Variety TV has had it’s moments of cool as shows had their day. In Melbourne Tonight. Midday. Rove. Even Hey Hey It’s Saturday was once a show you had to watch. We’ve just got a new contender.
With ease Adam Hills welcomed the studio and home audience to the first episode of Adam Hills In Gordon St Tonight. With eas and some healthy self-deprecation (what was with that KFC ad?!). The show had an vibe about it that suggested it was returning after the summer break, not that it was the first ever episode to go to air. Such was the disarming charm of the the one-legged host.
A seasoned stand up comic and experienced TV quiz show host, Hills can now add very legitimately variety show wrangler to his list of special skills after a superb turn at the helm of what will only continue to be a joy to watch. The way Hills involved the studio audience from the start by way of an audience survey they all had to complete ahead of time (little did they know what they’d get from it) was a joy to watch, and now surely makes tickets to tapings of #AHIGST the second most sought after tickets behind Q&A.
The rapier wit of Hannah Gadsby was on full display as Adam’s “go to” person and general piss-taker (as Melissa George experienced in the middle of her interview). Her style and near emotionless delivery of some of the funniest lines of the night meant Gadsby is (and will continue to be) no bit player. The inclusion of Pete Rowsthorn in a live cross to Perth to help with some audience business was great, as was the “comedian phoning it in” segment where a comic (in this case Ross Noble) delivered 3 minutes of insanity via FaceTime on an iPhone. The iPhone even had it’s own little set. Very smart. The set itself was very good and didn’t distract from the show (although it was a tad busy).
As guests go, Arj Barker was good, but not great (that’s 0 for 2 this week, Barker). Melissa George was engaging but not deep. Simon McKeon brought a gag/gift and was entertaining. James Reyne performing a cover of Dragon’s “April Sun” as nod to the history of the studio (it hosted the filming of Countdown in the 70’s & 80’s) opens up a world of good performances to come and the obligatory CD for Christmas, provided the copyright hurdles can be jumped through. Dan Sultan absolutely rocked the show out to a massive finish.
At this point it’s important to note: any comparisons made to Ben Elton: Live From Planet Earth – and there will be plenty – are misguided and disingenuous. AHIGST is very clearly a pre-recorded talk/variety show hosted by a very good comedian, where as BELFPE is live to air sketch comedy show hosted by a very good comedian. The differences are significant and should not be explained away as “this show kicked that show’s arse”. Ratings wise it likely will, however that’s not the point – the shows do different things, and both shows will develop given air time over the coming weeks.
That said – Adam Hills In Gordon St Tonight, given this start, has set a very high bar for itself. The show was entirely entertaining, and Hills himself was engaging and comfortable. If they can deliver in the weeks ahead as they have this week, then the ABC have a very real hit on their hands.