They built the suspense for two weeks: Eddie McGuire was returning to resurrect The Footy Show.
They ran radio promotions spruiking ‘a new era in entertainment’.
They called it ‘all new’ – despite the two main protagonists having started the show together 24 years ago.
Could the revamped Footy Show possibly live up to the hype?
We won’t build the suspense. The answer, based on its first edition, is a resounding “no”.
It opened with a pre-recorded sketch featuring McGuire giving a William Wallace-style Braveheart speech – in black-and-white make-up, on horseback, and drifting in and out of a Scottish accent – to a nonplussed audience of two, co-hosts Rebecca Maddern and John ‘Sam’ Newman.
The first look at the ‘all new’ set showed that there’s not much you can do if you want to sit half-a-dozen people on a stage facing the audience and the cameras.
The old set-up had the hosts on one three-person desk and the current and former players, referred to as ‘the panel’, on a separate three-person desk to their left.
The new version is one extended desk, with the three panellists – on Thursday night it was Greater Western Sydney ruckman Shane Mumford, Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn and Essendon rookie Andrew McGrath – still to the left of McGuire, Newman and Maddern, with comedian Dave Hughes bookending them.
McGuire promptly hit us between the eyes with the show’s first big ‘exclusive’, but his fellow panellists (and, most likely, viewers) were far less enthusiastic to hear Eddie talk about the Match Review Panel.
— Arj's Eye (@ArjGiese) August 10, 2017
So it seems Craig Hutchison wasn't the problem after all #9AFLFootyShow
— Robert Fedele (@RobertOHFedele) August 10, 2017
The next direction the new era of entertainment took was grilling first-year Bomber McGrath about being Canadian. That stuff probably kills in Ottawa, but it didn’t break any new ground.
To wind up the first 25 minutes (which seemed longer), the show introduced what it called its version of Gogglebox, a show about people watching television.
‘Footybox’ had three pairs of AFL teammates watching football shows (but not The Footy Show) on TV while commenting to each other – and their dogs. It may or may not have legs.
On return, it was time to dive into some real football talk, with the three player panellists rested while Richmond coach Damien Hardwick and captain Trent Cotchin joined the four hosts.
A cross to injured Geelong captain Joel Selwood – and his girlfriend – came across as nothing more than an exercise in demonstrating that the show is able to cross to someone’s house.
The panellists returned after the next break so that they could preview some of this round’s matches, Hughes did a trademark shouty segment about frustrated coaches, and then a truck backed into the studio and out popped perennial panellists Bill Brownless and Shane Crawford to tout a viewer competition. Nothing new there.
So far #9AFLFootyShow needs one less host, and it desperately needs some professional comedy writers behind the scenes
— Kevin Perry (@kevinperry) August 10, 2017
30 min of talking about the actual teams and 90min of rubbish how has this changed? Besides the host #9AFLFootyShow
— Jaymz (@hell4u02) August 10, 2017
Another break and the three players had disappeared again, this time to allow journalist Damian Barrett and sacked Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade to sit alongside Maddern.
For the second time for the night, this allowed Newman to become naturally involved with the show, being genuinely inquisitive in his questioning of Eade.
This also served to highlight that much of the rest of the show is dated and not necessarily well executed. Either talk seriously about footy or be entertaining, but don’t fail at both.
It was well after 10pm when the hoary old chestnut called Sam’s Mailbag was rolled out, and by then ‘all new’ had been exposed as ‘nothing new’ and ‘all tired’.
Newman’s cosmetic surgery may have been fodder for his colleagues for many years, but you suspect if he’d ever had a facelift as unconvincing as the one the show has undergone, he’d have asked for his money back.