Ed can be tempted

Temp­ta­tion’s Ed Phillips made a clown of him­self with Cirque du Soleil, writes Dar­ren Dev­lyn

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

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.’’

Fam­ily man:

Ed Phillips with his fi­ancee, weather pre­sen­ter Jaynie Seal, and their son Hay­den.

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