In 2010, particularly during the Federal Election, Q&A was the place to be on Monday night. Fiesty, robust political debate, tempered with national cultural and other issues, it made for an hour of excellent TV.

Q&A also brought Twitter to television in a real and engaging way. Allowing viewers to tweet the #QandA tag meant that possibly their conversation with other viewers may appear on-screen for the rest of the viewing audience to enjoy. The only downside, of course, is that initially with daylight savings happening in southern states, Queenslanders couldn’t play along. As you can see from the graph below, not a lot happens after it’s aired down south…

It gets boring for Queenslanders during daylight savings... (screen shot taken at 10:35pm AEST)

Graph/figures courtesy

One of the smartest things that ABC Managing Director Mark Scott allowed was a simulcast of the program as it aired in NSW/Victoria in all states nationally on ABC News 24, meaning everyone around the country could tune in at the appropriate local time and watch the show/tweet along.

Twitter aside, the 2011 start for Q&A has been less than engaging. The guest choice has been almost predictable (two opposing politicians, two opposing commentators, and a single “normal” person) leading to predictable arguments or conversations. Best highlighted by the late inclusion of Qld One Nation director Ian Nelson to the show that aired on 21/02/2011. It was like adding the token redneck to the table to say offensive things simply to build controversy. It’s either been this combination of guests, or a panel so bland you’d think they’d all taken beige injections upon leaving the green room for the set. It was tired, and we could all tell.

Even the usually engaging tweet displays on screen have seemingly become a predictable delivery of the same core group of tweeters. There’ll always be at least one comedian featured, either Clare Bowditch or Marieke Hardy will get a tweet on screen (not that there’s anything wrong with THAT), and as Dan Ilic suggested last night the standard ” for PM” tweet will always get on screen (although when a number of us tried it as “Dan Ilic for PM”, we got nothing. Perhaps he needs to be a guest before that works?).

Now one show is an exception and not the rule – and the show that aired last night (Mon 07/03/11) was Q&A back to fine form. Celebrating International Womens Day, the panel featured Gail Kelly (Westpac CEO), Kate Ellis (Minister for the Status of Women), Janet Albrechtsen (Columnist for The Australian and ABC Board member), Joe Hockey (Shadow Treasurer) & Mike Carleton (journalist/broadcaster). There were awkward moments; great questions; entertaining non-sequitors; the studio audience and twitterati ebbed and flowed in opinion and support for various panelists.

Gail Kelly almost ruled the roost for the first half of the show as the discussion centered around women in the workplace, particularly on Boards & in Senior Management. Then, as the conversation turned to banks & fees, Kelly’s demeanour didn’t change but the audience wanted answers not the platitudes that were delivered it. She got away OK, but wouldn’t have lasted long had the conversation continued.

Last night’s show was a welcome return to the Q&A loved by many. If the momentum can be maintained, this may well be the biggest comeback since Lazarus.

Do you watch Q&A? Is it starting a comeback, or is this the decline of a once great show (and it now needs putting out of it’s misery)?


Q&A – Mon 9:35pm, ABC1.