Know your news

Ten’s new quiz show Have You Been Pay­ing At­ten­tion asks its con­tes­tants if they’re up to speed with what’s been hap­pen­ing in the world. Guy Davis speaks with its quiz­mas­ter and host Tom Gleisner.

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An at­ten­tion span is a tough thing to keep in shape th­ese days, what with the sheer vol­ume of in­for­ma­tion bom­bard­ing us around the clock.

In­creas­ingly it seems it’s eas­ier to hold on to triv­ial bits of in­for­ma­tion than re­tain some knowl­edge about what’s ac­tu­ally go­ing in the world.

That’s what makes Ten’s new quiz show Have You Been Pay­ing At­ten­tion, the lat­est project from the Work­ing Dog team, such a devil­ish chal­lenge.

“We’re ba­si­cally re­view­ing the week’s news in a quiz for­mat,” show host Tom Gleisner said.

“And if you’re even vaguely into news, you can get to­tally over­whelmed by the num­ber of things that have hap­pened, so it’s in­ter­est­ing to find out what peo­ple have re­tained.”

Of course, en­ter­tain­ment is pretty high on the show’s agenda, so rather than rope in five news­read­ers for its weekly panel, Have You Been Pay­ing At­ten­tion se­lects five co­me­di­ans and en­ter­tain­ers, with Gleisner re­cruit­ing fa­mil­iar col­leagues such as Ed Kavalee, Sam Pang and Jane Kennedy, and fresh faces such as Troy Kinne and Rachel Cor­bett to cross- ex­am­ine about the week’s events.

It’s an idea that has its ori­gins in a ra­dio show Gleisner did with Pang and Work­ing Dog co­hort Santo Ci­lauro dur­ing last year’s Olympic Games.

“Each day we did an Olympics- themed quiz where I would throw out ques­tions and fun, so we worked up a tele­vi­sion ver­sion and took it to Ten a few months ago, and it went from there.”

Strik­ing the right bal­ance be­tween se­ri­ous news and lighter topics is im­por­tant, and Gleisner ad­mits while the show doesn’t want to stump its stars with tough ques­tions, it doesn’t want to go easy ei­ther.

“The idea is to have fun but we do want the right an­swers,” he said. “Oth­er­wise peo­ple would be scream­ing, ‘ How stupid are th­ese peo­ple?’ at the TV, which is not the idea.

Gleisner: “The idea is ob­vi­ously to have fun but we do want the right an­swers. Oth­er­wise peo­ple would be scream­ing, ‘ How stupid are th­ese peo­ple?’ at the TV.”

Gleisner ad­mits he has it rel­a­tively easy as the host.

“It’s not too ar­du­ous,” he said. “When you’ve got five great con­tes­tants, it’s re­ally just up to me to ask the ques­tions and get out of the way.”

Have You Been Pay­ing At­ten­tion is just one of the many pro­duc­tions Work­ing Dog has been busily de­vel­op­ing, with fu­ture projects rang­ing from a po­lit­i­cally- themed play called The Speech­maker mak­ing its Mel­bourne The­atre Com­pany pre­miere next year to a 10th an­niver­sary up­date of the satir­i­cal travel guide to the fic­tional na­tion of Mol­davia.

There’s also Utopia, a 2014 ABC com­edy about “the ob­ses­sion Aus­tralian pol­i­tics seems to have with build­ing big things”.

“We wrote it be­fore the last fed­eral elec­tion but some­thing we no­ticed dur­ing that time, from both sides of pol­i­tics, was a lot of talk about build­ing ev­ery­thing from fast trains to the largest dam in the world,” Gleisner said. “We think it’s im­por­tant for com­edy to look at the big­ger is­sues of life.”

Have You Been Pay­ing At­ten­tion, Ten, Sun­day, 7pm

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