I feel woefully inadequate. Like I’ve just been to a dinner party of academics who have all debated the finer points of the art world, politics and philosophy. I just sat there cracking punchlines and flirting with the waiter.
The party of five at ADbc were much smarter than me. SBS’ new panel show is to History what Spicks and Specks is to music, Talkin’ ‘ Bout Your Generation is to pop culture, The Squiz is to sports and… well, you get the drift.
Sam Pang (Eurovision) hosts this new half hour with four guests, comprising historians and various celebs through a round of questions and games on moments in history.
In the first episode Matt Preston, Tony Martin, Celia Pacquola and historian Emily Booth flex their brains. Pang is seated central to the teams of two on either side.
Is it possible to have fun with history? Why not if the gameplay is slick enough and the players are lively? If the host is likeable and quick witted even more so. Ideally, we’ll all learn something by the end of the show too.
Several times through this episode I wanted to raise my hand and ask “sorry, what was the question again?” How remiss of me not to ascertain from a photo of an old wooden gate in an English field that this was the place in which the Magna Carta was signed. Did I never pay attention in school?
Other puzzlers in the premiere episode revolved around a fact or fiction question, Homer’s Iliad, eras in history and a taste test.
But it wasn’t that I didn’t always know the answer. The experience can be significantly rewarding if I understand the challenge at hand.
ADbc is punctuated by cute animations, and set simply on a stark -very stark- sheer white set. In wideshots it is so fluorescent it might have been borrowed from the 1970s (or possibly Mulligrubs). With an audio that sounds suspiciously like canned laugher and applause (there was no playing to any audience), the result is uneven for a premiere episode.
By the end of the episode, nobody had moved from their chair, creating a fairly static experience for the viewer.
This is a noble attempt to take a usually stuffy subject and spruce it up as light entertainment on a very low budget. SBS is to be commended for reminding us that television can be educational as well as a bit of fun.
But panel shows are not easily mimicked. History doesn’t always repeat. ADbc still has a few lessons to learn.
ADbc premieres 8:30pm Thursday on SBS.