What’s wrong with Australian television?
I’ll tell you what’s wrong with Australian television: HEY HEY IT’S SATURDAY IS NOT PERMANENTLY ON AIR!
OK, maybe that was kind of predictable, and yes, I’ll grant you that a change in the entire broadcasting system of one show probably won’t make that much difference, but you know what? Last night was the first time in probably, hmm, at least the last eight years that I have purposefully sat down to watch an entertainment programme on television.
Sometimes I will have been watching television just because I was at a friends place or to see some documentary on SBS or whatever, but I think that last night was the first time in a very long time that I purposefully sat down with the intent of watching a show on one of the commercial channels, on purpose!
Some people have been saying that last night’s show only served to highlight how Hey Hey is a very old programme and is showing its age horrendously. Well, I can only conclude that those people probably never liked Hey Hey to begin with and can’t pick anything else to criticize about it.
There are two things I really liked about the show last night. One was the overall format, and the other I will mention later.
Daryl is the host, but he isn’t always in control. Sure, he does most of the talking, and guides the flow of the programme, but that’s about it. He is a guide, not a director. All of the other characters (I can’t think of a better term for them at the moment, so this’ll do) on the show are pretty much free to cut in whenever the hell they want (an example last night; near the start of the show, Red made a joke, but the camera didn’t cut away to him from Daryl. So, he went over to where Daryl was standing, stuck his head in the shot, interrupting what Daryl was saying, and said, “What do you have to do to get a cutaway around here?!” – classic Red). Dickie, the cartoon guy, John Blackman, and even the guys in the band (Red and Wilbur) sort of just hang around and make jokes about what’s going on. None of it feels particularly scripted, and I’m typically a pretty good judge of that (but I am biased toward Hey Hey, so I could be wrong).
I could be wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure that Hey Hey was one of the first shows to use breaking the fourth wall to help with the comedy. With the characters butting in whenever they feel like it, and the camera crews taking regular visits backstage, and the audience and camera crew being frequently shown and involved in the programme, the overall feeling is more … ‘welcoming’ and I personally feel a lot more involved in a show like Hey Hey than I would any other programme where there are simply talking heads jabbering on, which accounts for oh… every other live television show, ever.
Rove Live is similar in concept (IMO Rove stole most of the ideas from Hey Hey), but it’s more compartmentalised. Rove is the director, he controls the show. The guests and comedians stay on the set off to the side, but they are rarely involved after their respective segments. They do a lot of the same gags that Hey Hey did, but once again, without the regular but unpredictable input from the other characters, most of the comedy is left to Rove, who simply can’t compete with a whole cast.
The other really important aspect of last night’s show, for me at least, was that despite Daryl being wholly and soully an “old-world media” type of guy, he has apparently fully embraced Facebook and Twitter and their usefulness. Unlike on every single other show on television where the hosts refer to Facebook and Twitter etc with ridiculous parody names and give a general sense of disdain toward the services, usually alongside an overwhelmingly dramatic sense that these things are simply beyond the viewer and they shouldn’t bother with them. The Twitter tag #heyhey was for a period last night the most popular tag on the entire website, which Daryl mentioned on the show! He actually talked about Twitter like it was an interesting and useful tool, because it is! (conspiracy theory incoming) Instead of all the other talking head idiots who are either genuinely stupid, or contractually obligated, to play down the role of these websites in order to avoid threatening the old-world media conglomerates who still haven’t figured out how to make money from the internet.
That leads me to my final point regarding Hey Hey and why it’s so great: Hey Hey makes you think. With all of the conversation threads flying around between the different characters, the various wierd and wonderful acts on the show (Red Faces!, and last night the a capella performance as well), the show actually had strange things on there that required people to step outside their lovely perfect television world and say, “Hang on, that’s different.” Current television programming is all the same, and it’s all designed to do one thing: sell crap. Whether they’re just selling the station itself, or the shows have accompanying merchandise, it’s all about selling crap. Hey Hey is the same of course, but it does it in a much more obvious way (‘Here’s a cool band, they have a CD out, buy it if you like it!’ as opposed to ‘OMG, FUCKING REALITY TELEVISION!!!! HOLY SHIT!
… that was a bit ranty, so I will summarise by saying that Hey Hey sells shit obviously by saying “here is a thing, if you like it, buy it” whereas other shows use subversive tactics like emotional manipulation to sell shit.
I hope next week’s reunion show is just as good as this weeks. I would probably watch it if they put it on again full time, but it has been around for 28 years, and I imagine after a few months or so the novelty would wear off. But then again, the average age of television viewers is around 50 – so maybe the old-style format shows, with a few modern touches, can make a comeback? I personally think it could go either way. People my age (23) grew up watching Hey Hey, and now we’re all on Facebook and Twitter. I imagine they could modernise the show in that sense and retain a whole bunch of viewers who, like me, watching Hey Hey last night was the first time they had voluntarily watched television in years.