Axed: Ben Elton Live from Planet Earth

By David Knox on February 23, 2011 / Filed Under News 112

EXCLUSIVE: Channel Nine has axed Ben Elton Life from Planet Earth after just three episodes.

A fourth show will not go to air next week.

The live comedy show started out with just 455,000 viewers but dropped to 384,000 last week. Last night a delayed show airing at the later time of 10:40pm against coverage of the NZ earthquake managed 189,000.

It follows disappointing reviews for the show which was one of the network’s bold moves and part of its re-branding as “The Home of Comedy.”

Elton, whose previous achievements include writing Blackadder and The Young Ones, had stressed the show needed time to develop.

Addressing criticism the show was ‘too smutty’ he recently told TV Tonight, “You get no previews, you get no second shots and I think for a first show we did bloody well and if we were a bit rude then fair enough, ok, I’m sorry.”

Nine Entertainment Co. CEO David Gyngell recently said of the Elton show, “We continue to support local and international comedy, and it’s always better to chance you arm and have a go than to take the safe way out and do nothing.”

The show was produced by FremantleMedia Australia.

UPDATED: A Nine spokesperson said: “Ben and his team have done a fantastic job uncovering new Australian talent and we appreciate all of their hard work and dedication. We are all very proud of the show but unfortunately it has not found the audience we had hoped for. We thank Ben and all the cast and crew for their commitment and wish them all the best.”

Michael Healy, Director of Television said: “Comedy is always risky, and live comedy is the riskiest of all. We are pleased to have taken the chance to support the local industry.”

Ian Hogg, CEO of FremantleMedia Australia, said: “We have immense respect for Ben. Through our development deal, we look forward to some exciting comedy and drama projects in the future.”

112 Comments »

  1. Chas Licciardello February 27, 2011 at 11:51 pm -

    Bring back The Chaser.

    That’s how it’s done.

  2. Secret Squïrrel February 24, 2011 at 10:23 pm -

    Wow! – 110+ comments. A few saying it should have been given a fairer go (esp with Ep 3 being bumped at the last minute) and even less actually positive. I think that there is quite often a bit of a skewing of comments toward the negative side on most of the polarising issues on this blog, but it’s still a broad indicator that there are a lot more detractors than supporters. Must be close to a record number of negative posts on the one article.

  3. Brad February 24, 2011 at 8:03 pm -

    The last nights ratings show there’s at least 189,000 people out there whose lips move when they write their own name. I didn’t think anything could be worse than George Negus’ light newsfotainment, but Elton was it.
    Read a book, or go outside and climb a tree.

  4. brisvegas February 24, 2011 at 2:05 pm -

    From I saw of the show, i just didn’t find it funny. That being said, it shouldn’t have been canned so soon. It should have been given a few weeks to find its feet. Had all else failed, it could have been pre-recorded and put on a later hour. So there you have it, a new show has 3 weeks to make it or break it.

  5. Warrigul February 24, 2011 at 1:01 pm -

    Someone should have warned Ben that Nine now live by the Underbelly motto ‘It’s a jungle out there”. A guarantee of four shows means nothing at Nine.

  6. KFed February 24, 2011 at 11:28 am -

    @hhis Actually, David Gyngell made a statement about the show, which is support from the very top and more than a lot of shows get.

  7. Jason D. February 24, 2011 at 10:15 am -

    If you’re going to make a show and not learn from the mistakes of Let Loose Live, let alone have been aware of what happened to LLL, then you’re going to fail. It’s a failure on the team and producers to not have created something genuinely funny that is on par with foreign comedy productions from Britain and America.

  8. Chasingvegas February 24, 2011 at 9:49 am -

    Yah, perhaps Ch9 will put Survivor in that slot then???!!!

  9. PT Ryan February 24, 2011 at 9:45 am -

    Sure, Elton does seem to deserve the lions share of the blame for LFPE’s failure (and his foolish, defensive attacks on the Twitter critics didn’t help), but it’s plainly apparent that there’s an ongoing problem with local comedy on commercial television, and it appears to be at the level of the suits. Maybe, just maybe, the accumulated debris of LFPE, Double Take, The Wedge, The White Room, Let Loose Live, David Tench Tonight, The Nation and other terrible commercial comedy shows will prompt a shift in thinking on behalf of the network execs, most of whom seem to have tastes stuck a good 30 years in the past.

