Live, dangerous and ready to prove a point.
Rove McManus is a big believer audiences want a Live variety show -and Pilot Week is his chance.
Bring Back… Saturday Night is the only contender in TEN’s Pilot Week that will be fully Live to Air.
But that suits host Rove McManus just fine. He has a career carved out from Live television whether at Channel 31, Nine or TEN, with three Gold Logie Awards to boot.
Yet that brings some unusual challenges for McManus and his production team, based in both Sydney & Melbourne.
“I haven’t done 100% Live in a long time, apart from doing The Project,” he tells TV Tonight.
“I don’t know if I’m meant to be telling you this but I will. We don’t have access to our studio until 2 o’clock in afternoon, on the day of the show!
“But I like a challenge! I like the fact that this embodies everything about Pilot Week: ‘Let’s just throw it out there and see what happens!’”
“I like the idea of being free-standing, I’m more of a ringmaster.”
The one hour show will be staged in TEN’s Pyrmont studio with a small audience. But while it does include traditional elements including a band, comedy act, sketches, interview guest and live crosses, some of them will be turned on their head.
“There is no desk, so I wouldn’t label it a Talk show,” he explains.
“I like the idea of being free-standing, I’m more of a ringmaster. I remember The Big Gig had a party atmosphere, which was mid-week, but it was like you’re going out to watch a band or a stand-up performance.
“But how we are going to be doing it is hopefully different. We also have a lot of new faces that are involved, in terms of contributors, including a young performer named Alex Jae who has never done television before. I think she’s a fabulous talent.
“There are also established acts and names, but in a way that they haven’t been used before.”
Confirmed appearances include Delta Goodrem, Miranda Tapsell, Conrad Sewell, Judith Lucy, Mel Buttle, Alex Lee and Tom Gleeson.
McManus also makes no bones about the fact that he is dead-keen to have a variety show on television. Pilot Week is his window of opportunity to prove he is not alone -and is he acutely aware of the audience footprint TEN usually attracts on Saturdays.
“The idea that I’ve been pushing so hard for so long is that people want a show like this. They want an entertainment program and when you look at where that could be done, the one night of the week that is being neglected is Saturday,” he continues.
“So hopefully there’s enough people out there who agree and want to watch it.
“Is it because there’s not a viable option other than Sport or Drama on the ABC?”
“But if you look at the numbers on Saturday night they are so drastically below what everybody else does. It’s hard to know is that because Saturday is one of those nights when people do go out to parties? Or is it because there’s not a viable option other than Sport or Drama on the ABC?
“There is an older audience at home sitting on the couch, probably over 40 with kids, and Saturday night is probably the night to finally put your feet up and take it easy.
“At the same time there is also younger audience that might be headed out, but not till later.
“As much as people think of shows like Hey Hey it’s Saturday as the yardstick of a legacy program -and that’s very true- I’m also of a generation that would stay home to watch The D-Generation’s Late Show and then go out.”
McManus hopes to marry the two audiences with an ‘old meets new’ approach as well as providing a “wrap party” feel to Pilot Week itself.
After that the decision is in the hands of the audience and network execs, just as TV always is.
“Normally for a Pilot process you make it, a bunch of executives will sit in a board room somewhere and decide if it lives or dies.
“But with this thing if the boat goes down we’ll all be holding hands together!”
Bring Back… Saturday Night airs 7:30pm Saturday on TEN.