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Charlie Pickering: The Weekly is not The Project on ABC

More comedy than news, not much politics, and not a place for his own soapbox -just what is The Weekly?

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He’s not just making The Project on the ABC, insists Charlie Pickering, debunking some of the myths surrounding his new show premiering on Wednesday night.

Nor is it going to be all about his opinions. And don’t expect too much in the way of politics, either.

So just what is The Weekly with Charlie Pickering then?

“It will be the funniest take on the week’s news that we can muster with the resources of the national broadcaster behind us: a high speed internet connection and a room full of comedians,” he tells TV Tonight.

“Someone said ‘Oh you’re just going to make The Project at the ABC.’ But I can safely say no-one could possibly confuse this show with The Project.

“There would be no point leaving The Project to just go and remake it.

“It’s a comedy show and it’s number one job is to make people laugh.”

Right. So it’s Australia’s answer to Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert or John Oliver then? No, says Pickering, not exactly, who throws Charlie Brooker into the mix too.

“The genre is similar, but you’re talking about the greatest living satirists of our time. What Jon Stewart achieved with The Daily Show and what Colbert achieved… I doubt we will ever see anyone achieve as much in that amount of time. Although John Oliver is well on the way,” he explains.

“I get awkward whenever anyone brings up those names because they’re my heroes. I’d be embarrassed to be in a line-up with those guys. But what I will say is their shows are an inspiration. They show you can be really funny about the news, make a point along the way, but it shows you don’t have to take yourself seriously to be a satirist.”

It’s not going to be like Mad as Hell either, the show he is succeeding.

“The only thing that makes me comfortable moving into that 8:30 slot is that it will be nothing like his show. I don’t think anyone could be compared to Shaun and come off looking good. He is that good.”

Pickering records his first show tonight but the aim is to record As Live on Wednesdays, shortly before it goes to air, in order to keep the content fresh. Right now there are so many ‘moving parts’ the hope is to simply bring it all together first. One step at a time.

I want a format that I’m allowed to throw out

The Weekly also comes with a flexible format, meaning the structure can feature multiple or single topics.

“That was part of the deal. I said ‘I want a format that I’m allowed to throw out on any given week if the best thing to do is something else.’ The ABC have been very supportive of that. Obviously we have to do a version of the format so that people know what it is, before we start messing with it too much,” he continues.

“I’ve got one interview in the can that we rolled 40 minutes of interview and you could safely put 30 minutes of it to air. The interview subject was that compelling and the story is that incredible that you could put the whole thing to air.

“The smallest edit we could give to do this guy justice is a half hour show. ”

Pickering also has a list of rules that underpin his new show.

“One is we play the ball, not the man. If you’re going to pick on a politician, pick on what they’re saying and what they want to do, not how they look or if they’ve got a funny accent or bad hair,” he explains.

“Politics has to work hard to get into this show. We’re not just going to cover the ‘he said / she said’ nonsense of politics. It ends up being largely irrelevant. Because we’re weekly not daily, a politics story has to be big enough to get into the show.

“We’re far more inclined to talk about the issue behind the politics, than the politics itself.

“This isn’t a soapbox for my opinion on things. And I’m quite excited by that. I felt that the job at The Project was a lot ‘news-ier’ than the promise had been. Going into it we expected it to be a more comedy-based show but it quickly became more newsy than comedy.”

Pickering had 5 years at The Project desk for TEN, juggling live interviews, comedy, breaking news and opinion. Sometimes he wasn’t afraid to say what he was feeling, but it’s a position that has arguably won him support within the ABC.

“When you’re presenting the news you have to be responsible about that facts you’re presenting and when something is bullshit, perhaps I was a little too inclined to call ’bullshit’ on it,” he says.

“Presenting news you have to be responsible and present it as accurately as you can so sometimes you have to say ‘What you just heard was actually a lie.’

This isn’t ABC’s equivalent of The Bolt Report.

“But this isn’t a show for me to editorialise. This isn’t ABC’s equivalent of The Bolt Report. If only because I would get ripped off air immediately if I attempted that level of propaganda,” he adds, smiling.

“Andrew’s asking to be taken seriously as a grown-up and I am not! I’m a comedian.”

There were also times he felt frustrated at the moving feast of news, at the expense of interaction and debate with his fellow panelists.

“That’s definitely true. You don’t have to put in all the news of the day. Quite often the most interesting conversation about a subject comes two or three sentences into the conversation.

“That is what that show is and it has succeeded with that as part of its model. I felt that I loved the company of the people that I was at the desk with and I just wanted to talk more.

“At a dinner party I wouldn’t stop people talking. But this is all said with affection for everyone I worked with. I just felt we could have covered less stories with more depth or had a more real conversation about them.

“But The Project was the most incredible opportunity for me. I have great affection for everyone who made the show. The show and the experience I would not trade it for the world.”

No pressure at ABC then, with a whopping 20 week commitment -but he did 1400 episodes of The Project.

Ex-Project pals Kitty Flanagan and Tom Gleeson will reunite with Pickering, conducting interviews, doing field stories and desk pieces.

“If anything they have more license to be opinionated because their opinions are more ridiculous.

“I want to give them the most direct path to the audience with their comedy, within the style of the show. I believe that’s when comedy works best on TV: when it has fewer people changing it along the way.”

For Pickering, who grew up watching people like Clive James, The Weekly is the chance of a lifetime.

“When I was a kid watching that I dreamed of having a studio,” he recalls.

“This is the kind of opportunity you dream of as a kid.

“Leaving a job like The Project is a risk and I just hope it’s worth it.

“I hope people dig it.”

The Weekly with Charlie Pickering airs 8:30pm Wednesdays on ABC.

13 Responses

  1. Was not a Project watcher but thought I’d give this a go ‘cos it was on the ABC & they do these shows better than anyone. At first I thought it was a John Oliver(which I love) clone but was pleased it wasn’t.
    Was enjoying it until Tom G came on & then it lost me.
    I’ll probably give it one more go, but if Tom is as offensive as the first show, that will be it for me.

  2. If you’re reading this Kitty Flanagan, please don’t let the opinions of two or three people upset you. I love your style, and so does everyone that I know. Sounds like a great show.

  3. Looks like this is going to be the real deal. Finally satire in this country takes a step away from the Mad as Hell/Backberner school.(Insiders/sources/pals/fellow diners tell me tonight’s guest is a Senator).

    Like Oliver, this might take a few weeks to nail down. Pickering is probably the best positioned person in this country to try ‘Jokelism.’ Assuming he has tight writers (both comedy and journos) and good editorial he’ll do this well.

    Even if it falls on its arse, kudos to Aunty for finally trying this on Australian television.

    I wish I had an AusTAM box right now.

  4. I cannot stand Kitty!! I dislike her style of comedy, her comedy in the past have reflected on race (several times) & of other people she is one comedian I find very annoying and for that I truly won’t be watching!

  5. I will give it a chance as I support Charlie. I think there should have been a break between his show and Mad as Hell however. Lots of people will be watching and comparing.

  6. One is we play the ball, not the man. If you’re going to pick on a politician, pick on what they’re saying and what they want to do, not how they look or if they’ve got a funny accent or bad hair,” he explains.
    If this is the case why did he choose Kitty Flanagan because that is what she does – she will pick on person’s appearance because she is that type of comic.
    I am with simmo3 I won’t be watching because of Kitty, also Tom’s humour is getting tired.
    Wanted to like this because of Charlie but Kitty makes me turn the channel .

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