The Daily Telegraph, 18 June 1998

Good News travels fast

He might be one of televisison's fastest-rising stars and host of one of Australia's most popular shows, but as far as Paul McDermott is concerned, for the next few weeks at least, he's just a baby-sitter.

"We're minding the Saturday night time slot for The Boys while they're on holiday," he says referring to the fact his revamped Good News Week (GNW) has just been given a second chance each week, moving into the recently vacated Roy and HG Saturday night timeslot.

"It does give us a chance to try a few things, but we know this is the Roy and HG slot and this is just a bit of babysitting."

McDermott, resident enfant terrible at the ABC is being (quite uncharacteristically) modest.

The decision to hand over the the most precious timeslot of the week is an acknowledgement from ABC bosses of what he and his program have become.

And, despite ABC denials, the word is that Roy and HG won't be returning.

From a beginning so slow, it was only just saved from being pulled off the air, Good New Week (GNW) has become one of ABC's best performers (see box).

So too, has the show's spike-haired, acid-tongued host.

Once best known as the member of the comedy tem the Doug Anthony Allstars most likely to attack for no reason, television watchers have taken to McDermott in a big way.

The biggest laughs at a taping of the show come when he slaps a panel member back into place with a well-chosen barb.

At the live theatre tapings, he brings the house down with obscenity-laced outbursts which inevitably are edited out for the screening.

At last year's season finale, the massed audience at the Enmore Theartre screamed for an encore when he (yes, it's true) got up and sang Hunters & Collectors' Throw Your Arms Around Me.

Given that popularity and despite his claims to the contrary, McDermott was a walk-up start to be given the Roy and HG slot now they have taken a mid-season break. "It was either us or Birds Of A Feather," McDermott jokes. "Someone had to fill the spot."

The boys, as Rampaging Roy Slaven and HG Nelson are known throught the ABC, have cut short their 1998 season because (depending on which rumour you favour) of a shortage of funds caused by the McFeast series or simple boredom with the same old show.

In the meantime McDermott and Co get a chance to run with a program that somehow blends hard news and entertainment.

"It's strange, but I've even run across teachers who show the program to their year 11 and 12 classes Monday mornings so they can catch up with what's been going on in the news," says McDermott's GNW colleague Mikey robins.

"Acutually that's a bit of a worry when you consider as far as we're concerened the biggest news story of the week is a Guatemalan woman who burnt a chicken in her microwave.

"Still, it is a good show, something that I'm proud of and it's good to see it doing OK."

Given that McDermott, Robins and the third member of the GNW team, Julie McCrossin, work so well together, it's inevitable the question of a future beyond GNW comes up.

Getting a straight answer on what that future will be, however, is all but impossible.

When pressed, the three offer up a SeaChange-esque drama series with Paul as the retired lawyer, McCrossin as the local publican and Robins as their teenage daughter, a documentary called Great Ballooning Accidents and an international trout fishing series where explosives are used instead of flies.

"We're also thinking of Great Skiing Spots Of The World because we're all avid skiers and we wanted to travel around skiing," McDermott suggests.

"Surprisingly enough, the ABC is actually thinking about that one . . . "

A move to the commercial networks has never been discussed, but McDermott has dropped the occasional cryptic remark to suggest popularity at the national broadcaster isn't the end of his plans.

Since moving to Saturday night, the GNW workload has literally doubled.

The half-hour format has been expanded to an hour. There's now a resident band, visits from stand-up comics and pre-recorded segments included.

What will remain, Julie McCrossin insisted, is the political satire.

"Executive producer Ted Robinson and the team are working quite hard to make it look different. We want it to be an asolute difference between the Friday night and Saturday, but I think if we lost the satire we'd lose a large part of what has made us popular," she said.

Good News Week (ABC, Friday at 8pm). Good News Weekend (ABC, Saturday at 8.30pm*.)

-Scott Ellis


*The time given for the braodcast time of Good News Weekend is incorrect. It should be 9.30pm.

Typed up by VellaB

See the ratings supplement to this article.