Ed can be tempted
Temptation’s Ed Phillips made a clown of himself with Cirque du Soleil, writes Darren Devlyn
RATINGS results show Channel 9’s Sale of the Century should never have been pulled from air in 2001 to make way for the mean-spirited and short-lived Red Symons game show Shafted.
But Nine struck it lucky when it replaced the axed Shafted with US sitcom Frasier, which in its early years had struggled to find an audience here.
By 2002, Frasier was in thirdrepeat mode, but somehow was finding 400,000 to 450,000 Melbourne viewers and making life tough for mega-expensive Big Brother, which had a licensing fee costing Ten about $30 million a year. By contrast, Frasier repeats cost Nine about $6000 an episode.
Sale was reborn as Temptation in 2005, but three years later history seems to be repeating itself. Nine has a season of Temptation on the shelf, but its future remains unclear because US sitcom Two and a Half Men, which once delivered only modest ratings, has become a hit in the 7pm timeslot.
Compounding Temptation’s woes is that it’s seen as a show that captures an older audience, whereas Two and a Half Men appeals to the demographic Nine is pursuing — 25 to 54-year-olds.
Ed Phillips, who co-hosts Temptation with Livinia Nixon, remains hopeful we’ll soon see the show back on air. Nine, meanwhile, maintains its faith in Phillips’ hosting abilities, having recently sent him to Montreal and Las Vegas to front the special A Backstage Pass to Cirque du Soleil, which screens on Sunday at 6.30pm.
‘‘It’s a good situation for Nine because they have Two and a Half Men and it’s giving them the younger demographic they’re chasing,’’ a philosophical Phillips says.
‘‘That ( Two and a Half Men) costs them about 17 grand a night and we cost about 70 (thousand) a night. So the network is saving a bit of money there ... it’s not ideal for us (Temptation), but great for Nine.
‘‘They had told us we needed to skew younger, so we changed the set colour and added a bit of pop-culture stuff to questions. It’s a younger, funkier show and it’s disappointing it hasn’t been given a chance to show it can do the job. I hope it doesn’t get struck from the books.’’
Phillips has long known that being adaptable is a useful skill to have in the TV industry. He did, however, find himself well out of his comfort zone making the Cirque du Soleil doco. Asked about his cameo as a clown in the show, Phillips says: ‘‘They’re all sort of twitchy, frisky, inquisitive and a bit stupid and I think they believed I would fit that mould.
‘‘Of course they peeled all their gear off and they were all Russian trampolining world champions and stuff, so they were in electric shape.
‘‘Beforehand, in my padded outfit, I said ‘I feel like a cross between J.Lo and an oompa loompa’. The Russian guys go: ‘ Oompa loompa! What name’s zis funny word?’ I think we went via a few different translations and eventually they got the Johnny Depp and the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (references).’’
Since Cirque du Soleil was formed by street performers in Quebec in 1984, it has performed for 80 million spectators in more than 200 cities.
In A Backstage Pass, Phillips travels to the international headquarters in Montreal, where he is shown the ropes at the Russian swing and drum school for clowns. Then he heads to Las Vegas, which houses five of the Cirque du Soleil shows in purpose-built theatres.
‘‘The theatre at MGM cost $167 million. It’s staggering; you can’t do that with a bit of canvas tent. Big casts, incredible sound, all the things you could never do with a travelling show,’’ Phillips says.
Phillips hopes viewers will develop an appreciation for the skill of the athletes and performers involved.
‘‘I got ejected off this thing called a Russian swing — twice,’’ he says. ‘‘There’s a little guy, the coach, who’s 60kg, trying to get me on the rope that goes up to the ceiling. The girl before me was about 42kg and I rocked up at 90kg and got lifted up off the floor and into about the third row of seats. I went flying into the mats to the amusement of the Russians. It’s important to be an absolute goose at it, to show how good the others are. I pulled that off beautifully.’’
Ed Phillips with his fiancee, weather presenter Jaynie Seal, and their son Hayden.