Comedy Slapdown is a new production from Australia’s Comedy Channel, the channel that’s brought you such other quality productions as basically nothing. With the possible exception of Hahn Ice Headliners, which started and finished about a decade ago and is largely responsible for the fame of Rove McManus, the bald guy from The New Inventors and the host of The Einstein Factor. So, Comedy Slapdown is balls. It’s balls because it’s a rip-off of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, one of my favourite television shows of all time. It’s balls because it takes a formula that’s so insanely simple that it cannot possibly fail, and screws around with it until it fails so miserably the failboat won’t even sail past to rescue it.
Allow me to summarise the selling points of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and discuss how Comedy Slapdown destroys them.
1. The points don’t matter.
Both Drew Carey and Clive Anderson made great humour of the fact that the “points” awarded to “contestants” on WLIIA are essentially just a plot device to move the show along. It’s not a competition, the focus is entirely on the improvised humour. Comedy Slapdown takes this to new extremes by providing a panel of judges (all comedians) who score each round in a fairly serious fashion, which is utterly pointless and wastes time that could be better spent, gee, I don’t know, being funny.
2. Half an hour is all you need.
An entire hour of forced improv interspersed with unamusing scoring sequences and game titles trying so very hard not to infringe on WLIIA’s game titles is tedious. Half an hour of quality comedy was not.
3. You don’t need ten comedians, five is just peachy.
Comedy Slapdown has a cast of ten plus. Three contestants per team, one host, three judging panelists and a guest star of some kind. This is a lot of people to get to know, and this process is made even more difficult by the tendency of most of them to be about as amusing as a damp sock. A great deal of the joviality in Whose Line Is It Anyway? stemmed from running jokes between the contestants, with a cast of five, this kind of humour can flourish happily. With ten, the chances of running jokes developing and actually being amusing drops phenomenally.
4. Don’t camp it up.
Is there really a need to set the program in an arena and stage everything as if it’s a battle? Surely just a stage would have sufficed. Again, this seems to me to be a method of avoiding instant recognition of the production as a WLIIA knock-off, but I think that was inevitable, so why bother?
I’m annoyed. A while ago, I suggested that an Australian version of Whose Line Is It Anyway would be a good idea, and I still believe it would be. The comedians would need to be cleverly chosen, and the formula religiously followed. Comedy Slapdown is a poor, poor substitute so far, and I hold little hope for it improving.
But hey, anything’s possible.