I’ve just come out the other side of the busiest 3 months of my life. Hence the void of blog.
So let me fill you in (not sexually)…
Season 3 of Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell wrapped up a couple of weeks ago. I thoroughly enjoyed my time writing for the show and it was an incredible experience to work with some very talented people, the best of the best, and who until now I’d only known as some names in the credits of TV shows I used to watch when I was 16-years-old.
Several of my scripts made it to air. “Bum Tree” was my favourite. That was my first desk piece and sitting in the studio audience watching that unfold was, and I don’t use this word very often, awesome.
I also feel I’m a better writer than I was three months ago. Previously I’ve tended to avoid topical comedy due to the usual very long gap between recording and broadcasting whatever it is that I’m creating. But working on Mad As Hell put some of my RMIT journalism skills to practical use, and more than anything taught me to respect “the joke”.
Every script needs jokes. That seems obvious, but often I can write what I think is a joke, only to look at it a little more closely after lunch and realise that it’s not actually a joke at all. Comedy scripts need jokes. Only the jokes in a script make an audience laugh. And after all, that’s the whole purpose of comedy. So my personal bar is now set a little higher.
In addition to writing for the show, I also fulfilled another childhood dream and appeared in a sketch. See if you can spot me in the closing song on the season finale. And by the way, I couldn’t have chosen a better song (and I can assure you, it wasn’t me!)…
Meanwhile, while all that “madness” was going on, I was also making my own show. You know that other show I do? I’m sure I’ve mentioned it here before… Anyway, it’s called “31 Questions”. And Season 3 of THAT show wrapped up production last week too.
Jeeze, 3 seasons? Who’d have thought, aye? AYE!?!
It’s gone from an idea for a pilot in mid-2010, which was approved, then rejected, then cancelled, to a 6-month battle with RMITV to make a second pilot, which was finally approved, then to waiting around for 9 months while some managerial politics played out, after which we were finally given the green light for a season in 2012.
The goal of the first season was to make a game show that was funny. For no money. I didn’t spent much time worrying about the technical aspects of the show, so long as they fulfilled the bare basic practical requirements. I wanted things to be as simple as possible. Need a scoreboard? A whiteboard will do. It works.
When I look back at Season 1 now, it looks like a skeleton. Hey, don’t get me wrong. Skeletons are funny. They have a certain boney charm. But it is what it is: community television. With all the splendor of a person with no skin.
Then we met Hugh Johnson. He told us we should make a second season, work on the “game” side of the show, develop our “characters” and tailor the comedy around the boundaries of “the game show”. So we did. Again, for no money. And season 2 in 2013 was a step in the right direction. We applied many lessons from the first season. The DMG, Anthony and Sophie characters were more refined. More thought was put into the questions and selecting the contestants. We shot more material than we needed so we could edit out the stuff that didn’t work so well.
But with a more complex production, combined with less time in the studio, we got caught out too many times with lighting and audio issues, and running out of time and having to make do with a rushed job. It was good. But it wasn’t good enough. Imagine a skeleton with some rotting flesh hanging off it. Funny? Yes. Entertaining? Sure. But would the other TV stations invite it to their swanky skin parties? I doubt it.
So we went back to Hugh. He told us we needed to make a third season. And REALLY do it right. He even offered to be series producer. This was the big one. No holding back. Season 3 would be about making sure every single aspect of this program was the absolute BEST it can be.
And by Jove, I think we’ve done it. A skeleton with a system of mighty organs, with flesh and clothes and everything.
It takes a team of people to make a television show. But it takes a GREAT team of skeletons with functioning digestive and respiratory systems to make a GREAT television show. And 31 Questions Season 3 had, without a doubt, the best symbiont skeleton people crew we’ve ever had. And probably the best in Australian community television.
There are some real stars in that photo and I reckon I’ll still be working with quite a few of them many years from now.
It was also incredible to have Joe Murray on board as the senior director. He directed “The Late Show” on the ABC back in the early 90s, among a plethora of other shows. The wisdom and experience he brought to Season 3 has been a godsend and it was a real honour to work with him.
So we’re now well into post-production. Expect 31 Questions to return to your screens of varying sizes sometime in June. I’ll get back to you when I have specific dates and times and cities.
I am completely biased, of course, but we’ve got 8 GREAT episodes coming up. There’s something like 15 new segments, plus the old favourites, interesting trivia and fun facts, cool contestants, a swathe of gags and a few more surprises. It’s not just a great “community” television show. It’s a great television show.
We haven’t even finished editing yet, but we’ve already had one glowing review. Prolific comedy blogger Katherine Phelps was in the studio audience for our Season 3 finale. Read her thoughts here.
But aside from basking in the laughter and the applause, maybe the most satisfying moment came the other week when 31 Questions was labelled “a flagship show” in an official email from RMITV – the same organisation that said in February 2011 that 31 Questions was “not viable for RMITV”.
So what have I learned from all this?
1. A mistake is only a bad thing if you don’t learn from it.
2. Consistent competence leads to greatness, and
3. People are attracted to success.
David M. Green
Next stop Adelaide, I think.