Paul’s great news
SUCCESS is the best revenge — just ask Paul McDermott. A year ago he was devastated by the ABC’s decision to axe The Sideshow. Now he’s switched to Channel 10 and Good News Week has been re-signed for next year.
Even now, the 36-year-old’s voice falters as he discusses the axing of The Sideshow.
You can tell he’s still bitter — deciding whether to unleash his fury on the ABC or bite his tongue. In the end, he decides to be diplomatic.
The ABC programmed the variety show at 6.30pm on Saturdays — a bizarre decision that doomed it to failure. By the time it moved to the more appropriate 9.30pm timeslot the damage was done and it was axed in December.
‘‘I’m saddened by what happened to The Sideshow,’’ McDermott says, choosing his words carefully. ‘‘It should have worked, and had it been going this year, I think it would have killed them in the ratings.
‘‘It had built a really strong cult audience and it was an extraordinary venue for performers of alternative work— cabaret, burlesque, stand-up comedy. I think the ABC failed in their . . . should I say this . . . it got bounced around a bit which wasn’t helpful.’’
Good News Week happened only because of the US writers’ strike.
Ten was desperately short of programs to fill early-year slots after So You Think You Can Dance and took a punt on reviving the news-based comedy show (which had initially run from 1996 to 2000) because it had limited options.
That’s not what you’d call a vote of confidence but somehow McDermott, Mikey Robins and Claire Hooper (who had appeared on The Sideshow with McDermott and replaced original panel member Julie McCrossin) made it work.
Most of the So You Think You Can Dance audience sampled the show and liked what they saw. Producer Ted Robinson, clearly inspired by the success of Spicks & Specks, toned down the politics and ramped up the pop culture to give the program broader audience appeal.
Then-fledgling Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was finding his feet and newly appointed Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson’s gaffes were giving the team plenty of prime satirical fodder.
The show dipped when it ran after poor rater Big Brother but has consolidated in recent weeks and will be part of Ten’s schedule next year.
‘‘I always thought it was a show that could have kept going (after 2000),’’ McDermott says. ‘‘There’s always news and there should always be people (like us) sniping at it.
‘‘Ten had been talking to us off and on about it for five years about bringing it back. This was the year it finally all fell into place.’’
The McDermott/Robins combination is the heart of the show’s success. They have worked to- gether since the mid-’90s when they teamed on radio’s Triple J breakfast show.
‘‘We’re great mates,’’ McDermott says. ‘‘I particularly enjoyed our time at Triple J together but also when we started Good News Week. We have a very natural and comfortable rapport, which is sometimes a tricky thing to get with people. I don’t think a lot of people realise how smart he is.’’
Another series of Good News Week is good news for McDermott, but he’s just as keen to move into filmmaking. He’s made two short films, The Scree and The Girl Who Swallowed Bees, and wants to move into features.
‘‘Filmmaking brings together all the skills I’ve managed to acquire over the years,’’ he says.
‘‘A short film takes a lot of effort and energy and not a lot of people actually see the result. Hopefully one day I’ll make a longer film.’’
All good news:
Paul McDermott says there should always be critics like him sniping at high-profile people.