The Chaser: “We’ll make all-new mistakes!”
Chas Licciardello admits Media Circus won't be as scathing as previous shows, but controversy is never far away.
Even Chas Licciardello is surprised at how some incidents blow up in their face.
“I try not to get concerned with the ‘culture wars’ that most people at the ABC do,” he says. “I’m very much a commercial TV-watching, popular movie-watching, pop music-listening person. I’m not really into the ‘left bubble vs the right bubble’ where they all argue with each other on Twitter with their 200 followers. That’s not really my scene and I try not to get involved in those sort of piss-fights.
“Which is exactly the reason why the whole Chris Kenny lawsuit was so ironic. I could not be more removed from culture war battles, yet somehow we ended up in the middle of one. We make really, really stupid jokes sometimes.”
But controversy is also what makes them must-watch TV. Their newest creation, The Chaser’s Media Circus, may yet wander off-script.
He describes the new format as a cross between a panel show, game show and a variety show with two teams and guest panelists.
“It’s the ultimate jack of all trades / master of none format,” he jokes.
“We invite guests on and they chat about some of the things we find as news of the week. But there are also, for want of a better word, games at the same time. It’s kind of like us becoming what we have mocked for so long: the commod-ification of news into entertainment.
“Because we’re inviting people in to play with us it’s not going to be such a ‘scathing’ format as we’ve done in the past. Hamster Wheel got quite dark and angry, but it won’t be like that because when you’re inviting people in to play with you that’s not the right vibe.
“But the pro of the format is it allows you to have a different perspective to what you had before.
“Some of our guests are going to be journalists and we can find out the real story. We can say to them: ‘Here is something you guys do. Why do you do it?’ And they can explain it and hopefully have some fun with it as well.
“The focus is more on the actual news than the people making it, but there will be a bit of both.”
Asked why they have left The Hamster Wheel, which also looked at media, behind, he was blunt.
“We don’t like to make the same show too many times in a row. Not only do we feel out fans get bored with the same formats over and over again, but we ourselves get bored. It’s ironic that we mock the short attention spans of news broadcasts and the general community when no-one has a shorter attention span than us,” he admits.
“CNNNN only went for 2 series, The War on Everything only went for 2 series, Hamster Wheel went for 3.
“Once you’ve made a joke twice, three times if you’re pushing it, that’s enough.
“We try and jump before we’re pushed.”
But Media Circus will not be their first panel show, following a short run with The Unbelievable Truth on Seven (Licciardello was not involved, busy doing Planet America instead).
“The guys who did that have brought a lot of ‘wisdom’ to the table as to what may or may not work!” he laughs.
“You might find it hard to believe but not everything ran perfectly on The Unbelievable Truth. So we’ve learned a few lessons, hopefully. We’ll make all-new mistakes!”
Examples of games we are likely to see include noting overseas stories with very vague Australian connections and worst ‘click-bait’ headlines.
“I don’t think we will see the same games every week. Once again, we get bored with our games just like we get bored with our format. So we will rotate them fairly heavily.”
First guests on the show include Ben Jenkins, Waleed Aly, Alex Lee and Ellen Fanning. Craig Reucassel is host and Licciardello is a ‘brains trust’ operating video clips live on the show.
“Remember the guy on Hey Hey it’s Saturday who drew the cartoons? I’m kind of like that guy. But it probably takes longer to cue up the clip than it took him to draw a cartoon.
“But you will struggle hard to find people who care less about the structure of a game show than we do!”
The Chaser’s Media Circus premieres tonight at 8:30pm on ABC.