Axed: Tonightly with Tom Ballard

ABC has announced Tonightly with Tom Ballard will not continues beyond its final airing on 7 September.

It follows ongoing disappointing ratings for the show, last night at just 32,000 viewers, versus the cost of production.

The show launched with considerable fanfare, spearheading the launch of the new ABC Comedy multichannel, and promising reviews for Tom Ballard as host in a demanding, daily role.

But it also copped serious criticism for its edgy humour, notably referring to a politician as a c***, prompting an apology from ABC Director of Entertainment & Specialist, David Anderson. Last week the media watchdog ACMA cleared the show of any breach.

ABC released a statement announcing the axe:

Attracting younger audiences requires bold approaches and we continually experiment with new content and new formats particularly on digital platforms. We remain committed to exploring and developing projects that connect with different demographics.

Tonightly deliberately pushed boundaries to inform and entertain. We are proud of the program and its role in supporting some of Australia’s best emerging comedy talent. Our thanks go to the very talented team members for their hard work and dedication in producing a complex and cracking show in quick time, over some 150 episodes. We look forward to working with them again in the future. A special thanks to Tom for helping us to laugh, cry and sigh about the world.

It is now time for a fresh approach. The ABC will continue to develop innovative content on broadcast TV and digital services, through comedies such as Back in Very Small Business and Get Krack!n’, and live shows such as the Splendour in the Grass TV special on Rage and the upcoming triple j One Night Stand and One Night Stand Up on ABC TV and iview.

Tom Ballard said: “Getting the chance to host Tonightly has been an absolute honour and privilege, even though we never got to be on Media Watch. I feel so proud of the ‘work’ we made and I feel so lucky to have been surrounded by laughter and stupidity for an entire year. My sincere thanks go to the brilliant Tonightly team, the ABC and the fans of Cory Bernardi.”


  1. This is a bloody hard format to do and it takes a lot of time to get it right. Patience is not a virtue of any broadcaster or audience segment in the digital age. Unless you’re hitting your marks by the end of season 1, you’re out. The writing was on the wall when co-creator Andrew Garrick departed. Now we have to wait for this experiment to be forgotten so it can be tried again. I’ll be in the big-studio-in-the-sky by then.

  2. OK, it wasn’t my cuppa tea, so I wasn’t one of the handful who watched it. But give Aunty her due, she gave it a try which is what we have a public broadcaster for, otherwise it would only be Channel 31 in Melbourne doing anything original.

  3. Finally the ABC management have done something rare and actually considered community standards and binned this trash.

    As for history Australians will know John Batman’s contribution to our society but Tom Ballard will always be remembered as the unfunny idiot that had to resort to using the “c” word to get an audience reaction.

    • For the record, Tom Ballard isn’t the person who used the “c” word. And those who care to research history in its entirety will be aware that John Batman’s contribution to our society wasn’t all good, far from it in fact.

  4. I hope we see more of Bridie Connell, Greg Larsen and Greta Lee Jackson. Give Jackson and Connell their own sketch show, some of their segments were great.

  5. I agree. It would have worked better as a weekly show of even just four nights. Tom id a great interviewer… but struggled as a host. The skits were often funny and it was great to see the inclusion of cast members from The Checkout. I loved the eps with the girls hosting. Loved the often interesting take off social issues. The inclusion of music and standup acts was also a winner. I think they just needed to drop the opening monologue and it would have been a winner.

  6. I think others have touched on it already — for me, it wasn’t necessarily the swearing that turned me off, it just didn’t strike a balance between funny and ‘preachy’.I wanted to laugh along with it, but too often it felt desperate & I felt I was being lectured to. Does this mean there will be no first run Australian content on the channel? If so, it’s not a good look when there’s a much debate about the ABC currently.

  7. This lazy derivative second rate copy of Colbert was “comedy” dead on arrival with poor writing, and a smug obnoxious host resulting in the show committing the worst sin of all of simply not being funny. It got the ratings it deserved, which would seem to only be the immediate friends and family of the shows staff.

  8. Always a shame when a comedy gets axed!! I didn’t mind the show, mainly the sketches. And while Tom wasn’t always for me – I found him smug at times and more smart-arse than funny – it was a refreshing change to see him as the host.

  9. I always enjoyed this, when I remembered to tune in – but since they changed 22 to a comedy channel, I don’t even bother to glance at it in the guide, as the shows I used to like watching on it are gone, hence I don’t remember I enjoy Tom Ballard’s show. He was/is v good in this.

  10. Attracting younger audiences isn’t an issue for ABC. ABC Kids usually has more shows in the top 20 multichannel ratings than all the other networks combined.

    More seriously though, this was never going to work. The younger audience generally don’t want to watch a half hour comedy show at 9/9:30pm each night. I much preferred The Roast which was 5 minutes long (back in the days when it was ABC2), and watched it on iView rather than broadcast.

    So that makes ABC Comedy pretty much a channel of repeats of really old comedy shows, if the TV Guide is anything to go by.

    • Despite his efforts, Tom Ballard was not a strong enough host for a daily programme at this point. Certainly the repetitive swearing and the “look at me” attitude didn’t help. He needs a role where he tones it down a bit and get stronger writers and maybe a partner for a double act that he can bounce things off, it would work.

      Now if the ABC want to poach some talent, try Jeannette Francis from the Feed

      • Comedy is subjective. Many observers were quietly impressed with how well Tom Ballard did to turn around a daily show with a shoestring budget. In the US you have teams of writers. In many ways I think he found his natural home. The bigger question is what do you do with a multichannel with no flagship show?

        • Given the ratings of the show I think you would be hard pressed to call this ABC2/comedy’s “Flagship” show. Maybe Peppa Pig, but not this one.

          As for the quality, whilst the comedy is a subjective matter, it definitely needed more “adults” in the production team running the show and Mr Ballard to be more “host” and less “swearing comedian”

    • The ABC has lots of viewers 60 on its main channel. They are worried that they have few viewers in the middle, and most of their strategy has been based around trying to get and hold some so they will have an audience in future. Tonightly was designed to catch younger viewers 16-35 from the commercial channels (where they are watching game shows). It didn’t work, the audience quickly fell to just over 30k and it’s clearly not a humour that appeals to many. There’s much better stuff on the net.

  11. I am glad they have this attitude and gave this a go. I wasn’t impressed with the c-bomb thing either but in being edgy it is necessary to stray over the line at times. This is not a word to enter regular usage. They are also competing with strong offerings here and out of the US – Colbert, Meyers and Oliver are like the big 3 of picking through the entrails of the current US news cycle.

    • You’re right Gaz producing a daily comedy show requires a big effort,maybe a weekly would have worked better,still i didn’t mind watching him on a daily basis,i guess i was one of the few that did.

      • Charlie Pickering’s The Weekly is what Tonightly would look like as a weekly show. Much more funny (mainly due to Tom Gleeson & Kitty Flanagan) & more polished show also.

        • I agree Tom Gleeson and Kitty Flanagan are very funny, but the highlight of The Weekly for me is Charlie’s opening monologue, as is Tom Ballards monologue my highlight of his show.

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