On his Last Leg

Bri­tish TV has fallen for Aussie co­me­dian Adam Hills, writes Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Adamhills -

HAS Adam Hills be­come too pop­u­lar for Aus­tralia? The co­me­dian has been on a roll since he pulled the pin on Spicks and Specks.

Hills and team cap­tains Myf Warhurst and Alan Brough ended the ABC mu­sic show in Novem­ber 2011 af­ter seven sea­sons and 277 episodes. The trio wanted to go out on top and it did. Spicks was a Wed­nes­day stal­wart that reg­u­larly topped one mil­lion view­ers.

The de­ci­sion to bail out was a risky one, but Hills hasn’t looked back. He has launched a suc­cess­ful in­ter­na­tional TV ca­reer and has re­turned for a third se­ries of his Aussie talk show, Adam Hills Tonight (for­merly known as Adam Hills in Gor­don Street Tonight).

Hills has hit pay dirt in the UK with com­edy panel show The Last Leg — along­side stand-up co­me­dian Josh Wid­di­combe and sports jour­nal­ist Alex Brooker.

The Last Leg pre­miered dur­ing the 2012 Sum­mer Par­a­lympics and was an im­me­di­ate hit.

‘‘ We did The Last Leg out of the broad­cast cen­tre and the whole floor was empty,’’ Hills says.

‘‘ We were vir­tu­ally in a bunker. We had no idea if any­one was watch­ing. It was only when Alex and Josh went to watch an event (that he knew The Last Leg was a suc­cess). They came back and said it was like The Bea­tles in A Hard Day’s Night — they were mobbed out there.’’

Chan­nel 4 quickly com­mis­sioned a spe­cial and a ni­neep­isode sec­ond se­ries, which screened in the UK from late Jan­uary to the end of March. A third se­ries is on the way.

‘‘ The last episode of Adam Hills Tonight goes to air on July 30 and the first episode of The Last Leg is live out of Lon­don on Au­gust 1,’’ Hills says.

I had been chip­pin­g­away at a ca­reer in Eng­land

‘‘ I do that ( Last Leg) for eight weeks and at the same time I do a run (of live com­edy shows) at the Ed­in­burgh Fringe Fes­ti­val. Then I start a UK stand-up tour dur­ing which I will be film­ing a DVD at the Hammersmith Apollo.

‘‘ That will take me to the end of Novem­ber and then in De­cem­ber, there will pos­si­bly be a Last Leg in­ter­view spe­cial. An­other se­ries of The Last Leg will pos­si­bly start in Jan­uary in the lead-up to the Sochi 2014 Win­ter Par­a­lympics. Af­ter March 2014, I’m a bit sketchy.’’

It seems pretty ob­vi­ous Hills has no re­grets about quit­ting Spicks and Specks.

‘‘ Not af­ter see­ing where my ca­reer has gone, now that I’ve the time to spend on it,’’ he says. ‘‘ I had been chip­ping away at a ca­reer in Eng­land for years. I’d missed out on a few TV op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause I was com­mit­ted to Spicks and Specks.’’

Adam Hills in Gor­don Street Tonight pre­miered in Fe­bru­ary 2011 and rated strongly.

Hills spent just as much time in­ter­act­ing with the stu­dio au­di­ence and off­sider Han­nah Gadsby as he did on celebrity in­ter­views. Last year’s sec­ond se­ries was a rat­ings dis­ap­point­ment. Hills is at a loss to ex­plain why. Maybe it was hurt by no Spicks and Specks. ‘‘ Gor­don Street for me was al­ways meant to be an al­ter­na­tive talk show,’’ Hills says. ‘‘ I wanted it to be the sort of talk show that doesn’t do proper in­ter­views. We would end up faffing around with the au­di­ence and cre­ate our own lit­tle world.

‘‘ That would be all well and good if there was a talk show on Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion to be an al­ter­na­tive to. That’s the prob­lem — there’s no Enough Rope (An­drew Den­ton) and no Rove (McManus) any­more.’’

The ABC has its own prob­lems. Wed­nes­day night has been a rat­ings black hole since Hills, Warhurst and Brough ended Spicks and Specks.

Last year’s re­place­ment, An­drew Den­ton’s word quiz show Ran­dling, was a disas­ter.

Ear­lier this year, the ABC an­nounced it was res­ur­rect­ing Spicks and Specks with a new host and team cap­tains.

Hills hasn’t been privy to dis­cus­sions about the re­vamped ver­sion of his beloved show.

‘‘ I know very lit­tle about the new in­car­na­tion but they are look­ing for three peo­ple that re­ally click,’’ he says.

‘‘ I think the ABC is smart. They know what made Spicks and Specks work. The for­mat was great and the chem­istry was great.

‘‘ You’ve got to re­mem­ber, we didn’t set out to make any­thing amaz­ing (with Spicks and Specks). Nor did we think we were at any point. Nor did the pub­lic for a long time.

‘‘ It was two or three years be­fore we hit a mil­lion view­ers. We started off with 600,000 or 700,000 in the days when that wasn’t a great fig­ure. What I’ve learned from all my shows is that you can’t pick what is or isn’t go­ing to work.’’ Adam Hills Tonight, ABC1, to­day, 8.30pm Pop­u­lar: Adam Hills’ ca­reer has taken off since

ended.

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