On his Last Leg
British TV has fallen for Aussie comedian Adam Hills, writes Colin Vickery
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