    Just let the damn writers and performers do their job, and stop interfering and toning down the material lest Beryl from Mornington doesn’t “get it”. Also, it’s worth noting that the participants of all of those appalling failures have been involved in genuinely good comedy shows on other channels (both before and since), so one really must wonder what’s going on at a higher level.

    SBS and the ABC don’t seem to have this kind of ongoing problem with their comedy programming, nor (to a lesser degree) do the local comedy shows produced for cable.

  10. Lee February 24, 2011 at 9:23 am -

    Ben Elton comes out and basically craps all over our national sport in the ads previewing his show during the cricket coverage which would have lost him viewers before he started and now, he suddenly finds that his abysmal show that 5-year olds are too mature to find funny is a complete unmitigated failure, and he’s surprised?

  11. Scott February 24, 2011 at 9:18 am -

    I think this is a fairly sad decision for Australian television comedy. At the moment there are no locally produced sitcoms airing that I am aware of and precious little sketch comedy.

    Let Loose Live remains one of the best comedy shows ever to come out of this country despite only surviving two episodes (I can remember my whole family literally on the floor rolling around we found it so funny) and whilst Live From Planet Earth had a lot of problems it did have enough talent to potentially develop into something worthwhile and entertaining.

    As other posters have said this may scare the networks even further away from local comedy production and the money will likely be spent on yet another cooking show or news broadcast. Personally I want to be spared seeing paedophiles and the like being given a ‘second chance’ on a cooking show or seeing the latest developments in Lindsay Lohan’s life on a so-called news broadcast.

  12. PD February 24, 2011 at 8:45 am -

    @bankrupt – definitely a coincidence.

    Although, I do love your threats of a Hey Hey fan uprising. The voices of Hey Hey fans will be heard. They will get what they want. If they don’t Channel 9 will suffer. Hilarious.

  13. Bill February 24, 2011 at 8:45 am -

    Ben elton seems to think people don’t like the show because its a bit smutty
    no people don’t like the show because it’s simply not funny

  14. Zigster February 24, 2011 at 8:23 am -

    Could management have ballsed it up any worse than this? In a nation that’s always been wobbly on its comedy feet, they decide to do a Live comedy show basically written by One Person on a One Week turnaround. And they get an antique to host it (no offence Ben. But a big slab of the current TV audience have barely heard of Blackadder and you were actually in it anyway.And let’s forget for now the smutty “Thin Blue Line.”)

    What a disaster. Now comedy will be a no-go zone again for the networks for who knows how long. And the idea that this was giving work to local talent. Sure. But not local writers. if the industry wilfully goes out of its way to avoid giving writers work it will always be amateur hour.

  15. steven guy February 24, 2011 at 7:59 am -

    Whilst Ben Elton has copped most of the flack for this dud of a show I must also add that the ” interview” with Bryn Eddelsten was cringingly tragic as well and it wasn’t her fault either.

  16. John February 24, 2011 at 5:02 am -

    Did not and would not have watched the show & have never found Ben Elton funny.An accent does not make for humor.However he did write some funny shows/sketches during the 80’s.The axing only proves how channel 9 is not commited to new “local” programming.Another night,some tweeking?No?
    Hamish & Andy on 9 is like Home & Away on SBS.Just not a good match.

    Anyway 9’s new line up come March 1st is…..

    Mon-Fri –
    4.30 News with Karl Stefanovic
    5.30 Best of Live from Planet Earth
    5.31 Hotseat with Eddie McGuire presented by Karl Stefanovic
    6.00 News with Karl Stefanovic
    6.30 ACA with The Stig
    7.00 Two And A Half Men
    7.30 Top Gear (Australia,UK.U.S,Afghanistan & Iceland-alternate days)
    8.30 Two And A Half Men marathon introduced by Hamish & Andy
    10.00 Best & Worst of Red Faces presented by Harry Connick jnr
    10.30 Best of Top Gear introduced by Ben Elton
    11.00 News with Karl Stefanovic (cut out)
    11.30 Celebrity Rehab with Charlie Sheen
    12.00 Quizmania with Shane Warne & Warwick Capper

  17. Richotb February 24, 2011 at 2:45 am -

    I have joined forces with the ranks of the Hey Hey It’s Saturday army. We are legion, for we are many. No show that nine airs this year will be successful until HHIS is bought back.

    You cannot defeat us.
    We are invincible.

