Tonight TEN will air the last new episode of Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation for 2012, and nobody involved with the show has any idea if it will be renewed for a fifth season.
But while Charlie Pickering says everybody still loves making the show, he admits the show has been challenged by programming moves by TEN.
In just four years the show has been moved around the schedule like a Rubik’s Cube. It originally premiered at 7:30pm on Tuesdays in 2009, before moving to Sundays, then Wednesdays at 8pm and extending to 70 minutes.
“8:00 is pretty unconventional,” Pickering agrees.
“I don’t often criticise the decisions of my masters, because I don’t think it’s politic. And the fact is everyone is an expert programmer when they’re not actually programming a network.
“So I’ll just say Spicks and Specks was an extremely successful, broadly appealing panel / game show that was allowed to enjoy the same timeslot for the entirety of its existence. And its numbers reflected that.
“I would never claim that we were ever as good as Spicks and Specks. They had a staggering achievement in what they did. But if we’d been left at 7:30 on a Tuesday night for the entirety of four seasons, I think that maybe those numbers would have been different.”
Ratings for the first season were dynamite, in the vicinity of 1.6m viewers -but in fairness, this was well before our current multichannel landscape. While subsequent seasons often settled at around 1.00m – 1.2m, this year the numbers have been closer to 600,000.
Pickering says networks shouldn’t always presume an audience will follow a show to a new timeslot even when the cast is strong.
“People who work in television sometimes presume they are more important than they are, and would perhaps think that if you move a show around the audience will automatically be looking up on the internet where it’s gone now. (For example) If it’s on in a different night or timeslot they’ll change their lives so that they can watch a particular show,” he says.
“But there are very few lives where people change their lives to be able to watch a show. Maybe you aren’t treating your audience as well as you should. If they’re a faithful, loyal audience and you then move off somewhere else I think maybe audiences find that a bit disrespectful.”
But Pickering is no stranger to timeslot changes. The Project originally began at 7pm before moving to 6:30pm for one hour, then 6pm.
“I would say in very different circumstances,” he points out. “When you’re on five, now, six nights a week it’s much easier for an audience to pick up where you are. When we’re on every single night except for Saturday there’s not going to be much doubt where The Project is.”
With their busy schedules, Pickering and his fiancee agreed during a New Year’s holiday that neither would work on weekends this year. But it was a wish that didn’t last very long.
“I flew back, I landed back in Australia and went straight to work on the day, and the first thing I was told was ‘We’re going to 6:00 and you’re going to be working Sundays.’ So that New Year’s Resolution did not last at all,” he laughs.
“But these things don’t last forever. I won’t work six days for the rest of my life. However that works out I’m not sure.
“The show is always fun, so that’s the good thing. When I get there it’s fun. But not having a proper weekend isn’t great.
“But the nature of The Project is we’re all very passionate about it and on a number of occasions we’ve been asked to expand our roles, take on new challenges,” he says, “….we’re all so passionate about the show that everyone is willing to make sacrifices to do that.”
Earlier this month Shaun Micallef didn’t rule a 2013 return for Your Gen in or out, which is also the current position of the network. As Pickering points out, there were many claiming it wouldn’t be back for 2012 too.
“When we wrapped last time we didn’t know either. News Limited ran stories that Shaun was never going to come back and here we are,” he says.
“So I remain optimistic, and I remain optimistic because we all really enjoy making the show. There’s no sense that anyone is lacking enthusiasm for doing it.”
Micallef will be appearing in a yet-to-be-announced drama for TEN as well as his own news-based comedy for the ABC.
“Keeping Shaun excited is very important and I think it’s great for Australian TV that he’s doing other things and not just Your Gen. The same with Josh, his show on the ABC will be great,” says Pickering.
“Any decision for any of us to come back would be ‘Are we enjoying it? Does it fit in with the other exciting things that might be going on?’
“And obviously the network will have some say in it!”
Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation season finale 7:30pm tonight on TEN.