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7PM Project divides critics

This week Channel TEN's 7PM Project notches up 8 months on air. TV Tonight turns to some of Australia's leading TV Critics to ask how it's faring.

This week Channel TEN’s 7PM Project notches up 8 months on air.

After repeated attempts at developing a show to fill the timeslot, including Taken Out and even the infamous Yasmin’s Getting Married, TEN has held its nerve with the Roving Enterprises show, despite figures which many assumed would sound the death knell.

Last week it averaged 653,000 viewers, and has doubtless impacted on TEN’s early evening schedule.

But has it found its feet? Has it improved its mix of news and comedy and is it time for audiences to revisit the show?

TV Tonight turned to television critics and found an audience just as split as the one at home.

Michael Idato from the Sydney Morning Herald has mixed feelings about whether the show has improved or not.

“Yes and no,” he says, “I think the production is much, much tighter but in terms of answering a more important long-term objective – what is the show, exactly? – it is still sometimes a little unclear. That’s an issue with the news / comedy balance which they still struggle with. As a new and creative element of TEN’s schedule, it’s excellent.”

James Manning from Mediaweek also likes what he sees, and notes technical hitches have been ironed out.

“Issues with camera angles have been fixed, the number of stories packed into each episode have been dropped and interviews are handled well by the guests with no abrupt endings,” he says. “The hosts are doing a pretty good job and it seems (TEN Programmer) David Mott and (Producer) Craig Campbell recruited well when they launched.

“The mix of news and comedy does work, but I wouldn’t mind if there was even more gags, but that’s probably not the show’s brief.”

Amanda Meade from The Australian, who admits to being a semi-viewer, agreed.

“I don’t see a lot of 7PM but I do like what I see and I think there’s a real need for a light, entertainment-based news show like this,” she said.

“I like all the hosts, and enjoy the regular comic bits by Kitty Flanagan.”

But Dianne Butler from the Courier Mail admitted she is no longer a regular viewer.

“I’m not watching it anymore. I did at the beginning and now I keep forgetting it’s on. I don’t think it’s by accident my brain is doing this either,” she said.

She also doesn’t believe the show has been treated unfairly by media.

“It’s the opposite,” she says. “There’s been massive goodwill from the media and from TEN because they like the people on the show. Plus, I don’t know, but I think maybe because Dave Hughes and whoever all work on other things that are successful, there’s the feeling that The 7pm Project is too -that it’s just an extension of those other jobs.”

Critics were also divided about some of the show’s hosts.

Richard Clune from the Sunday Telegraph agrees the show has tightened since dropping its “inane” crosses to Ruby Rose. He is a supporter of Charlie Pickering as the central host.

“He is driving this show, passionate about the medium and the news and there’s an obvious desire to make this work. He knows what he’s talking about, flicks between serious and funny in a facile way and I believe he will go far – but maybe this isn’t the show for him given that the audience hasn’t responded,” he says.

Michael Idato calls Pickering one of the best television discoveries in recent years.

“He’s bright, smart and likeable. Pay television deserves a little credit here as it has in the last 15 years demonstrated a real ability to unearth real talent (Jabba, James Mathison, Brendan Moar) at a time when free to air has recycled familiar faces to the point of audience exhaustion. The most interesting thing about Pickering / Bickmore / Hughes is that as a trio they have settled into a very comfortable dynamic. In effect, their collective chemistry is greater than the sum of its parts.”

But Richard Clune isn’t so enthusiastic about news presenter Carrie Bickmore.

“I feel I’m not alone here. She seems somewhat like a female token on that panel – she’s able to deliver a solid, well-articulated female point when necessary, but just who is she and why do I care…?” he asks.

Richard Clune says Dave Hughes’ schtick hasn’t changed in 15 years, and says nobody outside of Victoria is that interested in the Melbourne comedian.

“He needs to go,” he says, adding that Hamish and Andy would add more to the show.

“TEN paid big bucks for Lee and his offsider Blake – now put them to use in lifting 7PM before you need to scrap it.”

While critics responded to James Mathison, there was less enthusiasm about the contributions by Ruby Rose.

Mediaweek’s James Manning said, “James Mathison and Ruby Rose seem to have all but disappeared. Don’t miss them too much because with three hosts that’s probably enough. Ruby seems to have lots going on elsewhere.”

Michael Idato even went as far as to dub Mathison a ‘superstar.’

