Back in the early 1990s when low-rating Channel Nine soap Chances was cut from twice a week to a single episode in a late night slot, producers decided to go for broke.
Storylines infamously went for the outrageous, with sex, bondage, lesbians, an angel on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, an Egyptian Sun Goddess, laser-wielding vampires, man-eating plants, and neo-Nazis. It was so camp the show actually began to find a cult audience and it’s now all anybody remembers about a show that began with a lottery winning family.
I’m reminded of this because since ABC announced Tonightly with Tom Ballard will end (tonight), the team has similarly gone for broke with its comedy. There have been flashes of brilliance in recent sketches and bold ideas, notably in its Conservatively and Tonightly2068 editions.
Last night Ballard delivered one of his most scathing monologues yet. His take on the whole sorry Climate Change saga and backdown on emission targets took aim at Malcolm Turnbull, Labor, the Greens, and the political system.
That the production team have been able to deliver this material daily is remarkable -US shows have teams and budgets light years ahead of Ballard’s. I get that the numbers currently don’t work. You can’t hire that many people to make a show rating that low without something eventually giving. It’s a bit of joke it was ever expected to deliver.
ABC has a history of comedians who all pushed the envelope with firebrand comedy: from Aunty Jack and Norman Gunston to Max Gillies, John Clarke, John Safran, Andrew Denton, Wendy Harmer, Shaun Micallef, Judith Lucy, Chris Lilley, Kath & Kim, Doug Anthony All Stars, The Chaser and more…. Many of them bucked the establishment, and Australians loved them all the more for it.
They also got their start before TV was in the silos that now exist (Pilot Week anyone?).
The youthful Ballard team have indeed made errors -including one sketch for which it will long be remembered – but it also has to be given room to make mistakes. Creative endeavour should not be a victim of a cultural war between Ultimo and Canberra, nor Ultimo and Holt Street.
ABC needs to grow a spine and back its talent.
Look to your history. Make the numbers work as a weekly show on the primary channel, guys!
Now, before you watch this Climate Change monologue, a word of warning…. the language is e-x-t-r-e-m-e. Ballard drops countless F-Bombs (which has been an ongoing problem, not because it’s offensive, but because soon it becomes all you end up hearing).
That aside, this is classic ABC anarchy… biting, provocative and brilliant.
Isn’t that exactly what ABC wanted?