“This is the most important show since The Mavis Bramston Show,” Mark Gable of The Choirboys joked with Dr. Chris Brown & Julia Morris.
While Brown conceded that most of the audience would have no idea about the show he was referring to, I couldn’t help but think Mavis Bramston was bitingly-scripted and clearly still remembers some 50 years later. In the current climate you’re doing well if you are remembered 50 weeks later.
10’s latest Live TV pitch, Chris & Julia’s Sunday Night Takeaway, is based on Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway which is now 15 seasons old. The UK duo, who are practically a religion in their own right, are ringmasters of pranks, games and variety giveaways. Various international adaptations have been staged, some of which ran for 4 years.
Dr. Chris Brown & Julia Morris, first paired together at a Logie event, host the Aussie version from 10. Fresh from the African jungle, the energy between these two always delivers. Try and stop Julia Morris from a format where she gets to host, do gags and maybe even sing a number or two. The surprise package continues to be the TV vet-turned-comedy-straight-man, whose knack at Live hosting has come a long way in a short space of time.
The opening episode featured guest announcer Shane Warne -a good get even if he is pops all his Ps- and Beau Ryan as a kind of supporting host. Across two hours (it ran 25 minutes overtime) it served up a range of Live studio and pre-recorded segments: Couch Watch, Singalong Live, The Happiest Minute, Win the Ads and more. There were flashes of Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush, Candid Camera, even 1960s daytime game shows such as It Could Be You. To its credit, big prizes walked out the door on night 1, including a car, holidays, cash and more.
Thanks to behind-the-scenes plans there was a cheeky video involving a viewer in Dancing with the Stars and The Bachelor, resulting in a Live marriage proposal. Lucky she said yes.
But a Karaoke singalong with crosses to home viewers was messy, with clunky timing. Beau Ryan handled his segment with all the finesse of a Footy Show segment. The show needs to avoid too much shouting.
With celebrity interviews handled by pint-sized “Chris & Julia” the show is pitching at family audiences -not a bad move when reality shows in the same slot are high on drama and jeopardy.
But there is also a sense of the show wanting to appear loose and spontaneous, framed by a big-budget, shiny floor set. Are the two compatible or has it overshot the mark? I guess 15 seasons in the UK shows what’s possible.
For me that’s the key to this exercise. Having a Live TV alternative, with moments of the unpredictable, has to be welcomed in a landscape where much is constructed and sometimes bordering on abuse. Chris & Julia’s Sunday Night Takeaway needs to be trimmed in length, especially where concepts are especially variations on a theme. The point is, there is not just room for improvement, there is potential.
Mavis Bramston knew it was important to take risks in Television, otherwise we will be perpetually stuck with repeats. 10 is starting out 2019 doing just that.
Chris & Julia’s Sunday Night Takeaway airs 7:30pm Sundays on 10.