  18. Ben February 24, 2011 at 1:21 am -

    @ Luke W agree with you entirely, HHIS did prop up their other shows in regards to the feel and overall image of the network which is why they almost became number 1 last year and did in fact lead the other networks in all major demographics. But it looks like it will be different this year, much like Ten they are in disarray and have lost their way and will have Seven laughing all the way to the bank.

    Also agree re: Comedy Inc. as undoubtedly being the best sketch show this century but I think it’s too late to bring it back now and Ch 9 did not give it enough of a chance to find an audience in prime time.

  19. Bobby February 24, 2011 at 12:12 am -

    @Kev. Yes the people crying out for Hey Hey are pathetic but your no better for thinking LFPE had any merit, it was simply terrible television.

  20. Lisa February 23, 2011 at 11:49 pm -

    Maybe nine could convince chuck Lorre to create something for aussie tv god knows nine make him alot money constantly showing his sitcoms who knows he could be up for the challenge

  21. casting couch February 23, 2011 at 11:35 pm -

    As others have said, it wasn’t that it was “too smutty”; it just wasn’t funny.

  22. Luke W February 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm -

    It was inevitable. Reminds me of what happened with Seven’s effort a while back, Let Loose Live, which was far worse than LFPE. I did like aspects of LFPE but some parts were too long, too light on the script (as in thin material being stretched out too far), some characters are never going to appeal to an general Aussie audience (like that ‘muscle woman’ from ep1). I liked the fact they were live and up to date so they could relate to current issues (such as the girl flat sketch where they mention Lady Gaga wripping off Madonna’s old song). I have only two kind requests to Channel Nine in terms of what they should do in relation to Aussie comedy. 1: Keep HHIS going. There is a loyal audience who will never go away (myself included) and it has the effect of propping up other 9 shows and the network overall. 2: Bring back Comedy Inc. Was the best sketch comedy of my generation (being too young or not born to appreciate the likes of Comedy Company, Fast Forward, D Generation etc), which then gives the likes of McCarthy and Morris to continue their fantastic characters.

  23. bankrupt February 23, 2011 at 11:04 pm -

    Until Hey Hey is brought back every show will continue to fail on Nine. Don’t believe me? Just wait and see. All I can say is Hey Hey supporters have a lot of leway when it comes to the ratings system. Until they are listened to Channel Nine is dead! Ben Elton is the first casualty and many others are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Coincidence or deliberate ploy to get Channel Nine to listen to the people? You decide.

  24. Bruce Banner February 23, 2011 at 10:50 pm -

    This show was yet another reason why Channel 9 is stuck in it’s 80s hey day… same dated, boring humor that wasn’t really all that funny back when we first heard it.

    Hamish & Andy are going to die in this environment.

  25. Kylie February 23, 2011 at 10:26 pm -

    Great – now can we finally have the latest season of Survivor – if I have to wait another week, I’ll be doing my own fast-tracking………..

  26. Shannon Butler February 23, 2011 at 10:15 pm -

    @ Kev , you have no idea .

  27. Russell February 23, 2011 at 9:48 pm -

    Was gonna comment on Kev’s post and then realised not worth the effort – took a wrong turn at high-horse.com.au before arriving at a TV website for those into TV shows, of which most are viewed on the couch.

  28. Craig February 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm -

    Not surprised its gone, just that they didn’t do it last week.

    I could see this flopping the first time I saw the over hyped ads.

  29. Nigelinoz February 23, 2011 at 9:41 pm -

    Blackadder was co-written by Richard Curtis,a genuinely talented and funny man,Elton on the other hand is a foul mouthed,overrated loser.
    Good Riddance

  30. Troll Detector February 23, 2011 at 9:40 pm -

    @Kev wow My Troll Detector is going off the charts

  31. Kev February 23, 2011 at 9:30 pm -

    The people crying out for Hey Hey really are pathetic. It was a poor show back in the day and when it came back it really was embarrassing. I don’t understand why Australians are calling for ‘has been’ non funny people, in Mr Somers to rehash the same bad jokes. And those wanting new episodes of Survivor…wow some of you need to get out there and have a life instead of watching people live out a pretend life. At least Ben Elton’s show was new, was giving young Aussie comedians an outlet. Couch potatoes unfortunately rule the ratings game, and as they have no taste in life, how could they possibly have an idea what entertainment is? A big bag of chips and simple jokes that you dont have to think about….Two and Half Men is coming back fattys, your wish shall be granted.

  32. DAN February 23, 2011 at 9:21 pm -

    @Leon eathier that or top gear

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