There’s an interesting show within Can of Worms. It wasn’t broadcast in the show we saw last night, but it’s in there. Somewhere.

Last night saw the debut of Can of Worms, the new panel chat show produced for Ten by Zapruders Other Films. Hosted by Dicko, with Meshel Laurie and Dan Ilic providing regular segments, the show seeks to explore the viewpoints Australians have to ‘topical’ issues with a guest panel every week. The first episode saw Jason Ackermanis, George McEncroe, and Craig Reucassel form the guest panel.

Dicko makes a good host for this sort of program. He’s casual, opinionated, and generally quite amiable. I also quite liked Dan Ilic and Meshel Laurie, though their roles on the show felt unnecessary to an extent. While Laurie was perfectly fine, there was little that she did on the show functionally that couldn’t be handled by the actual host of the show. Does the show really need that extra talking head? And while I quite liked Dan Ilics man-on-the-street segment, it felt a little bit tacked on towards the end of the show. It’d be nice to see these vox pops shorter and spread out through the show (even if they’re just intro/outro’s to commercial breaks).

Much of the discussion I saw on Twitter as the show went to air was quite dismissive of the show, with many wondering how long the show would last. While there will always be a certain level of snark on Twitter, their general sentiment was spot on: this is a show that feels slightly off in its execution. The show strives for laughs consistently through the show, where many of the topics would benefit from longer, more probing discussion of topics that seemed too trivial. The topic of ‘whether it’s offensive to call someone a bogan’ is largely trivial nonsense, but the panel did tap into the genuinely interesting notions of the way that people identify, self-perception, and how that ties in with their class. It’s an interesting subject that was barely touched upon in a meaningful way.

Viewers are looking for meatier content from television, even on commercial TV. The success of shows like Q&A and The Gruen Transfer are proof of this. While Can of Worms doesn’t need to be as high-minded as the politically-driven Q&A, there’s no reason why it should shy away from discussion that can get a little high-minded at times. Can of Worms would benefit well from embracing the brainy-viewing that exists beneath its surface.

I remain unsure about the point of using Twitter on-screen during the show. The ‘views of Australians’ are already covered through the polling results featured on the show, along with the various vox pops. Featuring tweets from several days ago generated through discussion by the @canofworkstv account makes the Twitter integration feel forced and more than a little ‘fake’. Can of Worms is a show that could benefit strongly from being filmed live with interactive discussion – there’s nothing less engaging than watching a conversation that took place yesterday. The Twitter stream is simply a reminder of this.

Can of Worms was off to an okay start last night.  Zapruders will no doubt toy with the format over the coming weeks and have the show running a lot smoother than this first episode, but the show  really needs to work through its problems if it is to really resonate with the viewing audience. There is an engaging show in Can of Worms, it’s just up to Zapruders to identify exactly where it is.