which only served to expose him as a bully (for the few who hadn’t realised it yet).

Two and a Half Thousand Men

Channel Nine had acquired Two and a Half Men many years ago, however it was not until 2009 that it started airing episodes by the dozen- well, ten episodes a week. This included the Monday-Friday 7PM slot, where it really gave Home and Away a scare after its 2008 dominance; new episodes in various timeslots; “Adults Only” episodes and repeats aplenty on GO!. However in the latter half of 2010, ratings began to wane, for no particular reason. Well, no reason apparent to Nine execs. It was simply because viewers were sick of it.

Then came 2011. The year of Charlie Sheen, for all the wrong reasons. Without wanting to go into all of the detail (You can go to any other site right now and read about it – ANY other site).

It may have been a combination of Nine’s oversaturation with the world covering Sheen’s “antics” mercilessly that led to it’s demise, but it was a long time coming.

The prophecy once again was fulfilled, with the death knell being Sheen getting the chop from the sitcom.

Nine bizarrely attempted to revive the flagging show’s ratings by advertising the show by playing up how insane Sheen apparently is. They have recently advertised a new episode as being possibly Sheen’s last ever episode (it was the last one filmed before the meltdown and insults thrown at the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre). They were signs of a desperate network, on the brink of losing a former powerhouse.

And the proof that it is dead (or close to it) is no more evident than the fact that its position in the primetime-heading 7PM slot has been stripped from it, to be replaced by The Big Bang Theory.

Top Gear-mania

Top Gear used to be cool. It used to be a little show on SBS that only a few people seemed to know about (even though it was attracting upwards of 600k viewers regularly).

Which was why Nine was so bloody happy with themselves after yanking Top Gear off SBS in 2010, that they decided to play it to death.

And why wouldn’t they, with early figures for Top Gear attracting very healthy figures. However, they started plugging holes all over the schedule with repeat after repeat- initially to great success. At its peak, Nine was airing 1 episode on Sunday on GO!, 1 episode on Tuesday on Nine, 1 on Thursday on GO! and another on Fridays on Nine.

But now, in 2011, somewhat amusingly, now that they finally have been able to show new episodes, absolutely no one has been interested (no one in TV terms = around 600k).

The death knell hasn’t sounded as yet, but it’s coming.

Basically, the lesson is, Nine, don’t make the same mistake with The Big Bang Theory, a show which still has the respect of viewers.

However, Operation BB is already well underway, so brace yourselves.

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Hamish and Andy’s “Gap Year” in NY: Their TV Show Plans Revealed

UPDATE: Turns out the show will be called “Hamish & Andy’s Gap Year”

Today Hamish & Andy held one of their “family meetings”, famous for containing their big announcements. These have included announcing their Caravan of Courage stunts (among other harebrained ideas) and more recently, confirmation of their deal with Channel Nine.

Today, they announced their intentions for their TV show.

They will “set up shop” in New York, where they will film their adventures.

Andy describes it as a Caravan of Courage trip but “longer”.

But don’t worry, fans of the radio show, they will continue their weekly radio show.

First they spoke of having a “6 day weekend”, and all of their extra time.

They have decided to fill this spare time, they will be moving to New York for a couple of months to have a “Gap Year”.

This will take place in the second half of the year.

Their TV show will be based around their adventures living in New York.

The title still remains a mystery, and will Nine air it as a series of specials (“Hamish and Andy’s Gap Year”, “Hamish and Andy Take New York”, that sort of thing) or simply call it “Hamish and Andy”… like their cancelled Seven show?

Who knows, but it sounds like a great idea to me, with their travel specials such as the Caravan of Courage specials (in which they visited America), usually drawing the best ratings for them.

They are also at their best doing stunts, meeting people, etc. rather than reading off an auto-cue, cooped up back in a studio in Melbourne.

They have also spent a week in LA, where they participated in the Rove LA specials, where they broadcasted their radio show.

But it will certainly bring more attention to their show, at least in the beginning. It will also provide easier access to celebrities, which will draw even more publicity.

But if I were Channel Nine, I’d start to get worried about them spending so much time in America… it’s only a matter of time before they hit the big time, isn’t it?

Radio LOL of the Day: Thursday 25th March – Andy Lee talks footy, wanting to be a certain footballer

Show: Rush Hour

Network: Triple M

Quite an awkward, and somewhat unexpected moment surfaced today courtesy of an interview between Rush Hour hosts James Brayshaw and Billy Brownless and Andy Lee.

Normally conductors of irreverent interviews, JB and Billy were throwing questions at Andy regarding football and his life. Of course, up until this point, everything but Megan Gale was mentioned.

But it was quite a good interview, and first they spoke about footy, as Andy is a mad “blue-bagger”, as Billy put it.

Andy: Should be a good one. I’m looking to Matty Kreuzer coming back…

Billy: Yes indeed, and Jordan Russell’s a fan of yours. I’m just reading the profile here in the (Football) “Record” at the ground here today; “if you weren’t an AFL footballer, what would you like to be?”

“Hamish or Andy.”

So, if you weren’t a superstar in the media, what would you rather be… wanna be… a Carlton footballer?”

Andy: Carlton footballer… maybe Shaun Hampson (Gale’s current boyfriend).

This was met with about 4 or 5 seconds of JB and Billy being unsure of what to say. All that can be heard is JB guffawing.

JB quipped, “I think you’ve been him… you can’t pick blokes you’ve been”.

Andy Lee then told the story of why he didn’t end up being a footballer; his mother didn’t allow him to play after his dad sustained an injury.

Conversation also turned to their deal with Nine, and how the new show is shaping up.

And it remains as unclear as ever, as to what format the show will take, as apparently they still “don’t know” what the show is.

Apparently the only thing they know is that they “want to do a show”.

So what have they been doing with their spare time?

“A lot of spontaneous purchases”, apparently.

But that’s what we love about them, anyway.

And apparently Andy Lee, of all people, was to press the button to sound the siren to kick off the 2011 AFL season.