“He’s intelligent, is just offbeat to work in a medium where most of his peers are bland and difficult to distinguish from the pack,” he says. “Ruby Rose has been underwhelming. She’s ubiquitous at the moment, which creates challenges of its own – such a high level of over-commitment means that almost everything she does looks as though it’s done on the run, with little research or preparation. A more experienced presenter could hide those frayed edges, and she doesn’t always do a very good job of that.”

Several critics made mention of regular panellists on the show, most of whom provide a generational contrast to the show’s three hosts.

“I’ve enjoyed them working in more commentary from people who tend to polarise with their varied opinions – namely (Steve) Price,  (Neil) Mitchell, (George) Negus, although I doubt they cut through to TEN’s desired younger demos?” asks Richard Clune.

But there was sharp criticism from others.

Andrew Mercado from TV Week said, “I switch the channel the moment I see Steve Price. He is totally inappropriate for the show (and TEN’s audience in general). If they want a regular redneck, they need to find someone younger and more relevant.”

Amanda Meade agreedm saying, “Producers could try a bit harder to get some ‘credible’ guests on, that is, someone a little more interesting than failed shock jock Steve Price and a little younger than George Negus. Try for some big hitters with real credibility.”

But Michael Idato notes Negus’ Monday night appearances as one of the show’s better contributors.

“For the most part they work well, but the standout is George Negus, and in that sense it answers the question of whether the show should be more news / topic focused, or more comedy free-form. The best moments on the show have been those which tap into the news, so I believe a slightly straighter, slightly sharper but more in-depth approach is the smartest route.

“One of the show’s weaknesses is that the conversations are cut short too frequently. When the show is able to harness people like George Negus, it’s wasteful not to let those conversations get more in-depth.”

There were genuine concerns the show has impacted on other TEN brands.

“The big casualty so far is The Biggest Loser which had its numbers pummelled because it was displaced out of the timeslot it has historically occupied on TEN’s schedule. That’s a huge impact for TEN, for Fremantle (who make it) and for Shine (who own it). I would imagine all three parties have been wringing their hands over the numbers,” says Michael Idato.

He notes So You Think You Can Dance Australia has also taken a hit from The 7PM Project and warns that as Masterchef approaches, three underperforming franchises would be too high a price to pay for one show’s modest success.

But Dianne Butler says TEN will probably stick with it.

“It gives them a platform to push other product, people … And what else are they going to do anyway? Their highest rating show at the moment is the News at five o’clock in the afternoon so there are plenty of other problems apart from this one to sort out,” she says.

There was universal applause for TEN’s loyalty to the show.

Andrew Mercado summed it up, saying, “I couldn’t admire TEN more for their loyalty but it’s not enough to just sit there and hope the audience finds it. Why doesn’t Rove step up and become an occasional panelist – surely that would bring in a few more eyeballs?

Richard Clune says part of the problem is that younger viewers have already received their news throughout the day via the internet and suggests it could be retooled as a longer, weekly show in a later timeslot which would allow it to be even more risqué.

“Ultimately I think TEN and the team – minus Hughes – have given it a fair crack and for that they’re to be congratulated… But it hasn’t worked and it’s time to either pull it apart and start again or simply walk away,” he says.

Finally, few critics were able to nominate a highlight from the show’s life thus far, although Michael Idato observed that Adam Lambert’s take on the opposition leader’s comments about feeling comfortable around gay people was an intelligent and topical treatment of a news story.

And as the show continues a cultural shift on the TEN audience at 7:00, he says it’s almost impossible to navigate between news and comedy because people react to that balance according to their own taste.

“For me, no, it needs to be focused a little more in the news and a little less in scripted comedy or punchline-delivery moments,” he says.

“In a very broad sense The 7pm Project serves as a current affairs program, albeit one tailored almost entirely to TEN’s stated target demographic of 16-39, and frequently offers more insight into topical issues than either A Current Affair or Today Tonight.”

Maybe it’s time for another look after all?

75 Responses

  1. no longer watch it and have nothing to warch at 7.00 now
    Have to made do with ACA on NBN
    Ten do a seven and drop it for 3 months and put MC back on at 7.00 like 7 did with sundays to make way for other shows.

