The Cheap Seats jokes the show might be ‘cursed’

Become a favourite source clip on the 10 show, and it might be the kiss of death, warns Tim McDonald.

It’s the TV show that loves to highlight amusing, often obscure, television moments, but The Cheap Seats is starting to joke that it may also be cursed.

The 10 show, returning for its fourth season, is slowly amassing a list of television shows and presenters that have all departed after becoming a Cheap Seats favourite.

The latest to bite the dust is 10’s own Studio 10, a source of many clip highlights, but no longer on air in 2024.

“Last year internally, we started calling The Cheap Seats ‘cursed,'” Tim McDonald tells TV Tonight.

“When we mentioned someone or a show they would either be axed, rested, moved to another time, or the person would just quit TV altogether.

“We’ve lost (Seven News anchor) Jane Doyle in Adelaide who did wonderful work. We loved Wally Lewis reading sport on Nine News. Studio 10 is gone. We lost Spencer Gulf News in regional South Australia.

Studio 10 is a big loss. It does, however, free up three hours of our day, every day, but we still gather around and talk about steam mops.”

McDonald, who hosts alongside Melanie Bracewell, assures that the show still has plenty of potential targets for another year of highlighting the ‘best worst’ moments on television in the past week.

“(Nine’s) Alan Raskall I believe is fine and well. Channel Seven Toowoomba gardening expert Penny McKinlay is healthy and What’s On in the Warehouse continues to produce episodes.”

Each week McDonald, Bracewell and their team of researchers scour Australia and the globe for moments that deliver a laugh. 2024 promises to be a year of big events, from the Olympics in Paris to the US Election. But The Cheap Seats team loves their off-off-Broadway discoveries and so too does the audience.

“There’s a German breakfast show that I can’t wait to show people this year”

“I think with a lot of shows, they all watch Sunrise, the Today show, but we’re watching Tasmanian news, Darwin news, and international stuff like Irish breakfast TV. There’s a German breakfast show that I can’t wait to show people this year. It’s those sorts of discoveries that I love about our show,” he continues.

“Every time a week goes and you think ‘Nothing happened, there’s nothing good,’ you wake up the next day and there’s been a hotdog eating contest in the States. Even in dark times when the news is really bad, there’s always a story out there we can have fun with.”

Sometimes being featured on the show will even prove to be a thrill for the TV talent given unexpected national exposure.

“A regional reporter in Townsville will wake up the next morning and discover that they’ve been on national TV”

“We’re lucky enough to meet a lot of the regional people that we’ve featured on the show. Normally you worry because you hope that they don’t hate us or enforce a restraining order. But often, what I love is a regional reporter in Townsville will wake up the next morning and discover that they’ve been on national TV. They’ve been plying their trade for years and all of a sudden they’ve been discovered in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. They love it,” McDonald insists.

“Occasionally we find out that there are reporter WhatsApp groups, where they’ll do a story and then they’ll go, ‘This should get me on The Cheap Seats!’

“Sometimes people are trying to get an appearance, so we are mindful of that.”

This year sees the return of Mel Tracina doing Entertainment, but continuing a revolving roster of Sports presenters following the exit of Titus O’Reily. McDonald feels while there are few other changes from 2023 the show has evolved from its early beginnings when not even the network was quite sure that they were getting.

“I know what will tickle her fancy and I think vice versa”

“When we watch back the earlier episodes, you’re watching Mel and I learn how to work together. We knew each other a little bit from HYBPA? but we didn’t know each other that well. I think what has changed in those four years is we started as colleagues and I like to think we’ve become friends. Mel says we’re still colleagues,” he jokes, “but we’ve just become more comfortable. I know what she’s going to bring and I know what will tickle her fancy and I think vice versa.

“The show itself hasn’t changed a whole lot. We used to do voxpops, which we’ve stopped doing just because we found those didn’t quite work. We thought they were a nice gear change early on, but they were very hard to do and hard to get right. So we stopped doing those. Otherwise, the show’s pretty much the same.”

