A League of their Own

TEN tries desperately to combine sport and entertainment, but still pulls up short.

2013-09-13_2349Oh how networks have tried in this nation of ours to strike the perfect balance between sports and family entertainment. But precious few have been able to crack it.

Between the Lines, The Trophy Room, The Squiz, The Bounce, The Matty Johns Show…. they all abandoned the podium after short runs, while The Footy Show and Before the Game take the blokier but more successful approach.

The latest contender onto the arena is TEN’s A League of their Own, based on a UK format of the same name which has had 7 seasons, hosted by comedian James Cordon.

Rising star Tommy Little is the host of the Aussie edition, with tennis champ Pat Cash and swimmer Eamon Sullivan as team captains. Like every other panel show since the Byzantine Empire, this one also has two trios of seated teams with the host in the middle. In the first episode they include basketballer Lauren Jackson, wheelchair marathon racer Kurt Fearnley, Lehmo and Pete Helliar (uh oh Helliar was also on Trophy Room and The Bounce -is this a sign?).

For some reason the seven people on this show are seated miles apart from one another, as if to needlessly fill up a large studio. You could drive a truck through some of those gaps.

There’s also an enthusiastic studio audience, working (a little too) hard to show the love. Maybe they thought this was Gladiators. Note to self: add Gladiators to above list.

On a positive note it’s great to see Kurt Fearnley included in this episode, disability is never exploited nor failing to be inclusive here, and I’m sure many viewers will get a quick education on his many achievements.

The gameplay on A League of their Own consists of sporting-themed questions, parlour games and stunts. I’m not exactly the country’s biggest sports fan so I’m rightfully declaring my interest was fleeting. But if this show is to survive in a profile 7:30 slot it needs to reach beyond sports fans, including to female viewers who aren’t sports mad. This can be achieved by chemistry and jeopardy, but I didn’t detect much of either in its first outing.

The stunts in week one include catching footballs whilst running on a giant travelator, pitching a baseball lefthanded, and dunking some basketballs into a hoop which in turn dunks the host into a giant water tub (Amanda Keller on Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation anyone?). We’re also given slow-mo replays to some of those inglorious moments, having just watched them moments before. Not sure why.

If the show wants to match the legacy of (the original) It’s a Knockout it’s going to need bigger stunts than these. At the moment it’s over-reaching from what might be more effective as a tighter, intimate half hour panel show. Commercial TV is the place that always takes a half hour idea and dilutes it by dragging it out to an hour…

Host Tommy Little is likeable but while I enjoy his rapport on This Week Live he will need a lot of experience to sustain a show of this scale and it could be two years too soon in said career. I got nothing from Eamon Sullivan, and if Pat Cash can throw out a few caustic barbs from his years he might carve out a panel role.

Frankly this only made me miss Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation more, a show that deftly combined gameplay, chemistry and subtext too.

A League of their Own premieres 7:30pm Monday on TEN.

19 Responses

  1. To nevothirty, I think they’ve been advertising a league of their own for a few weeks now. Not sure if the issue with their advertising is that they are not advertising enough outside of their station e.g. more in radio maybe? I know that locally (I’m in Canberra) on my drive home of an evening Prime/Seven advertise their new shows regularly sot aht it sticks in your mind when you get home.

  2. @Jennome – not only did you see Warwick Capper in the promo, but he appeared to be near-naked and right before Voice Over Man stated that the show was “family entertainment”
    I don’t think I want to meet the family that considers a near naked Capper to be entertaining… *shudders*

  3. @nevothirty your right there, but what they do is have a shorter promotional period & then try & brainwash people to watch it by having the promo every single ad break in some shows. If i ever had any intentions of watching this show they have been killed off by the overy loud constant promos.

  4. I was a big fan of Thursday Night Live and thought that had some potential to expand to something like this as a segment but alas it is no more. I hope Sportsfan Clubhouse gets a more permanent gig on 7mate next year as it as some very funny moments (although the Will McCloy Tippernator character can get a bit ho-hum at times! But I do like his work.)

  5. It is not so much the recycled format but the recycled faces that appear over & over on all these shows.
    Ten seems to be sinking further & further into the mud.
    They also need to stop this 4 days to go rot like every show is a world event. It doesn’t help.

  6. Did I spot Warwick Capper in the promo? If so, you can count on it being a dud. Not that I have the faintest intention of watching it, it’s been on a thousand times before.

    Same old, same old.

  7. Perhaps if they considered casting their comedic talent out of a wider pool. Helliar and Lehmo are both represented by the same people as Tommy Little as are all the people on This Week Live and most of the Project. I feel like it’s all a bit samey when I watch these shows. Before the Game, The Project, This Week Live – same people or same sort of people possibly with the same writers. It makes it hard for these shows to have a point of difference. Remember when the Spicks and Specks started Myf, Adam and Alan had not done a whole lot of tv work (at least in Australia) they were new and fresh. Even Josh Thomas and Charlie Pickering were new to TV when they did TBYG.

  8. channel isn’t advertising new programs long enough. like I said in a comment yesterday, they need to shut the channel down for a month or something, run nothing but promos for all there new and existing shows then have a huge re-launch night with various personalities.

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