You’re Back in the Room

In the studio they were in fits of laughter, but Nine's hypnosis show is one joke that drags on too long.


Sometimes TV turns up a show that critics will detest but polarises audiences into lovers and haters, with nothing in between. Look to 2015’s Cats Make You Laugh Out Loud.

But there are also shows that nobody likes. Ben Elton: Live from Planet Earth anybody? Mesmerised perhaps?

Quite where You’re Back in the Room lands remains to be seen. Nine’s best chance is the former, because this long, unsophisticated show is unlikely to win over many know-all critics (including this one).

This should really have been called You Had to Be in the Room. The studio audience is having such a rollicking, hysterical time that it leaves you wondering why you are not getting the joke, sitting at home on the couch. Yes, there is an enormous disconnect with Nine’s new entertainment show.

I found it excruciating television that dragged on so long I nearly wound up in the foetal position.

Fundamentally, I just did not believe what I was seeing -a crucial question that hangs over any show built around hypnosis, magic or psychic powers.

This is a UK format that purports to be a “game show” with four contestants who are subjected to hypnosis before facing quizzes and challenges as a team. The premise supposedly illustrates hypnotism is real: why would you go on TV to lose money on purpose? But the execution rewards them, regardless.

Irish-born hypnotist Keith Barry, who appeared in the UK series, joins host Daryl Somers. The staging has the feel of a theatrical production rather than being conceived for television. It includes an LED backdrop which, whilst it may read better in a theatre environment, doesn’t look great in TV close-up.

The participants are all hypnotised by Barry prior to the show and ready to fall asleep at the snap of his fingers, on stage. I can’t work out why they seem to collapse above the hips, but never fall to the floor. As we are also told later we can’t watch the full hypnosis process in case we fall under the spell at home. Seriously…

“How do you answer the skeptic?” Somers asks Barry, also telling him “A lot of people writing in.” Huh? Before the show has even aired?

He also meets them backstage to glean their backstories, before the craziness begins. The first round, a music quiz, will be jeopardised by Barry giving the 4 their first deceits: one is told he is Elvis, another has a crush on Daryl, etc.

The challenge sums up where this show starts and stops: four contestants suddenly behave like goons to the apparent-hysteria of the audience, as the host tries to steer the game play. There is relentless upstaging (although surprisingly, very little of the 4 speaking over one another -why is that?). Shots of the audience in stitches are matched by heavy laughter, that smells of ‘sweetening.’

There are five lightweight challenges that rinse and repeat the first, such as painting a masterpiece while under the spell.

Two rounds involve celebrities (Derryn Hinch, Tegan Martin, Gamble Breaux and Matt Witkowski) as unhypnotised victims. The team’s cash pot builds without much resistance or questions that would justify $200 on Hot Seat. But there is no attempt to instil a rising degree of difficulty.

As this drags out to over an hour -30 minutes would have been plenty- I find the contestants to be annoying and I wish the audience would stop encouraging it all (I suspect they have been cleverly edited).

Daryl Somers works hard with this ludicrous concept, drawing upon his skills for spontaneity as random behaviour breaks out across the night. But this is no Dancing with the Stars and won’t aid any return of Hey Hey.

After Australia’s Got Talent and The Farmer Wants a Wife Nine’s output from FremantleMedia has not been successful this year. No two ways about it – You’re Back in the Room is the weakest of the three.

It’s too long and lacks authenticity.

Hypnosis may not be mind-control TV but it sure is mind-numbing TV.

You’re Back in the Room airs 7pm Sunday on Nine.

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