Ben Elton looks back on Live from Planet Earth

Comedian and writer has reflected on the failed comedy show that was Live from Planet Earth in an interview for Stellar magazine.

Nine infamously axed the Live sketch show after just three episodes after it was panned and drew low ratings.

“It was a deeply, deeply, deeply dispiriting experience,” he says. “I was outraged by what happened. Channel 9 did something extraordinary, backing a return to Australian local content. I am an Australian, I was an Australian citizen when they did it – I wasn’t some f***ing Pom who couldn’t get work elsewhere, believe me.

“But there was a feeding frenzy; it was ridiculous and wrong. If The Young Ones had been judged after two weeks, it would have been dead on its arse. It had the worst reviews. Blackadder the same; its first year was not considered very good and it nearly got cancelled.

“My advice to an Australian broadcaster is if you’re not prepared to let it go for a series, then don’t start and break everybody’s hearts.”

Live from Planet Earth featured Genevieve Morris, Paul McCarthy, Kate McClennan, Veronica Milsom, Shareena Clanton, and guests including Ruby Rose, Tim Minchin, Arj Barker, Brynne Edelsten and more.

Comedy is the most subjective of all the genres and Live from Planet Earth was bold but arguably in need of more development time. The industry often refers to the show as the first to be axed by Twitter. It was merciless at the time.

In 2011 Elton gave his only media interview on the backlash to TV Tonight.

“I think in terms of the ‘Twitterology’ of TV I really do hope that the mainstream media and indeed the more dignified new media get over analysing Twitter. There’s been Twitter forever and it was called ‘the pub.’ If you walked into a pub, you’ll always here someone saying ‘I thought that was shit,’” he said.

“In the long run most people don’t feel the need to Twitter. Frankly someone who half-way through the first section feels the need to tell everyone what they think is not really the opinion I think should be reported. It’s almost like reporting the worst opinion.

“We’re getting to a point where the loudest, bolshiest, most-trainspottering voices are the actually becoming the ones who are being heard. It’s like asking at the stage door what a show was like. The people at the Stage Door are actually, with the greatest respect, not the public. The public are the 2000 people who watch it, chat to their mates and go home.”

Language. Adult themes.


  1. carolemorrissey

    Well I’m in the minority, like I seem to be with most things, but i liked it & thought it was really funny. I was really annoyed when stupid 9 axed it.

  2. Just followed the link to the older story after reading this one & saw that the ratings were 455K at 9.30…any network would love those ratings at 9.30 in 2020!

  3. It was crap. Covering up that people said it was crap on Twitter doesn’t change anything. The would still says its crap, viewers gave up watching because it was crap. Every minute was costing Nine a fortune and anyway Elton is lucky Nine cancelled it quickly. An entire season of it may have ended his career.

  4. Rehashing of what is now pretty old news/controversy-one would have to say that Elton’s good stuff was all a while ago now-I rapidly gave up on ‘Upstart Crow’ as it’s a poor redo of much of the 2nd ‘Blackadder’ series.

  5. Usually I am sympathetic to this cause, networks should be more patient with shows, especially the variety/comedy genre. but in this case I think 9 were generous letting it last 3 episodes.

    I think the biggest problem with the show was Ben Elton himself, there was just something angry and unlikable about him, and his bitterness since has only further validated this.

  6. I remember Live from Planet Earth and the humour was not good. I don’t think the format could have been saved without rebranding the show. It was on a similar level to the infamous Let Loose Live. The jokes did not resonate with the viewers at all. Live audience sketch comedy and improvisation is great when it works and there were high hopes for the aforementioned shows to be successful.

    Having said that, he has written some good and successful sitcoms, Upstart Crow being one of the more recent ones.

  7. The show was just not funny at all, and what was worse was the appalling way Elton handled the negative feedback with a whiny chastising monologue on one of the shows about how great he thinks his show is and how terrible the viewers are for not getting it.

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