It’s a bit early for the networks to start axing shows for 2015, but we already know of one that won’t be coming back: long-running ABC2 daily satire show The Roast has been given the chop, wrapping up at the end of last week. It’s been a good run for The Roast, which first started as a two-minute fake news snippet in 2011, being expanded to a full ten minutes at the start of this year. Produced by former member of The Chaser Charles Firth, it positioned itself as Australia’s only daily news satire, which wasn’t really enough to set it apart in a fairly crowded market. Competing with both The Chaser and Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell meant they really had to work hard to stand out: they didn’t.
Over the four years the show managed to walk a fine line where their material never became quirky or individual enough to be memorable, yet they never really became competent enough to hit their marks as a straightforward news parody. Which is kind of impressive when you consider just how much airtime they were getting and how much possible material passed through their hands: after all, the big reason to go daily with your news satire is because then you have a whole bunch of new material every day. If something hilarious happens on the Australian political scene on a Thursday by the time the more mainstream shows can tackle it the following week it’s firmly old news. The Roast was never quite able to shrug off the same smug entitled air that dogged The Chaser early on either – being a bunch of white upper-middle class Sydney boys might be great as far as networking goes, but when it comes to comedy it’s awfully hard to find any groups in Australian society that you can make fun of without it feeling just a little like bullying.
They haven’t really done themselves too many favours, with a farewell announcement that contains the line “We’d also like to wish young, promising comedians like Shaun Micallef and The Chaser the best of luck as we pass the torch down to them.” Sure, it’s a joke, but The Roast had been on the ABC for longer than Mad as Hell, so… what’s their point again? That they were promising young comedians but the ABC has cast them aside for the old guard? After four years on ABC2 making pretty much no mark at all (when was the last time you heard anyone talk about anything they saw on The Roast), there’s got to be a time when the national broadcaster cuts their losses. And considering Black Comedy (ABC1, Wednesdays, 9.30pm) started the same week as The Roast ended – and was a whole lot funnier with a bunch of brand new faces – having them gripe that they’ve been cut off in their prime suggests they weren’t very good at judging their relative worth to the ABC. Not to worry though: they’re already talking about bringing The Roast back somewhere else (my guess is online). It’ll be interesting to see if they make more of a splash there. If you can’t build up a fanbase after four years on a national broadcaster, it’s probably time to give it away.
By Anthony Morris