  2. Without looking at ratings,i think this show and Good News Week have some very friendly faces behind the scenes at Channel 10.They probably have run out of ideas so they have decided to stick with them both.Foxtel for me

  3. Best article for a long time David. While I don’t think The 7pm Project is actually that bad, I think Ten should axe it. Last year I wouldn’t have been saying this, since I thought the show should be given a chance before Ten made a decision on it. Well now it has been given a chance, and it’s causing nothing but problems. Its own ratings are still not overly great, and it’s sabotaging the ratings of other Ten shows. In the case of The Biggest Loser, viewers getting bored may be part of the reason for its declined ratings (after all it’s a reality show), but the new timeslot is undoubtedly playing a part too. In previous years, I would watch The Biggest Loser due to the lack of alternatives, but now that it’s at 7:30 there’s just too many other things on to worry about watching it.

  4. When it started, I thought it was crap, barely watched it and found it lame.

    Now it’s set on series link and I watch it most nights with my dinner.

    It’s better than anything else on around this time slot, and is generally always entertaining. I like the panelists, and I used to hate Dave Hughes until this. Now I quite like him and even am over the grating voice of his.

    Charie is a refreshing change of pace from the usual females you’d expect on aussie tv comedy programs. She’s normal, nice and not tying to be crude or shocking, thank god!
    Pickering also does a good job.

    Who ever that idiot in the article was that mentioned they should put Hamish and Andy more on the show, obviously does not get the show. Those two aren’t funny, and whatever their style is would not work at all on this sort of show. Whoever that was really must not understand much about the comedy or tv shows. Seriously… those guys do gags and just act as if they’re saying something funny. Totally wrong for a discussion light entertainment show. I generally fast forward their bits on it.

    I would definitely be annoyed if it was taken off, it is a valued regular addition to my tv viewing special. I hope they stick with it for many years and just let it evolve and grow. It’s done at great job at this over the 8 months.

    The 7pm project is a terrible name though…

  5. This is the never ending story. It can’t attract an audience. The few it does claim to love it. Those who want TBL at 7pm want it axed. Ten refuse to axe it & on & on it goes. I don’t like it & I don’t watch it. I would probably watch TBL if it were on in that timeslot. I don’t watch TBL at 730pm because I prefer other shows at that time. However, It’s up to Ten. If it affects Masterchef, I think they will axe it.

  6. People are harsh. The show gives us the news headlines, a couple of opinions and an occasional interview. I really don’t think it’s that bad. As far as the hosts are concerned you are never going to please everyone. Why don’t the people calling for it to be axed have a good look at ACA and TT which are totally embarrassing and shameless in their efforts to see who can exploit people the most in the name of “news” and reconsider what really needs to go.

  7. I’d rather The 7PM Project than endless re-runs or what every show is flavor on the month. It’s a good idea and opened TEN up to having live crosses to events and new if needed, a great idea in a tough time slot.

  8. I used to watch regularly but now I just watch if I am not walking the dog at that time.

    Charlie – excellent host, witty and intelligent;
    Dave – meh. Could take him or leave him, I too prefer Denise Scott, Tom Gleeson or Chrissie Swan;
    Carrie – main reason I have stopped watching, KFed summed it up prefectly. I cringe when she spouts the female view because she is so flipping wrong all the time. Her comments about the cake protector took the cake! (pardon pun);
    James Mathieson and Kitty Flanagan very good and should be utilised more;
    Ruby Rose – hope she never comes back, she added absolutely nothing and her 30 second interview cuts were just a waste;
    Steve Price – I’d prefer it if he weren’t given air time.
    George Negus – v. good, nice to have someone so smart on the panel.

  9. i won’t watch and too be honest i haven’t watched it. probably because it’s just trying to be a funny current affair versionand none of them are really funny even before the show started.

    i wonder who the moron was who thought steve smith would a good edition to the show

  10. It doesn’t matter if the show is good or not ( which it isn’t) the fact is it has never done anything for ten. I would love to know how much it costs to run the show? its not like advertisers are wanting their product shown during a show which can’t win any demo. And people say the simpsons should go, well even with its crap numbers it can still win 16-39 which 7pm can neve do! Axe it Ten!

  11. although if it does go i will miss some of the excuses.