The show launched in 2020 at the height of the pandemic when not even a studio audience could attend -leading to crew having to make up the early numbers.

“It actually wasn’t that bad because it was a really warm room. The crew had seen some bits but hadn’t seen other bits, so it didn’t feel the pressure of doing a big show. It almost felt like it was just a bunch of mates catching up. I love that small studio vibe. When I do other TV shows sometimes the scale and the size is a bit overwhelming. But we’re in a little broom cupboard and I love it because it feels like an intimate comedy room.”

“10 very generously have supported the show from Day 1”

He also acknowledges the trust from Network 10, doubtless leveraging off the success of Working Dog productions.

“10 very generously have supported the show from Day 1. They basically said, ‘Here’s a timeslot, whatever you guys want to do, have fun with it,’ which is so rare in TV,” he says.

“It’s so rare to launch a new show and just give the hosts that sort of creative control.”

As the 2024 season gets underway, who might be next to be annointed with the show’s very own Kiss of Death? McDonald isn’t too sure.

“Maybe we are the Kiss of Death, so we’re going to be talking more about Piers Morgan, more about Andrew Tate. See if we can use our powers for good.”

The Cheap Seats returns 8:40pm Tuesday on 10.

13 Responses

  1. I was watching with my 14yo daughter and she kept complaining about the laugh track – I guess she didn’t grow up with sitcoms with it like me!
    It’s a funny, fast-paced show and I think Mel and Tim do a great job.
    Now where can I find a mandarin?

  2. So good to (finally!) have the show back, and HYBPA soon to follow. All is right in the world again…well, at least in TV. Good to hear the reporters featured on the show take it in good humour. I’ve always viewed TCS as making fun of the absurd lengths the networks go to for content these days, since there’s do much news time to fill in now, rather than anything personal. Somewhere there’s always a director telling them to go out and do it.

  3. I think TCS is as close as we’re going to get to a good ol’ fashion “variety” show today. Good hosts with banter, guests, funny clips. Love it.

  4. I really like both Tim and Mel, but for some reason, TCS’ format hasn’t gelled with me, which is surprising given I love HYBPA?.

    Maybe I should give it another shot this year.

  5. This show will be cursed if channel ten does not keep advertising the upcoming episode. No other channel keeps repeating ads for their shows like channel ten does.

  6. I want to watch TCS, however the constant pen fiddling and banging on the desk from Tim does my head in. Kochie you were guilty of this too. I do agree with Solace about Ten’s best performers. They showcase this style of variety so well. What we need is the Price Is Right (Sam Pang hosting), a nighttime variety show such as Rove (so many celebs coming here and what shows are we seeing them on)? The Project doesn’t count, they always have the celebs last and cut them off. And most importantly a good adult drama a couple of nights a week. A Pacific Drive reboot would be greash. Oh and The Panel.

      1. Ahhhh Pacific Drive! And Paradise Beach. My memory is a bit foggy but didn’t Paradise Beach morph into Pacific Drive? They were the only two ch9 soaps I ever liked. I was more ch10 with Richmond Hill and E Street. I would love a new night time early evening soap. Sam Pang would be great hosting TPIR but it can’t be done on a shoestring budget. All the prizes can’t be from BigW as the Aussie Wheel of Fortune did for a while.
        I would want a carbon copy of the USA version.
        Surely it’s time for Variety to come back around and make it Live! ($$$) A new fresh funny host is out there with a format that works. Keep it simple. The Hey Hey format worked for a long time. Just update that.

  7. Highly anticipated show. Is the wait okay? I know everyone needs a break every now and then. Though is the wait too long? Could there be Summer or off-season editions of shows like TCS? Maybe with different hosts or crew. A good opportunity for up and coming talent. There was also the suggestion to import HYBPA? NZ for fans of the format. These are Ten’s best performing shows after all.

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