I didn’t get to watch Ben Elton: Live From Planet Earth live to air, however Twitter did offer a warning: It wasn’t very good. But I decided to press on and seek to view it impartially, without the peer pressure of Twitter telling me it was “god-awful” and forcing me to not like it (even someone suggested bringing back Hey Hey It’s Saturday in its place – calm down, people! Let’s not over-react!). The mob mentality certainly ruled tonight (with a few notable exceptions).
My view: It didn’t entirely suck.
Even from the opening content warning which Elton chose to do live (maturity was never going to be one of the strengths of LFPE), we knew what to expect. Dick, fart, bum & va-jay-jay gags aplenty. The team didn’t disappoint. The opening monologue was pacey, and in typically Elton-esque in style and content. He stumbled over a few phrases, but nothing that took away from his delivery. An excellent indication that the show was LIVE live was the inclusion of a gag about Tony Abbott’s “shit happens” controversy, which only hit the news circa 7pm Melbourne time (from where the show is broadcast).
Live sketch comedy is a bold move, and bold moves don’t always work live. Good live sketch comedy is good. Tonight’s offering was far too hit and miss, and very reminiscent of past characters from other comedies – from Kylie Mole and her mate brought into the 21st Century to Prue & Trude from Kath ‘n Kim recast as a male & female duo. The Fat Chef needs never surface again. Ever. Same with Kristie-Lee, the female body-builder. Both characters were even beyond Elton’s usual standard of base. Some more concentration in the writing room required for next week’s show, please. This includes Girl Flat, where at least two of the actresses need to develop their character accents very quickly for future shows.
The exception to the poor sketch comedy offerings that stood head and shoulders above the others was Elaine Front (delivered by the engaging Genevieve Morris – you may know her as Barbara from Bankworld most recently). Elaine is the show’s entertainment reporter and was responsible for the “interview” with tonight’s guest Ruby Rose. My initial reaction was that she was this generation’s Norman Gunston impersonator but she delivered so much more than that. Ruby Rose was never going to be an interesting interview, but Elaine made it engaging and has a lot of potential for future interviews. Rose laughing like an idiot at every little thing did her no favours. I look forward to Elaine warming/hardening up and sticking it to future guests (almost as a form of comedy roast, but with meaning).
Guest comedian Arj Barker offered a tight 5 minutes that felt restrained. It was funny but you felt he wanted to go a bit farther and didn’t because he’d get sweary. Elton’s links and monologues throughout the night were indeed the high point. The best thing about LFPE was letting Elton have his head and giving some young comedic actors a chance. The bad thing about LFPE was letting Elton have his head and giving some young comedic actors a chance. But it was not the car accident Twitter has decided it was.
As the show ran long and I missed the credits, I missed seeing who the writers are for the show. Turns out there’s only one – Ben Elton. The actors workshop the scripts with him, but Elton is responsible for the content on the whole. DAMN. No pressure or anything, Ben!
Twitter & Facebook have, on the whole, lambasted the show. I think it’s unfair calling for it to be axed off the back of 1 episode (after all, that’s for the network programmer to decide, not us). The series needs a chance to breathe, to develop. It’s barely out of it’s figurative womb, don’t euthanise the baby just yet! As I said before it didn’t entirely suck and that’s a good thing. I look forward to seeing grow and get better… because if it doesn’t, it will be axed. Just not yet. Ratings for it tomorrow (particularly the incremental breakdowns) will be very interesting.
It was not as bad as many are making out to be. There have been much worse go before it and survive, and Live From Planet Earth deserves at least the chance to prove it is better than they were. It’s not great – yet – but it could be, given the opportunity.
UPDATE 09/02/11- Ben Elton: Live From Planet Earth delivered 455,000 nationally. 22nd for the night.