Hey Hey is back — alive and kick­ing — and Daryl Somers is ec­static it’s re­turn­ing in a Satur­day times­lot, writes Dar­ren Devlyn

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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

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