After seven seasons we so weren’t ready to say goodbye to Adam, Myf and Alan (so entrenched in our hearts we don’t even need their surnames).
ABC was even sadder at their retirement. The show had underpinned their Wednesday comedy night for years, serving as a launch pad for several new formats, including one or two that arguably enjoyed more attention than they deserved.
Commercial networks have tried to replicate the magic, and even the ABC has floated two formats that have fallen short of Spicks’ chemistry. Now after two years, ABC had returned to the brand it owns in an all-or-nothing bid.
I had wondered if the show might have cast a female host in order to diminish the obvious comparisons with Hillsy. Julia Zemiro would be the obvious choice, but alas she is spoken for.
Nevertheless we have arrived at 3 junior versions of the originals. It’s as if Josh Earl, Adam Richard and Ella Hooper are all a decade younger than their respective counterparts.
You’d be hard pressed to find 3 clones who better represent the former cast than Josh, Adam and Ella. The host is affable, the male team captain is flamboyant and the female is perfectly sweet. It’s not exactly reinvention, so much as replication. Could Spicks, for example, have endured with a sardonic host?
Yet the folk who know this show inside out have pulled off the near-impossible: the new team works in this ever-so comfortable format.
Sure, pixie-like Josh Earl is shouting a bit too much and has rapid-fire delivery. I’m also not so sure their musical knowledge spans quite so many decades as Alan Brough (he would never have missed a Nina Simone question), but it’s a moot point. Frankly, this should never have worked.
Guests in the first episode include Jay Watson from Tame Impala, operatic mezzo soprano Jacqui Dark, comedians Des Bishop and Meshel Laurie. I suspect it will be even better when more of the wider Spicks family return to the panel. One or two ol’ rockers would add some broader appeal and gravitas.
As they play along with the games, it’s easy to get suckered back in to Know Your Product, You’re the Voices and more. One or two new games have been added to the mix such as Do You See What I See? in which images spell out a song title.
The first show bounces along with some genuine laughs and as a first outing is remarkably smooth. Put that down to the fact that many of the key creatives are the same folk behind Adam, Myf and Alan. They know this show inside out.
There are even some wry references to the former cast with Josh Earl drawing amusing parallels between AC/DC’s Brian Johnson replacing Bon Scott, and himself replacing Adam Hills (incidentally, Hills has openly backed the new version on social media).
If there are any shortcomings within the new team they will likely become apparent with further episodes, but rather than look for negatives, I’m happy enough to commend the ABC for getting this so right.
There’s nary a hint of second-album syndrome to be seen.
Spicks and Specks returns 8:30pm Wednesday February 5 ABC1.