Paul’s great news

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page - COLIN VICK­ERY

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.

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