The ABC may have axed satirical news show The Roast, but the crew behind it have no intention of splintering and shutting up shop.
“We’re currently in conversations with a couple of other networks and a few other places about next year,” head writer Nich Richardson told Crikey this morning. He says it’s important to keep the crew together which, four years after forming, has swelled to a dozen writers and presenters, all of whom had never worked in TV before the ABC commissioned them to produce a 10-minute show two years ago.
The Roast started four years ago producing one-minute satirical videos, first licensed to Fairfax. A year later the show expanded to two minutes and was licensed to the ABC and the Comedy Channel. And then, at the end of 2012, the ABC approached the crew offering them a nightly show on ABC2. Since then, The Roast’s audience has grown. Its cast of relatively unknown writers and presenters have managed to produce one of the highest rating original shows on ABC2, and pull in a far younger audience demographic than much of the ABC. But with budget cuts looming, The Roast has become the first local ABC show to get the axe.
“It’s a badge of honour I suppose,” laughs Richardson when asked how he feels about this. He found out six weeks ago that the ABC wasn’t continuing the show next year, and told his team the next day. But the news was only revealed yesterday by the team themselves. While speculation swirled about the axing of other shows, The Roast has flown under the radar, its lower profile and relatively inexpensive production leading many to not bother questioning its continued existence. “I guess half the country doesn’t know we exist,” mused Richardson. “We’ve been told we’re not the only ones — that there’s other things happening. The ABC’s told us they’re very sorry and regret this. Our guess is that it’s budget stuff that led to this. Obviously the ABC’s been hit very hard at the moment.”
It’s been a baptism of fire for The Roast’s young crew. As a nightly scripted show, they produced more original written content than almost everyone in the Australian entertainment scene. “It’s one of the hardest gigs on television with the shortest turnaround, that was given to a bunch of enthusiastic people,” Richardson said. The whole thing was done off-site from the ABC, who licensed the rights for the show from production company Hollow Bear. The show takes four and a half hours to write every morning and is made in the following four hours. The script is finalised at midday. “We pray every morning the story doesn’t develop from there,” said Richardson. It’s the first boning for everyone involved, he muses. “No doubt we’ll all become cynical and jaded from now on.”
Looking back, Richardson says he’s grateful to the ABC for giving the show a go. “It’s important to be encouraging young talent into the industry, which so many people think is dying. There’s such a trend towards reality TV, and panel shows, and sticking to really safe stuff. The ABC traditionally has been great at bringing fresh voices and new ideas to the industry. They never had to worry about ratings. But with the cuts, that dream of giving people a new space gets harder and harder.”
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The show continues for the rest of the week. On Monday, Richardson says he’ll get in to Hollow Bear’s little studio at 10am or so, sit down, and try to figure out something to do. “We do own everything, so we can just pick it up and put it somewhere else. To keep everyone sane, I think we need to figure out something for next year.”