Wednesday, 29 July 2009

'The 7pm Project' Reviewed - Part One of Two

July 2009

Part One of The 7pm Project Review - July 2009

Back in my primary school days I had to enter a Project Competition pitting my investigative skills of a country against the best that the rest of district had to offer. The two projects I actually remember completing were on the lands of Russia (then the USSR) and Papua New Guinea.

The sheer bulk of information I'd sift through (ok I admit I'd just get the encyclopaedia out and rewrite what it said) was then whittled away to some key areas that I believe mattered and then pasted onto the big sheet of cardboard. The alternative route others tried was to fill the sheet with 84 different factual points about the country, which looked impressive but had very little substance.

This second approach appears to be the one that the Channel Ten show 'The 7pm Project' is taking to fill its 23 minutes every weeknight.

Network Ten’s new vehicle to try and capture the internet obsessed younger demographic in Australia, debuted last week to unspectacular ratings.

Preparing this review I watched two episodes which gave me a very good indication as to why the ratings are unflattering.

 Hosts Carrie Bickmore, Dave Hughes and Charlie Pickering (by far and away the shining light on the show) sit around a desk taking the audience through the news of the day. The concept is not new for television and has been attempted in Australia in various forms in the past but the difference the producers of 'The 7pm Project' are pushing thus far, is the speed at which the show moves.

 It seems that given Generation Y (a key part of the target demographic) is stereotyped as 'fickle, impulsive and having the attention span of a... wait what was I talking about?’ the show’s relentless speed may in fact be a result of what the producers of the show think their targeted viewers want. The instant impression you get from the opening to the show, is that the hosts are under strict instruction to follow the 'we've got a schedule and we're not slowing down for anyone' mantra. Each news item read by Bickmore gets a few seconds for Pickering and Hughes to generate something funny before Bickmore moves right along. Not only is this structure painful and rigid but this focus on relentlessly moving forward, looms large as the show's biggest obstacle to success.

 The reason shows like 'The Panel' or true satirical news shows like 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart' and 'The Colbert Report' work is because they dedicate time to finding the best joke or viewpoint from a small collection of news or a guest. It is never a rapid fire service and the focus is rarely to educate.

This is because providing entertainment and laughs is the first priority and the news is merely a conduit for that. If the producers of 'The 7pm Project' don't realise this soon, the show won't last a month.

 I tried to watch Friday’s show via their website to begin my review, but when the final segment ‘Metro City Whip-Around’ lasted just 40 seconds before the video player cut the feed, the signs weren’t good. Four attempts to replay that segment ended the same way.

If it works when I go to file this review I’ll report whether it delivered on the promise the first guest (Adelaide Nova Host Julian Schiller) showed in his 30 second spot.

Or what the segment really is - him rehashing the best jokes he had from his morning radio show that week.

The show has a few things going for it, even if it doesn't appear to really know what it is trying to be.

Their tagline is: ‘It’s the news – but not as you know it.’

Excuse me… what does this mean?

All that suggests to me is ‘The 7pm Project’ might be going all ‘A Current Affair’ and ‘Today Tonight’ on us by conjuring up elaborate stories from only the smallest element of truth. But when you tune in it feels like a replay of the normal news, just in shorter bursts.

‘The 7pm Project’ has a prime time slot on weeknights and an affable (if restrained by the structure) trio hosting in studio which should appeal to first time viewers. However, the show is way too tightly run to let the ‘news but not as you know it’ ideal come through. All those first time viewers will not turn back if promising moments of comedy each night are cut short by yet another heavy dose of pointless news from the day.

Let’s be honest – the target demographic of the show are more interested on their news feed on Facebook or Twitter, than the mainstream news of the day – and have no need to tune into a show that will rehash the news, which they don’t watch in the first place.

What they want is funny people being funny, with the odd decent point thrown in as a bonus.

The fact the show is on nightly, means the viewer will expect a number of ‘things that happened today’ thrown into the content mix. But what they are basically tuning in for, is a televised radio program with better looking people. They couldn't care less about every little thing that happened that day in a reality that isn’t their own and the producers have to realise this or the show is doomed.

  Continued in Part Two 
  The 7pm Project Reviewed: - Part One - Part Two - July 29, 2009

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