“Before we were rudely interrupted in November 1999 I was saying….” said Daryl Somers….
And with that Hey Hey it’s Saturday was back on the air.
After ten years in the wilderness the show that epitomised a golden era of Nine television was back before an adoring audience of fans who had missed it almost as much as its host.
Within minutes of returning, the hallmarks of the show were evidnt. Somers’ banter with his off-camera crew, Blackman’s one-liners inserted for a comic rise, whimsical sound effects, cheeky subtitles, cartoon gags and only a passing determination to stick to the running sheet. ‘Dags’, as he was once affectionately dubbed by Jacki MacDonald, lived up to his nickname and the audience loved him for it.
As a reunion the show was deternmined to live in the present with just enough time to acknowledge the past. Few nostalgic clips surfaced, with the show preferring to prove its value in a modern era. Livina Nixon sat behind a laptop reading emails. Somers was grateful to Facebook’s 200,000+ followers, and the live show was the #1 subject on Twitter while it was on air.
Ironically the show couldn’t quite sync its audio during a live cross to a John Farnham concert (where Farnsy was doing gags nearly as old as those in the GTV studio), but it mattered little. It was enough to have old faces back on the telly, and Hey Hey has always celebrated being a little rough around the edges anyway.
The show’s biggest success was its return to variety and live television. Since the show disappeared it has been up to the Footy Show to keep live variety at Nine from dying. Flimsy segments including “Celebrity Head” and a MasterChef parody by Russell Gilbert weren’t particularly sophisticated, but they took us back to simpler times. Even on a weeknight Hey Hey managed to make us forget about our worries for three hours (yes, it ran overtime).
Smartly, the show was also bursting with colour. On its vivid hybrid set Hey Hey even had a kid smearing himself with Vegemite (does it get anymore Australian?), and Molly Meldrum’s dog about to attack the irascible, faceless stick that is Dickie Knee. That’s colour, movement, kids and animals. Check, check, check, check,
Its most nostalgic moment was a fondly edited split screen allowing the late Maurie Fields and his son Marty to share a gag in The Great Aussie Joke. Seeing Raymond J. Bartholomeuz (Brian Nankervis) meeting his grown up protege was also nostalgic fun.
But there were some signs of its longevity. Most of the punchlines were older than some of the audience. Several of the subtitled gags were straight out of the 1970s, with insults directed at people’s weight and appearance (they could probably fit some of the cast). Whether the show works as an on-going entity is questionable. With several of the cast committed elsewhere it seems unlikely. But such post-mortems rain on Hey Hey‘s parade. It deserves to be acknowledged for its present before bigger questions about its future. Just getting the thing on and doing it so well is an achievement in itself.
Hey Hey kept several cards up its sleeve for its second reunion: Ossie Ostrich and a still-unconfirmed return by Jacki MacDonald, as well as favourite segments including What Cheezes Me Off and Chooklotto.
For Somers the night was a validation, as much as it was for the audience who have kept the faith. Nine started the week by ‘welcoming home’ its viewers. Here it has a prodigal audience which has returned, if it chooses to keep them.
Hey Hey the Reunion returns 7:30pm Wednesday October 7th on Nine.