Release Date: Wednesdays, 8:30 PM
Will Andrew Denton’s return to the small screen combined with our curiosity to know where things come from be enough to build the ABC’s next cult quiz show?
Randling is a program that pits ten teams of comedians and media personalities against each other in a range of contests built on obscure words. Andrew Denton hands out tasks that revolve around guessing or creating definitions. It’s an easy competition to get a handle on given many of the games have been doing the rounds of lounge rooms since they were called parlours – making up definitions was originally called ‘Fictionary’ and since the 80s it’s been sold on as Balderdash, Dictionary Dabble, Flummoxed, and Weird Wordz. Other games like ‘Either Or’ bear a strong resemblance to ‘Musician or Serial Killer’ from the ABC’s recently defunct Spicks And Specks. So what it lacks in originality, Randling’s producers are probably hoping it will make up for in familiarity.
Dento, the former host of Enough Rope announced his departure from presenting after five years of helming what came to be Australia’s premier chat show. However the strangely low goal of becoming Australia’s next Adam Hills or Shaun Micallef seems to have been enough to lure him out of retirement. Perhaps mirroring Stephen Fry would be a better guess, given the uncanny resemblance Randling bears QI, an inquiring program in its ninth season on the BBC. But the success or failure of Denton’s venture will have less to do with the questions asked and more to do with the people answering them.
It’s early days but the contestants seem to be the program’s primary weakness. Sure comedians are funny to watch but their routines are often well rehearsed and road tested. It’s a rare celebrity who can be spontaneously funny. Randling’s result is more often like the half-funny jokes that circle dinner parties, with contestants stretching for rude references when the well runs dry. Denton is his usual charming self but the heavily edited version of the show that goes to air (watch the wildly changing team scores) suggests even his determined efforts to move things on aren’t always successful.
Still, early days right? And though Randling isn’t compulsive viewing yet, one of the factors that might keep audiences coming back is our inveterate curiosity for where things come from. I’ve always felt that atheists have had a hard time of it suggesting that everything came from nothing, given that human beings arrive with an inbuilt desire to find design in the world around them. Randling’s format is built around the truth that ‘thrion’ isn’t just a collection of letters that fell together but a word with purpose and meaning, ones that I’m curious to know. The writer of Ecclesiastes says the same curiosity was built into the heart of humanity so that we might seek and find the mind behind the universe. It’s unlikely that a quiz show will take us that far but curiosity itself isn’t such a bad thing to encourage.