A Shaky Start To The 7PM Project

To use the culinary parlance of the show it replaced, the premiere episode of Ten’s The 7PM Project was half-baked, lacked depth of character and was far too small a portion to leave one satisfied…

For Ten executives the transition from ratings hit Master Chef presented a programming double edged sword. On the one hand executives could parlay the residual Master Chef audience into 7PM converts via sneak peeks and plugs during the reality show’s record breaking final week. And on the other, replacing Master Chef with a program bereft of nation-capturing appeal would feel especially underwhelming in comparison. Unfortunately for the powers that be at Ten The 7PM Project is not only less engaging than its predecessor it’s strangely less funny.

Even before last night’s premiere episode “The Project” certainly looked good on paper. The show is produced by Roving Enterprises the Production company of Australia’s comedic golden boy Rove McManus and features a round table of accomplished comedians and presenters including Dave Hughes (Rove, Nova, Before The Game, The Glass House), Carrie Bickmore (Rove), Charlie Pickering (Talkin’ Bout Your Generation), James Mathison (Channel V, Australian Idol) and Ruby Rose (MTV).

The 7PM Project positioned itself as a Gen-X amalgam of The Panel’s five abreast talk show model and Good News Week’s topical news satire. Sadly however the show lacks the amicable warmth of the former, the rambunctious nature of the latter and the wit of either. Blame it on the format. Airing for only half an hour at a grueling five days a week the show’s presenters can’t discuss any issues in depth, come across as remotely personable or engage with the audience at any length. Instead news headlines are reduced to one-liners so poorly written and stiltedly delivered it’s hard to decide who’s more at fault – the writers or the presenters.

The ambitious “It’s The News – But Not As You Know It” tag almost seems laughable in the face of stellar faux-news comedies such as Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Shows that not only investigate far more relevant subject matter but do so with far more wit, intelligence and kickass guests. If it’s a humorous take on the day’s news you’re after we suggest logging on to Gawker instead. At least you’re guaranteed to laugh and you won’t waste half an hour of your day.

Another problem “The Project” faces is a lack of focus. The show purports to offer a “TV show joining in the conversations going on in living rooms around the country….is a place where people who are genuinely interested in the world around them come together to talk, offering genuine conversation in a space previously crowded by scandal and spin.” And for all those claims, the presenters still offered dispensable newsbytes on Penguin love triangles (not made up) and a Snoop Dogg collaboration more whack than the time he went country. If this is the current Australian zeitgeist then I’d gladly move to Antarctica.

As for a supposed lack of spin, MTV’s Ruby Rose or the closest thing Australia has to Ellen DeGeneres (a card carrying celebrity lesbian) prefaced her pre-taped interview with GI JOE: Rise of Cobra stars Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols with talk of leather and action dolls. Co-host Bickmore spruiked the interview earlier with lines like “Ruby Rose gets cosy with Sienna Miller” also known as a textbook Pedestrian bait and switch but at least we’re up front about it.

Rose who was the only regular panelist out of studio procured a stock standard entertainment interview from Miller with its only saving grace being it’s brevity. Strangely for all the financial backing behind “The 7PM Project” Channel Ten neglected to buy a tripod for the interview or perhaps guerrilla hand held shakiness is in vogue? Probably not. Unsurprisingly the show found it’s true star in their inaugural guest; the polar opposite of Sienna Miller and winner of Master Chef Season One – Julie Goodwin.

In the end most of the laughs fall on Hughes’ shoulders as he TALKS LOUDLY and leans on his one emotion of faux-outrage which was funny the first time a decade ago (now not so much). Pickering meanwhile plays the intelligent everyman, Mathison does bug-eyed bewilderment, Bickmore is a way less funny version of Tina Fey’s Weekend Update anchor and Rose is largely mute. I can’t imagine their roles will change much. I also can’t imagine stomaching them for very long. I’d hate to abuse the culinary extended metaphors (it’s cheesy and easy so whatcha gonna do?) but if Ten hopes to galvanize the nation as it did with Master Chef or air “52 weeks a year” as Ten Programming Chief David Mott expects – they’ll need to find a more palatable recipe. Either that or get Season Two of Master Chef on air ASAP.