    “it makes a profit so ten can afford for it to rate like sh*t”

    “anything then puts there will be a flop so they may as well stick with this flop”

    “it’s cheap so why do ratings matter””

  12. i say axe it.

    i know ten are looking for a year long consistent show. but at what cost? the whole network going down?

    last year they had a good rating show at 7:00. and decent rating shows at 7:30. this year they have a bad rating show at 7:00 that is not going anywhere and The biggest loser at 7:30 is doing worse than almost all of the 7:30 shows from last year. the other week TBL was even down yoy on guerilla gardiners which was porbably the worst rating 7:30 show for ten around that time.
    why are they sticking with it.

    the decision shouldn’t have anything to do with the content and who likes it. Australia doesn’t and that is who matters.

  13. I like Dave Hughes and Charlie Pickering – I just don’t like the format or content of this show. Put trashy reality T.V. in the 7pm slot and then Ten should commission legitimate Aussie comedies to play after that on weeknights…i.e. Hamish & Andy doing stuff, sketch shows, narrative comedies by people like Jason Gann, Robyn Butler, Rebel Wilson, Magda Suzbanski.

  14. Love the show.. pretty much my fave thing 10 is showing at the moment alongside Neighbours and TBYG. It has been a long time needed too, as even though it is pretty different the last time 10 had a daily current affairs show was with Alan Jones and Hinch. Although I guess you could throw The Panel in there as that was a mix of guests as well, but that wasn’t on daily. 7PM also fills a void for people to do promo (just shame about the short time they get on) until Hey Hey starts up again or 10 gives Hamish & Andy/Micallef a variety show.

    If this wasn’t on though and TBL or Masterchef was still showing at 7.00PM, wouldn’t have any difference for me. If I still wanted to stay on 10 after watching Neighbours to see them, I would, but I don’t. Not a fan of all the current ‘reality’ shows. Did like Big Brother, tho. I liked TBL Australia when it was Bob & Gillian and not Shannon & Michelle. Thought the Commando is alright, so I watch occassionally for him. Masterchef.. don’t need to watch people cooking either, so yeah, I’ll continue watching 10 News at 5, switch over to 7 or 9 news after, come back to 10 for Neighbours, watch 7PM. Then most probably change to another channel, or if there’s nothing there just switch off altogether.

  15. I’ve been watching 7pm Project since GO! took off ET from at 7pm. I don’t think everything has been perfected. The cameras still tend to move around a bit too much and sometimes Charlie is looking at the wrong camera before it switches.

    I do like Fridays when they have Chrissie Swan or Denise Scott they make it a bit interesting.

    I still miss James Mathison and wish that he was on more. I really lokst interest in Ruby Rose as she was a bit OTT with her presenting and it came across as “I’m on MTV!!!!!!!!!!!! and too good for this”.

    I think just stick to a wrap up Friday special. We don’t need it on everyday of the week.

  16. I like to check in to see what’s on the schedule, then choose whether to watch or not. Most often I watch only parts and mute the rest.

    Charlie – I like him. I agree 100% with Richard Clune’s assessment.
    Carrie – I also like her. She is a little weak and soft, in more ways than one, but I find her a pleasant personality.
    Dave – He’s fine on shows like GNW or his radio show, but here he seems uncomfortable and unnecessary. I look forward to when Denise Scott sits in, who is much more facile and amusing.
    James – His infrequent outbursts of comedy are gold. He’s pitched at just the right level.

    I don’t mind George Negus and Steve Price being there, their role is to provide a different point of view, both from age and experience, and their political viewpoint, but I wouldn’t miss them if they were replaced with younger versions.

    Sometimes they have too many handsome Doctors on and not enough pretty scientists and librarians.

    Give up on the celeb interviews, it’s not a gossip show. But maintain the visiting celebs as panel hosts.

    And finally, too many live crosses with satellite delays. Four or five per episode seems excessive. In fact, this is for all News shows.

  17. I think it’s pretty clear – the people are not watching. Every single other show is judged by eyeballs, so should this one be.

    It’s interesting to see what all the critics think, but at then end of the day – who cares, right? TEN should pull the show, be proud that it stuck with it for so bloody long, and play repeats of It’s A KnockOut until it finds something more suitable.

  18. For my views on the show, just read what James Manning said; it’s the opposite of that.

    I watch it frequently, and while it has smoothed out a lot of kinks – it’s no longer like an awkward party where nobody has anything to say – it remains not really news and not really funny. I feel like The Panel, which wasn’t set up as being nearly as newsy, was actually a lot more informative and a lot funnier.

