Last night saw the premiere of The Unbelievable Truth on Channel Seven, an attempt to strike it rich in the panel show goldmine.
It’s come to the screen under the guidance of three of The Chasers, sufficiently neutered for commercial television. Craig Reucassel makes a likeable, efficient host, with Julian Morrow and Andrew Hansen as guests on alternate episodes. Add a few guest comedians (in the form of Toby Truslove, Kitty Flanagan and Sam Simmons in the opening episode) and an obligatory cameo by a slightly cultish celebrity (Kamahl) and you have yourself a panel show.
The premise is that a comedian will read an autocued spiel on a topic, mostly lies/jokes, and try to sneak a few truths in there as well. It’s up to the other contestants to spot said truths and buzz in. Sounds simple enough… because that’s all there is to it. It makes for a slightly drab half hour of comedy, pretty much dependent on your enjoyment of that week’s guests.
In order to compensate, each comedian delivers their lies and truths accompanied by a busy slew of graphics, surrounded by a backdrop that while relevant, is just a tad distracting.
Without these, you have a radio show – which funnily enough is what this is based on, a BBC Radio 4 program of the same name hosted by David Mitchell. The format has changed little, and doesn’t translate entirely well to television.
While panel shows rarely have much in the way of eye candy, they have constant interaction between the guests. The monologue driven Truth was lacking that to a large extent. It also didn’t give Craig Reucassel a chance to show off any colour, which is crucial in a host of a panel show. He rarely did anything other then keep the ball rolling.
The show has a few things going for it – I can’t decide if the later time slot and a couple of tacky lead-ins will do harm or good – but its been a long time in the planning (we first heard about it in early 2011), and it was filmed at least back in February, (I don’t believe Kitty Flanagan is pregnant any more as she was in this episode) and unless I blinked and missed him, the promised Goodies cameo by Graeme Garden was nowhere to be seen.
While The Unbelievable Truth might be good for a distraction, it isn’t ‘must see’ television at this stage, and I can see why the ABC passed on it. As for The Chasers, I think they might be better off behind the giant hamster. At least it has some teeth.
The Unbelievable Truth is on Thursdays at 9:30pm on Channel Seven.