OPINION | Just how did NINE drop the ball so badly with the THE FOOTY SHOW?
After 25 years and 735 episodes of mostly live television, the axe has finally fallen on one of the most talked about programs on Australian television.
In a late-night media release designed to frustrate the Herald-Sun, NINE has confirmed production has ceased on the latest incarnation of the AFL Footy Show. The decision comes after weeks of appalling ratings with last week’s episode garnering just 53,000 viewers in Melbourne.
Football fans completely rejected the “new-look” Footy Show hosted Lehmo, Neroli Meadows, Dylan Alcott and Brendan Fevola, and who could blame them, this latest reboot of a once proud franchise was a near-unwatchable mess.
I’m bloody disappointed The Footy Show has been cancelled but I’m grateful for the opportunity to host it with Nez, Fev, Dylan and Crawf and am really proud of the shows we made. Our team were brilliant and spare a thought for the crew, some of whom had been there for 25 years!— lehmo (@lehmo23) May 9, 2019
In truth The Footy Show never stood a chance. It found itself competing for attention against The Front Bar, a little show carefully crafted for two years on the internet, before being picked up by SEVEN and evolving into one of the most professionally produced TV shows in Australia.
The Front Bar is a joy to watch. Every segment is tightly scripted by skilled comedy writers, yet the material is delivered by skilled comedy performers in Mick Molloy, Andy Maher and Sam Pang who know how to make every moment look so natural and engaging. Guests on The Front Bar are treated as kings, rather than descending into a ‘comedy roast’, guests are lovingly mocked, but ultimately applauded.
By contrast, this latest reboot of the Footy Show was an un-holy mess. Produced by Eddie McGuire’s Jam TV productions for a network which after years of budget cuts and retrenchments, has now clearly lost the skill-set required to produce live variety television.
With an entire new cast and executive producer at the helm, one would have thought every effort would be made to give the new team a fighting chance, yet TV Blackbox understands the team had just one full-dress rehearsal before its premiere.
Much of the disorganisation came from NINE’s failure to secure a contract for the shows co-host Neroli Meadows until days before opening night, her other employer Foxtel happy to make things unnecessary complicated.
Another speed-hump was the title of the program, producer's had hoped to shed the past and relaunch under new brand ‘More Than A Game’, Nine's Sydney management had other ideas demanding ‘The Footy Show’ title continue.
Opening night was a mess, dialogue was a awkward, guests were forced to sit oddly placed chairs, a nervous laugh from Meadows over-powered everything, and it was never really explained why Tennis champion Dylan Alcott was even part of the show.
Forced to air on Wednesday's due to an expanded AFL schedule, the new show was unable to run through team-lists as it had in the past. The departure of ‘news-breaker’ Damien Barrett also contributed to the show lacking purpose.
Health issues forced the shows new executive producer to miss several live broadcasts in the opening weeks. The lack of leadership was obvious with segments regularly running overtime with real purpose.
The Footy Show had been on a downward spiral for a long time. It possibly should have been axed in 2016 when Garry Lyon departed. It probably should have been axed in 2017 when James Brayshaw departed. It definitely should have been axed in 2018 when Sam Newman quit LIVE on-air.
Love him or hate him, Newman was the heart and soul of the AFL Footy Show. The entire format was built around him. If he was engaged, the show was electric. If he was disinterested (a regular occurrence in later years) the entire format fell apart. Newman had run his race as a primetime TV host, but to continue the show without him was also foolhardy.
Footy Show Ratings - Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth Metro Markets
So what next? NINE has plenty of World Cup and Ashes cricket coming up. Currently scheduled to air on 9Gem, it's likely the network will move this content on to the main channel in non-nrl states.
The network had previously promised a few “Eddie & Sam” Footy Show specials to finish the year. Hopefully this idea will also be axed.
In its prime The Footy Show was an electric Television experience which led to a revolution in Australian Sports coverage, and helped build the AFL into a multi-million dollar industry.
In many ways The Footy Show was a victim of its own success. It spawned an AFL media industry that now produces 100’s of hours of TV every week. Program’s such as Footy Classified and AFL360 delve deeply into the big issues, while newer shows such as Fox Footy’s, Up The Guts deliver edgy satire.
The Footy Show deserves to be remembered fondly, but Television and the audience has already moved on. It's a shame it took Channel 9 so long to realise it.