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TV & Radio

Oct 25, 2012

Will Clarke and Dawe be shown the door? ABC duo face uncertain future

John Clarke and Bryan Dawe have been satirical stalwarts of the ABC. Now they're at risk of being boned, according to whispers in Aunty's Sydney corridors.

For the past 12 years, John Clarke and Bryan Dawe’s mock interviews have been an ABC institution — an oasis of satire in a sea of oh-so-serious news and current affairs. Each Thursday night you can bank on them showing up, at around 7.55, to take the piss out of whichever politicians or other public figures have been in the news that week.

Well, you used to be able to. For the last two weeks, 7.30 watchers have been denied their weekly satirical fix — and there’s no guarantee the duo will be returning to our screens next year. Within the ABC there’s no topic more sensitive right now than what to do about Clarke and Dawe.

The official line from the ABC is that no decisions on the segment have been made, and that’s true. But Crikey understands its future is being keenly debated by heavy-hitters in Aunty’s news and current affairs department — including 7.30 EP Sally Neighbour and current affairs boss Bruce Belsham.

Some senior staffers believe the segment has passed its use-by date and they would like to see it shelved. There is also talk about moving the slot to another program or “freshening it up”. Exactly what that means is unclear, but we doubt the ABC would do a Frontline by suggesting the duo dress and speak like the politicians they’re impersonating.

Neighbour declined to respond to specific questions about whether the segment is likely to return next year. “Clarke and Dawe have a current contract with the ABC for the 2012 calendar year,” she said. “There have been no negotiations yet regarding 2013.

“As is normal when a contract ends, those discussions will occur over the next couple of months. Any discussions held within the ABC on programming issues are necessarily private, as are all contractual negotiations.”

According to Neighbour, the October 11 sketch was dropped because of “significant timing issues” (it was posted online). Stories that got a run that night included pieces on offensive Facebook posts, a Bali bombing anniversary terror threat, an interview with Julie Bishop and calls for a royal commission into clergy s-x abuse. Neighbour says a “computer malfunction” prevented Clarke from preparing an original sketch last week and a standby offering was rejected because she considered it out of date.

7.30 has undergone a radical overhaul this year under the leadership of Neighbour, a former Four Corners journalist, with a greater focus on news breaking, investigative reporting and edgy stories that appeal to younger viewers. Clarke and Dawe, who could not be reached for comment, joined the 7.30 Report in 2000 following eight years at A Current Affair and previous stints on 3AW and ABC Radio.

Although the future for their segment appears cloudy, there’s some good news for the duo’s devotees: we’re told they’ll be back on air tonight. 

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48 comments

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48 thoughts on “Will Clarke and Dawe be shown the door? ABC duo face uncertain future

  1. paddy

    The ABC surely can’t be serious.
    What other reason is there to watch 7.30?

  2. David Sanderson

    Fine with me, it’s been too unfunny for too long.

  3. izatso?

    aye Paddy, indeed. Surely the subjects of Mr Clark and Mr Dawe absolutely are in need of the pathetic piss taken out of them, whomsoever they may be ? The ‘allergic to nuance’ crowd especially …. ?

  4. Sanjay

    7.30 needs a real presenter and producer. For the national broadcaster to give us 30 minutes of rubbish for four nights a week with nothing new from the news at 7.00 is a waste of prime time.

  5. Crumpet

    Noooooooo! Clarke and Dawe are my absolute favourites; don’t do it, ABC!

  6. David R

    Clarke and Dawe has gone past its use-by date. The joke is no longer funny.

  7. Warren Joffe

    I can’t agree that “the joke is no longer funny” assuming that by “the joke” is meant “the formula”. On the contrary, the formula will be found, in 500 years, to have eternal life. And part of the Clarke-Dawe appeal is that its humour appeals to those of us – nearly everyone with a sense of humour and especially of the ridiculous – who enjoy a certain kind of predictability, especially in our friends and family – as in, e.g., “OMG what did Dad do/say next?”.
    John Clarke has been known to say that there are no new jokes, giving in the context I remember and imagined example from ancient Mesopotamia for a current version. But he and those he has worked with in the last 20 years have the nuanced skill to give us still the necessary surprise, if only slight and verbal, to heighten our appreciation of the absurd that we have noticed and to point to absurdity which only needs a little exaggeration to be recognisable.

    True, perhaps, there is not always quite the zip of the early performances – but that may well be us, the over-familiar listeners/viewers – but who/what else is going to make sure one tries to watch at least part of the Thursday 7.30 Report?

  8. drmick

    They are the closest thing we have to Stewart and Colbert. Of course the abc will get rid of them. They take their news leads from ltd news/fox, they imitate ltd news/fox at every opportunity and the next logical step is to get rid of people taking the piss out of ltd news/fox.
    Give them a job Crikey

  9. Malcom Hutton

    Along with Media Watch, Clarke and Dawe are the two best things on ABC. Over many years I have learned that the ABC hates success, and management fiddles with good shos and destroys them. Stick with what works, please. Clarke and Dawe must stay.

  10. my say

    Thursday night is the only night we bother then we leave it. Till
    7.55

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