Spicks and Specks is back! And if last night’s episode was any guide, it’s like it never left. Well, apart from all the hosts now being brand new people, but even then they managed to fill the various slots in the S&S machine without too much going too wrong.
As someone who was never that big a fan of the original series, I may have failed to pick up on the no doubt many subtle differences between the old and new versions; I’m also fully aware that the original cast members were so well-loved by the general population – and let’s not forget S&S was a massive ratings smash right up until the very end, pulling in a million viewers a week, so clearly they were doing something right – that for many people the idea of anyone taking their place was unthinkable.
Why else would the ABC have ditched one of their top-rating shows? Well, apart from the fact that it was being made in-house at the ABC during a period when it was felt that the ABC should outsource everything, so when Adam Hills decided he’d rather be a talk show host (and look how well that worked out – there’s no Adam Hills Tonight scheduled for 2014) and co-hosts Myf Warhurst and Alan Brough decided they’d had enough too, the ABC decided to retire the whole show. Problem was, S&S was the anchor for ABC’s then-dominant Wednesday night comedy line-up, and while the ABC figured they had a solid replacement in the form of Andrew Denton’s Randling, nobody else did. It was a massive ratings flop from which the ABC’s Wednesday night comedy line-up never recovered – the ABC’s two biggest comedy hits of 2013, Upper Middle Bogan and It’s a Date, screened back-to-back on Thursdays – and suddenly the ABC realised that hey, maybe S&S could work with an all-new team after all.
Of course, it then took the ABC half a year longer than originally thought to find that all-new team, but they’ve finally put the show back on the air – and guess what? It feels an awful lot like the original version.
The chemistry isn’t quite there yet, but no one obviously hates anyone – which may be a minus: Brough occasionally came across as a man not to cross, so there’s no reason not to think that won’t fall into place soon enough. More importantly, the rest of the show is already solid. It’s a music quiz show that’s been going for close to a decade, so the writers have a pretty good idea what level to pitch things at as far as making the questions hard but not so hard the home viewers can’t play along, and the show’s basic formula (quiz questions, wacky stunt segments, musical numbers) hasn’t been tinkered with in the slightest.
What’s obvious here is just how replaceable the whole cast were in the first place: despite the attachment the audience felt for them over the years, if the ABC had been able to gradually rotate new people into the host and team captains slots, there’s no reason why the original series couldn’t have kept on running. This new version could still fail – two years off is plenty of time for audiences to move on – but it won’t be for lack of doing the exact same thing all over again.
Written by Anthony Morris