If you had a burning desire to see Channel 9’s latest effort to justify the ‘home of comedy’ title they were pimping at the start of the year, tonight’s your last chance. After four weeks the sports/comedy amalgamation Between the Lines is coming to an end.

Between the Lines was a strange beast to unleash on an unsuspecting audience. There’s no shortage of sports related shows, there wasn’t exactly public outcry for more Eddie McGuire on our screens, and the publicity material didn’t know how to treat it – a revolution is coming, bigger than the moon landing?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfNwyTaP5Zo[/youtube]

Headed by regulars Eddie McGuire (#128), Mick Molloy (#130) and Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald (#148)*, Between the Lines had an unavoidable AFL slant, and probably had a development meeting which consisted of these points:

  • People like Spicks and Specks. Let’s make a panel show.
  • We’ll make it about sport.
  • We’ll put it right before another panel show about sport.
  • People can’t get enough Eddie McGuire.
  • We deserve really big raises for this kind of genius.

Premiering with meagre ratings a month ago, last weeks offering struggled over half a million viewers, which for an hour timeslot is pretty dire.

It’s not the first time a network have put comedians behind a desk, sat back, and waited for them to do the ‘heavy lifting’. Notable panel comedy successes, The Gruen Transfer, Good News Week and Spicks and Specks, all started out with similar ratings on the ABC. While patience and nurturing for these shows is critical, it also helps if you have a good idea to begin with.

Channel Nine began 2011 by proudly branding itself the ‘home of comedy’. To live up to its claim it gave Ben Elton a show for a few weeks, slapped together a sport/comedy panel show for a brief moment, and played endless reruns of US imports The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men.

The ABC, on the other hand, has had The Gruen Transfer, Hungry Beast, Laid, Spicks and Specks, Adam Hills In Gordon Street Tonight, Angry Boys and Lawrence Leung’s Unbelievable (amongst others). Not only screening comedy, but encouraging the production of local comedy with Australian comedians.

One can only assume that Channel 9 was using that branding campaign in the ironic sense. Much like Between the Lines being promoted as a revolution and a television event akin to the moon landing.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yJdHbQ8Ibw[/youtube]

Between the Lines final episode airs Thursday 2nd June at 8:30pm on Channel 9.

* ‘must watch’ Q ranking as measured by Audience Development Australia.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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