Hey Hey is back — alive and kicking — and Daryl Somers is ecstatic it’s returning in a Saturday timeslot, writes Darren Devlyn
DARYL SOMERS THUMBS HIS NOSE AT CRITICS AND PREPARES FOR A SATURDAY ASSAULT ON RATINGS
WHEN Daryl Somers walked from the Hey Hey It’s Satur
day studio in 1999, he was a gutted man.
A month earlier he’d turned up to a meeting with Channel 9 executives expecting to nut out a deal that would see the show back on air for its 29th year in 2000.
Instead, Somers was told it was all over, that his show was too expensive and lacked the cool factor. The future, he was told, was about cuttingedge TV.
A decade later, the cynics were stunned when Nine commissioned two Hey Hey reunion specials.
The knockers responded with stunned silence, however, when Hey Hey captured the imagination of a varietystarved public.
The specials were a smash hit beyond even Somers’ expectations, attracting 2.2 and 2.3 million viewers, respectively.
Only those with waste product for brains would have expected Hey Hey to reach the same heights over an extended season in 2010. For a start, the noveltynostalgia factor would be diminished and the show would be expected to stand on its feet as contemporary entertainment.
Somers set out to create a formula combining everything that audiences liked about the old Hey
Hey with new elements, including social networking, that reflected the rapidly changing media landscape.
The show launched to a respectable audience of 1.5 million and tapped into a market many expected it wouldn’t — 18-24.
It wasn’t long, however, before the ratings storm cloud that is MasterChef appeared on the horizon.
While Somers maintains he and Nine were happy with Hey Hey’s audience share in its two-hour Wednesday slot, the show, and anything else up against MasterChef, took a hit. Nine had always said Hey
Hey would be split into two seasons in 2010, but when the announcement came it was coming off air in July, some jumped to the conclusion the show was being axed and would never return.
The only thing that did change, Somers insists, was Nine deciding Hey Hey would come back in a Saturday timeslot.
‘‘ I’m fighting that at the moment — people coming up to me and saying, ‘ I thought the show had
finished,’ ’’ Somers says. ‘‘ It (the intention to do two seasons) got lost somewhere (in the reporting).
‘‘ Spontaneity, the fact that we are live, that it is unpredictable, is the key to the show. It’s very Australian. I’d like to think it’s the most original Australian format on TV. As an audience member, you are not a passive observer, you can engage with it.
‘‘ We are going into this lot of shows not having to revolutionise the way we do it. The essence of the show is fun.
‘‘ The show was developed as a Saturday show . . . it’s a more relaxed slot for us. You’re (audience) not having to think about getting up the next day for work, the kids aren’t doing homework.
‘‘ We are ecstatic about going back to Saturday.’’
A HANDFUL of critics this year have been less than kind about the show, with one saying that watching Hey Hey was like being stuck at a family gathering with tiresome relatives telling the same old jokes.
Somers has heard it all before, maintaining he makes the show for fans, not critics.
‘‘ There’s still an element who want to put the show in the ancient box,’’ he says. ‘‘ Some critics said, ‘ It’s the same old bloody segments’ and I say that if you get rid of Red Faces, Plucka Duck, Celebrity Head, there will be an outcry and we are destroying the show. Stuff the critics. We’ll do the show we believe is right for the audience.
‘‘ There are elements saying it had its run, get rid of it, why is something new not on.
‘‘ We went out for 10 years and nothing replaced us. There have been ample opportunities for something to replace us and it never happened.
‘‘ Hey Hey is still viable. I always thought it was viable and hence why we came back.’’
Hey Hey It’s Saturday, Channel 9, Saturday, 7.30pm