Dated and unoriginal formats lead Ten's Pilot Week

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 15 August 2018

Rove Live, The Wedge, Judge Judy, SkitHouse, stop me if you've heard of these before.

All of these shows have two things in common, they once aired on Network Ten during the noughties, and second, they're all back in 2018 just with new stickers slapped over the top, that read "new edgy comedy".

Attending last night's launch event of Ten's Pilot Week, a new concept which features eight original pilots of domestically-produced television programs, I had high hopes that the network would be able to pull something out of the bag and reveal a new direction in programming.

Instead, I was reminded of being age 16 in my childhood home, laughing at the likes of Peter Helliar, Rove McManus, Heath Franklin and Tom Gleeson, who all appeared in shows scarily similar to the "edgy" new shows Ten previewed last night.

Ironically, three of the four comedians mentioned above will all be returning to Ten this year.

Skit Happens, Dave, Kinne Tonight, Drunk History, Taboo, Trial By Kyle and Disgrace! were all shown to a room filled with Ten talent last night, most of them laughed, I presume because they also appeared in the original versions of these shows 10 years prior.

In a sea of cringe comedy, low budget programming and remakes of international success, Taboo and Drunk History I'm looking in your direction, not much can be said in the positive for this endeavour.

What followed the trailers were mixed messages from Ten execs Paul Anderson and Beverly McGarvey who labelled the return of these formats as "cyclical", implying that these shows are different but similar and are poised to become relevant again.

I fail to see how a program with Kyle Sandilands acting as a mediator (wish I could stop there) in a Judge Judy styled courtroom and ex-Bachelor season one winner Anna Heinrich, who actually has a law degree, handing him 'evidence' such as Instagram posts, can be justified as edgy, let alone watchable.

Moving on to Disgrace!, which reminds us you can be a corrupt politician in this country and apparently that makes you worthy of commentating on the current scandals across Australia.

Hosted by former politician Sam Dastyari, this is one of the only pilots I found original, however, that does not mean Australians should be forced to watch 'Shanghai Sam' attempt a comeback for what was a very serious and damning scandal by a politician.

I won't break down the rest, but I will give praise to comedian and radio host Harley Breen for Taboo, adapted from the critically acclaimed Belgian program of the same name, which tackles the controversial subject of comedy based on disability.

Here's the sad fact though, I really want Pilot Week to be a success, I miss Ten's funny programming and witty sketch comedies, but you gave us Russell Coight back, that's enough.

Australians aren't excited by low budget shows featuring the exploits of comedian Dave O'Neill. Don't know who that is? Well if you're a short form video content consuming millennial who has been lured away from free to air TV by the likes of Stan and Netflix, I don't blame you.

Young Australian's have already moved on to Netflix dramas, such as the widely popular The Sinner, which has generated fevered buzz locally, as viewers prepare for the return of its second season.

Other dramas and docos including Making A Murderer, Orange is the New Black, Ozark and countless others have all made a big splash in Australia, often providing younger viewers a break from the reality TV avalanche on free to air.

So why does Ten think comedy is the new black? It's backed by one of the biggest drama content creators in the world, with hits like NCIS, The Good Wife and Elementary.

We've been told countless times that the US powerhouse is involved in Ten's strategy but not to the point of interference.

Perhaps now is the time for that to change, and change quickly.

Wouldn't it be great to see Ten create a drama that spoke to actual Australian issues, not cops and robbers or drug dealers being painted as heroes? What about a show that looked at the conflict going on between cultures in Australia, that starred big Aussie actors like David Wenham.

Yes, I'm describing Stan's Romper Stomper, a Logie award-winning drama that was critically acclaimed for its narrative and storytelling ability.

This is where Ten needs to be, setting itself aside from the pack with a good drama that Australians haven't seen before, not comedy they've seen countless times before.

There will always be room for the next flashy reality show and recycled TV format, but now, as Ten sprints head-first into its first summer without cricket, it has a real opportunity to change and reposition itself as Australia's number one drama network.

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