HEY, HO, LET’S GO!
It was a pivotal part of Australian TV for nearly 30 years. Now Hey Hey It’s Saturday is back for two nights only, so what can viewers expect? TV legend Daryl Somers gave Guy Davis a few clues.
It’s been 10 years since Hey Hey It’s Saturday called it a day, but did the much-loved Channel Nine variety show ever really go away?
Whether it’s in the fond memories of viewers who tuned in religiously every Saturday night or the discovery of the show by a new generation who watch clips of Hey Hey on internet sites like YouTube, the anything-goes program has remained a part of Australian television, even though a decade has passed since its last episode.
And now Hey Hey It’s Saturday is making a comeback – a brief, blaze-of-glory comeback, but a comeback nonetheless. Following a grass-roots resurgence that began on social networking website Facebook, Nine is airing two reunion specials that will bring together almost every member of the show’s original cast.
Man of a thousand voices John Blackman, acerbic talent-quest judge Red Symons, energetic band leader Wilbur Wilde, music guru Molly Meldrum, adorable sidekick Livinia Nixon, knockabout comedian Russell Gilbert … they’ll all be back.
But it wouldn’t be Hey Hey without its frontman, Daryl Somers, and his pinkfeathered off sider Ossie Ostrich ( brought to life by puppeteer Ernie Carroll). So they’re returning as well, and Somers couldn’t be happier about the high level of audience anticipation surrounding the two specials.
He admits, however, to being surprised by the sheer number of people keen to see Hey Hey return, especially when he fi rst heard about the Facebook campaign started by Corinne Lawrence, a long-time fan.
“ When Corinne fi rst contacted me, she said the show had 3878 fans on Facebook, which I thought was terrifi c,” said Somers.
“ Then it reached around 10,000, and I didn’t have any idea about what constituted a really big response until I was told MasterChef Australia had 10,000 Facebook fans when it was really hot.”
Since then, the online fan base has exploded, and Hey Hey It’s Saturday now has 200,000 Facebook fans. Not bad for a show that hasn’t been on TV for 10 years.
“ I kind of liken Hey Hey to Vegemite,” said Somers with a laugh. “ We plodded away on Saturday mornings for 14 years, then went to night time and did another 14 years there, and people feel comfortable with it. They claim it. They own it.”
In addition to airing on Channel Nine over two Wednesday nights, the Hey Hey reunion specials will also be streamed live over the internet, allowing Aussie expatriates around the world to enjoy a bit of a stroll down memory lane.
And according to Somers, there’ll be plenty of people doing so in countries all over the globe. “ There’s one bloke in America who’s having 150 people over to his place in Atlanta for a Hey Hey party,” said Somers. “ This is truly an international event.”
So what will the specials involve? “ It’s more a matter of what we have to leave out,” said Somers. In addition to a reunion of the old Hey Hey gang, favourite segments like Red Faces ( a talent quest that’s often short on talent) and Wot Cheezes Me Orf ( in which viewers vent their frustration over various grievances) will be reprised.
And there’ll be visits by local and international guests, as well as a few surprises that Somers is keeping under his hat.
“ It’s a joy that we’re all able to be together on it, that we’re able to do it,” he said. “ We’re quite touched because it’s been a magnifi cent part of our lives.”
As enjoyable as putting the gang back together has been for Somers and his colleagues, though, he hopes it’ll be just as enjoyable for Hey Hey’s legion of fans.
“ This show has a certain currency – it was always like we were doing the show with the audience, not for the audience,” he said. “ They got involved in any number of segments that would involve them, which is why they claim ownership of it.”
So it begs the question: is this the beginning of a new era for Hey Hey It’s Saturday? Are these reunion specials rebooting the show?
Probably not, according to Somers. “ We realise this is the last roll of the dice,” he stated. “ For all of the people who followed the show for all of those years, this will be the last time they get to see those people all together doing what we used to do and having so much fun doing it.”
The old gang: Most of the original faces from Hey Hey It’s Saturday’s glory days will be returning for the reunion specials.