It is with heavy heart and tear-stained keyboard that I offer you my resignation as an ever-hopeful fan of Ben Elton: Live From Planet Earth. I tried. I really did.
People mocked me, as they you, when I published my first article in support of your new show. While many came hunting with the tall poppy knife we Australians are given on our 16th birthday (or at naturalisation), I chose to lay down my arms and embrace the opportunity your show represented. Live sketch comedy – I don’t think we’ve seen that since Gretel Kileen wrote “A Town Like Dallas” for The Midday Show during Ray Martin’s reign (quality aside). Introducing 8 new comedic characters in one show with no setup was always going to be a hard task. Not many people appreciated my generally optimistic view that any comedic show needs to breathe, grown and develop. I remained positive.
I looked forward to the second episode with high expectations. “He’ll have gotten help with the script writing,” I thought. “He won’t seriously try and write it all himself again – he needs a sounding board,” I convinced myself. Clearly you disagreed and went ahead yourself anyway. To your credit the second episode was better than the first. The cast were more relaxed, the audience present (and at home) had some idea of what to expect and watched and waited accordingly. Genevieve Morris’s Elaine Front was a high point again even though given very little to work with in guest Kris Smith. Introducing the cast helped spread the love – people saw that they were human and not little Elton-esque comedy robots, forced to bend to your will & deliver dodgy dialogue. Some love and connection was made with the people who, ultimately, will give the show it’s longevity – the wider cast. This was all listed in my second article. Ep 3 would build on this framework and things would get better I hoped.
They did not.
No question it had been a hard day. The country is all disaster-ed out, and a massive earthquake in New Zealand (our unofficial 7th state) killing at least 65 people was alwasy going to be a tough follow – especially considering you followed an hour and 15 min of recap on the day’s tragedy. Your pre-show announcement was gentle, sensitive, heart-felt and reasonable. Which you then followed with a scripted piece by “The PM” delivering the content warning and every bad caricature possible of the Prime Minister. It bubbled for a little bit (I loved the gag about the newspapers setting up AFL players for sport in your opening monologue), and then went south very swiftly.
This is where it hurt. This is why I must resign. The content you expected the poor cast to deliver was, on the whole, shameful and one-dimensional. The Nigella sketch barely made it to being a single entendre, let alone a doube. The Throat Lolly song was inexplicably bad. Even Elaine Front was soft on Brynne Edelsten who must have showed courage to even say yes in appearing on the show expecting to be somewhat parodied herself and she got away scott-free. Girl Flat was just that. By the end of the show my heart was breaking. I knew the good you could do and I know these things take time, and I felt entirely let down. I trusted you with my funny bone, and it came back wanting. Your ego, sir, is writing cheques your scripts can’t cash.
I shan’t list here the things I would recommend to assist or revive the show, simply because I know you haven’t handled the criticism of your show that well over the past few weeks. I am more than happy to discuss these in person with you, should you wish to hear me out. As a fan of yours, the show and the work of the cast, I remained optimistic that things would get better and they didn’t. Spectacularly so.
A little bit of my innocent optimism died tonight and it will take a long time for it to grow back. I’m terribly sorry, but after tonight’s performance: I quit.