Poor old Daryl Somers; his latest vainglorious attempt at a comeback has been exposed for what it is: a cynical ratings ploy, not by him but by the Nine Network.

Dazza is no doubt sincere in his determination to reactivate Hey Hey It’s Saturday and prove the naysayers wrong, especially David Leckie, the former Nine boss who canned it.

But two announcements from the Nine Network have revealed the cynicism at the heart of TV programming and the network’s increasingly desperate attempts to keep its head above the waves of financial ruin.

Tuesday, the network said the two episodes of Hey Hey would go to air on successive Tuesdays, September 29 and October 6. And the same announcement revealed that a two-hour program had grown to two-and-a-half hours in the space of a few paragraphs, surely a record.

But within 24 hours, that had changed. Last night Nine released a new statement about Hey Hey: it’s now going to air on Wednesday evenings on September 30 and October 7.

“The wait is almost over and after 10 years Australia’s all-time favourite entertainment show is set to spring back to life in a stunning return to television.

“Hey Hey It’s Saturday — The Reunion will burst onto our screens in two high-energy spectaculars at 7.30pm on Wednesday, September 30 and Wednesday, October 7.

“Since the announcement was made just over six weeks ago, the production team at Somers Carroll has swung into overdrive to give Australians a very special piece of television history.”

On Tuesday, Nine had said:

“The wait is almost over and after 10 years Australia’s all-time favourite entertainment show is set to spring back to life in a stunning return to television.

“Hey Hey It’s Saturday — The Reunion will burst onto our screens in two high-energy spectaculars at 7.30pm on Tuesday, September 29 and Tuesday, October 6.

“Since the announcement was made just over six weeks ago the production team at Somers Carroll has swung into overdrive to give Australians a very special piece of television history.”

Not a mention of the reason for the change, which is quite significant. Could Nine have noticed that Seven’s very strong (and strong for Hey Hey’s target audience) — Packed To The Rafters was on Tuesdays at 8.30pm and may neuter Hey Hey?

Of course, the strong ratings for the return of Seven’s Animal Rescue at 7.30pm and the solid debut of Last Chance Surgery at 8pm on Tuesday evenings might have helped Nine change nights.

But it was the timing of the start of the Celebrity MasterChef Australia on Ten at 7.30pm on Wednesday, September 30.

Nine is using the two episodes of Hey Hey as a battering ram to try and limit the ratings impact (and ad revenues) Ten is looking for from Celebrity MasterChef. It already has all but sold out the program at high rates and is looking to make more money from this series than from the original, which was sold when conditions in the TV ad markets were much weaker.

But Nine is determined that Ten won’t get good audience figures for the first two eps, so it is using the nostalgia-ladened Hey Hey return as a spoiler, to bleed viewers from Ten.

That will mean Hey Hey will not get the figures that it would by being broadcast on an easier night, such as (and here’s a novel idea) Saturdays.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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