Pop Culture #638

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Pop Culture #638

So The Weekly’s wrapped for another year and it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed. Wait, no – not disappointed that it’s over, disappointed that this year felt like nothing more than a retread of last year, and last year wasn’t all that impressive either. The ABC tried to make it clear that The Weekly was never intended to be a replacement for Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell – despite them both being news satire shows, and despite giving it twice as many episodes last year – and it became clear pretty quickly that yes, it was in no way a replacement for Micallef’s smart, funny, razor sharp comedy.

What was surprising is just how far The Weekly fell short. It rapidly locked itself into perhaps the least entertaining format possible – opening monologue but using news clips, segment from either Kitty Flanagan (funny) or Tom Gleeson (less funny), extended examination of an issue that was either topical on social media or some behind-the-scenes news story that was more worthy than entertaining, halfway decent interview, couple more news jokes and that was that. For a show meant to be slick and pacey, it often felt plodding and slow: Pickering isn’t exactly a bad host but he can’t really sell a joke (his faux outrage is too heavy on the faux), which meant there wasn’t any of the funny expressions and reactions that made Jon Stewart (and makes Shaun Micallef) so much better to watch. The small cast didn’t help either. The format may not have had time for more than a handful of segments – though why not? Mad as Hell has double the cast and they’re usually playing multiple characters – but having the same two people back week in week out doing basically the same act over and over meant that, unless you were a really big fan of their work, things soon began to get a little stale. Even one extra regular so they could each have had two weeks on, one week off would have made a difference and kept thing fresh. The show occasionally tried to get in foreign correspondents but the chemistry with Pickering was never there. And it never really felt like a must-see, because it never really seemed to add anything to the topics it was covering.

Week after week it either went for stories that were worthy rather than interesting, or it went for issues social media was already on top of – and then it ended up agreeing with social media anyway. There were occasional moments where glimpses of comedy shone through, but even simple ideas like, “Hey, let’s pretend this horrible idea is actually a good idea for laughs” rarely seemed to deliver laughs. In the end, the whole show just lacked bite. This kind of comedy needs some kind of edge to prevent it from just being a sassy news service – Micallef’s stock-in-trade might be surreal twists and brainy gags, but it was his repeatedly pointing out Bill Shorten’s horrible attempts at zingers that got him noticed in recent years – but The Weekly never managed to find it. At the time of writing there’s been no word on whether it’ll be back for 2017. After two years of failing to become essential viewing, it’s hard to see why it deserves a third.

Written by Anthony Morris