Sneaking on air quietly in the final weeks of the ratings season was Working Dog’s low-key choice, according to host Tom Gleisner.
“It was a soft launch, you might say, which was exactly what we wanted. We knew the show wouldn’t be exactly right from episode one,” he tells TV Tonight.
“So we were able to make some small tweaks and trims as we went along. After the 8 episodes we feel we’ve got a good handle on it, so I don’t think there will be anything dramatically different upon our return.
“We certainly didn’t ask them to sign a confidentiality agreement, but it was mutual. If I could invoke the memory of The Panel, that’s exactly what we did on that show all those years ago.
“There are some shows, and comedy can fall this category, that just don’t warrant the bells and whistles. If you’re launching Schapelle or the INXS miniseries of course you’d be crazy not to take out billboards and do everything you can.
“But for other shows it can be counter-productive. You’re better to just get on and hopefully let word of mouth learn the show is good and people will spot it.
“We’re more than happy if we can slowly build an audience.”
After 8 episodes the mix of comedy and news has a modest, if fervent, following. But it’s been given a chance to grow, with TEN open-ended about how long it will run in 2014. Does that mean it could run all year?
“As I understand it there’s no end-date as such, but we know in television that nothing is a guarantee. As long as we don’t totally run the network off the rails I think they’re happy for us to chug along,” Gleisner says.
“Let’s face it it’s a very simple concept, a weekly topical quiz. It probably benefits from just being on. It’s not big event television. It wouldn’t even really make a season, because News doesn’t have a season. It just keeps chugging away, and hopefully so can we.”
The format sees guests, mostly comedians, quizzed on news events from the week. While the format leans towards comedy, Gleisner says the intent is to also be genuinely informative.
“There’s so much news around, we get it from so many different sources. But I think you’ll find people know a lot about one thing and almost nothing about another,” he explains.
“Hopefully by covering genuine news right through to the slightly more-frivolous end of the spectrum you will end up with a half hour digest of the news of the week.
“We’ve also tried to stay very true to quiz show rules. I don’t just randomly hand out 10 points if you amuse me. You get 10 points for a correct answer.
“But of course it’s about entertainment. With 5 contestants we lean pretty heavily to the comic end of the gene pool and I think we will always do that because that’s where we have the most fun.”
Regulars on the show include Ed Kavalee, Sam Pang, Jane Kennedy, Glenn Robbins, Kate Langbroek and Mick Molloy but new comics are also given their shot.
“Troy Kinne is a stand-up comedian who is a mate of Josh Lawson’s. He’s been a regular. On the last episode we had Tegan Higginbotham who did a comedy show based on (AFL player) Brendan Fevola,” he says.
“So we intend to deliver more this year.”
Recorded on Saturday nights to keep the news current, Gleisner says the show gives comedians free rein to have fun, but it’s important to get to a correct answer.
“We say to our contestants, we do want correct answers. So by all means muck around but if all that people saw was the confected ‘joke, joke, joke’ with the occasional correct answer I think it would annoy them,” he says.
“Ed Kavalee will often give a joke but then very quickly come in with the correct answer. That shows his ability as comedian and as someone who has kept up with the news of the week.”
If it does run all year, Gleisner isn’t worried about their ability to run short of material. News fodder just keeps on giving.
“I think we would have preferred the Nigella Lawson trial to run on for another 3 or 4 months, but that’s all been resolved. But there will be something else, I’m sure.”
Have You Been Paying Attention? returns 6pm Sunday on TEN.