    Clune’s assertion that Dave Hughes is of no interest to people outside Victoria is just wrong, and sounds like a construct of lazy journalism / personal bias. How do you account for all his sell-out shows in Sydney and Brisbane? Meanwhile, Carrie Bickmore is “able to deliver a solid, well-articulated female point when necessary”? I’m not convinced he watches the show. My exact problem with her is that she doesn’t do any of that. In fact, often her input will be so shockinly naive – I’m too polite to use the word stupid – that I can almost feel the country cringing in unison.

    Although I think moving The Biggest Loser was a big mistake for Ten, I would like to say that that show has been truly awful this year and 7PM shouldn’t get all the blame for the bad ratings. It’s just lost its way, as Ten’s highly-formatted reality shows (BB, Idol) seem to do a few years in. Apparently Australians have shorter attention spans than our overseas counterparts, because we need change, but these shows can’t really change. So what we get is the old stale segments and then “All! New! Surprises!” that seem half-arsed and not very surprising at all.

  19. I’m more a fan than not. Ten’s biggest mistake was putting too much pressure on it with their pre-launch promotion, no show could have lived up to that hype after the MasterChef juggernaut.

    The Hughesy haters are harsh but I am inclined to agree. I like his stand-up but on TV you need people who are capable of stringing a sentence together. Then again he has a knack of cutting through the crap when everyone else is getting too earnest. Carrie has grown as a host. I wonder if she should anchor and free Charlie up to do the jokes that he tries to wedge in to the discussion.

    What I do appreciate enormously is that finally we have a commercial current affairs show that treats its viewers like they have brains. Generally 7pm finds interesting angles on the news, and some of their longer stories touch topics that ACA/TT wouldn’t dream of doing. Maybe they’re paying the price for overestimating the Australian public’s intelligence… but then like some below, I know teenagers who won’t miss it so that’s a god thing for Ten and for the nation! The ratings are creeping upwards out of summer, and when 2.5 Men isn’t on (eg cricket) 7pm picks up enormously. Stick with it Ten.

    I have a new found respect for James Mathison, I don’t miss Ruby, I like George but he should stop doing jokes, and Steve Price I can take or leave but I’d rather him than Andrew Bolt any day.

    I’ve said it in other threads but I think TBL is dropping more because it’s had its day. The punters will come back for MasterChef. The promos already have my workplace buzzing.

  20. I like Dave! it’s Carrie I find completely redundant. Overall, I don’t love it but I like it, and they have certainly improved a lot.

    But, as others have said, now that Daily show is on ABC2, I’ll watch the first 15mins, then switch. Not very loyal, I know.

  21. For my views on the show, just read what James Manning said; it’s the opposite of that.

    I watch it frequently, and while it has smoothed out a lot of kinks – it’s no longer like an awkward party where nobody has anything to say – it’s remains not really news and not really funny. I feel like The Panel, which wasn’t set up as being nearly as newsy, was actually a lot more informative and a lot funnier.

    Clune’s assertion that Dave Hughes is of no interest to people outside Victoria is just wrong, and sounds like a construct of easy journalism. How do you account for all his sell-out shows in Sydney and Brisbane? Meanwhile, Carrie Bickmore is “able to deliver a solid, well-articulated female point when necessary”? I’m not convinced he watches the show. My exact problem with her is that she doesn’t do any of that. In fact, often he input with be so shockinly niave – I’m too polite to use the word stupid – that I feel the country cringing in unison.

    Although I think moving The Biggest Loser was a big mistake for Ten, I would like to say that that show has been truly awful this year and 7PM shouldn’t get all the blame for the bad ratings. It’s just lost its way, as Ten’s highly-formatted reality shows (BB, Idol) seem to do a few years in. Apparently Australians have shorter attention spans than our overseas counterparts, because we need change, but these shows can’t really change. So what we get is the old stale segments and then “All! New! Surprises!” that seem half-arsed and not very surprising at all.

  22. I also change if Steve Price is on. I have a limited ability to tolerate Hughes so I watch it occasionally but now Daily show is on I’ll only watch the first 10 minutes. It is a lot better than when it started but I still think it doesn’t know what it wants to be. I’m not sure if it’s to blame for the Biggest Loser drop in ratings. That format was getting more tired than the contestants.

  23. Great article David and some interesting comments on the show. I gave the 7pm a chance mainly because it’s one of the few alternatives on at that time. However, since ABC2 have started showing TDS/TCR, there is now no reason for me to bother with 7pm.

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