Between the Lines, The Trophy Room, The Squiz, The Bounce, The Matty Johns Show…. they all abandoned the podium after short runs, while The Footy Show and Before the Game take the blokier but more successful approach.
The latest contender onto the arena is TEN’s A League of their Own, based on a UK format of the same name which has had 7 seasons, hosted by comedian James Cordon.
Rising star Tommy Little is the host of the Aussie edition, with tennis champ Pat Cash and swimmer Eamon Sullivan as team captains. Like every other panel show since the Byzantine Empire, this one also has two trios of seated teams with the host in the middle. In the first episode they include basketballer Lauren Jackson, wheelchair marathon racer Kurt Fearnley, Lehmo and Pete Helliar (uh oh Helliar was also on Trophy Room and The Bounce -is this a sign?).
For some reason the seven people on this show are seated miles apart from one another, as if to needlessly fill up a large studio. You could drive a truck through some of those gaps.
There’s also an enthusiastic studio audience, working (a little too) hard to show the love. Maybe they thought this was Gladiators. Note to self: add Gladiators to above list.
On a positive note it’s great to see Kurt Fearnley included in this episode, disability is never exploited nor failing to be inclusive here, and I’m sure many viewers will get a quick education on his many achievements.
The gameplay on A League of their Own consists of sporting-themed questions, parlour games and stunts. I’m not exactly the country’s biggest sports fan so I’m rightfully declaring my interest was fleeting. But if this show is to survive in a profile 7:30 slot it needs to reach beyond sports fans, including to female viewers who aren’t sports mad. This can be achieved by chemistry and jeopardy, but I didn’t detect much of either in its first outing.
The stunts in week one include catching footballs whilst running on a giant travelator, pitching a baseball lefthanded, and dunking some basketballs into a hoop which in turn dunks the host into a giant water tub (Amanda Keller on Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation anyone?). We’re also given slow-mo replays to some of those inglorious moments, having just watched them moments before. Not sure why.
If the show wants to match the legacy of (the original) It’s a Knockout it’s going to need bigger stunts than these. At the moment it’s over-reaching from what might be more effective as a tighter, intimate half hour panel show. Commercial TV is the place that always takes a half hour idea and dilutes it by dragging it out to an hour…
Host Tommy Little is likeable but while I enjoy his rapport on This Week Live he will need a lot of experience to sustain a show of this scale and it could be two years too soon in said career. I got nothing from Eamon Sullivan, and if Pat Cash can throw out a few caustic barbs from his years he might carve out a panel role.
Frankly this only made me miss Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation more, a show that deftly combined gameplay, chemistry and subtext too.
A League of their Own premieres 7:30pm Monday on TEN.