Comment: Three made the right choice in axing Jono and Ben

Author
Anna Murray, NZ Herald,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 31 October 2018, 8:20p.m.
Jono and Ben announced earlier this month their show would be coming to an end. (Photo / Mediaworks)
Jono and Ben announced earlier this month their show would be coming to an end. (Photo / Mediaworks)

Where were you when you heard Jono and Ben was being cancelled? Chances are you weren't watching the announcement on the show itself.

Once one of the darlings of Three's comedy lineup, its ratings foundered this year, hitting an all-time low last month. With an average audience of 61,000 viewers aged 25-54 tuning in, the show was registering just half the audience it had three years ago.

So while I'd always presumed Jono and Ben would be on our screens until one of them accidentally killed the other during one of their infamous pranks, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that MediaWorks decided to pull the plug on them instead.

And as much as it pains me to say it — and I can already feel the ire of the 16,000-plus people who have signed a petition to save Jono and Ben — those execs have made the right decision. Because as the flailing ratings suggest, the show peaked some time ago.

Beginning life as Jono and Ben at Ten back in 2012, the series was a frequently funny late-night shambles that gathered more than just a cult following. Then it became a victim of its own success.

With prime time calling, the show was rechristened as simply Jono and Ben and moved to hour-long episodes screening on Fridays — then Thursdays — at 7.30pm.

Some fans have said it was the switch to Thursday nights that was the beginning of Jono and Ben's demise, but the show began going downhill as soon as it shifted to those hour-long episodes.

Making a half hour of quality comedy week in, week out is bloody hard work. But coming up with enough good material for an hour-long episode each week? That's not for the faint of heart.

Watching Jono and Ben's new longer episodes soon became an endurance event, with the team's moments of brilliance surrounded by a whole lot of padding.

Then there was last year's unfortunate experiment where the show began broadcasting live in the hopes of gaining some much-needed edge. The hosts joked ahead of time that it would be a disaster — and they were not wrong.

Soon after, I gave up watching Jono and Ben in its entirety and instead enjoyed the stunts and sketches that were cherry-picked for their various social media accounts. Because when Jono and Ben and the gang were good, they were really good, which isn't surprising given the calibre of the young comedy talent working on the show.

Jono and Ben themselves have often been overshadowed by their supporting cast. Rose Matafeo was the star during her tenure on the show, while Laura Daniel is responsible for what I think has been their best musical skit, a cheeky ode to her hometown of Palmerston North.

It's also been impossible not to smile while Chris Parker navigates his "Chris out of Water" segments this year, and I really do hope Brynley Stent's Gloriavale alter ego, Providence Gratitude, pops up on our screens in some way, shape or form again one day.

But the rest of the show feels so very stale now.

What else can they possibly do to Jono's beloved Holden Kingswood that hasn't already been done? How many more times can they break into their colleagues' homes to "surprise" them in the middle of the night?

The quality of the hosts' dad jokes hasn't exactly improved with time either.

After some groan-inducing jests about the legalisation of cannabis being a "joint effort" that should go to "the highest court in the land" last week, Jono went on to make a quip about Tiger Woods' various infidelities, which would have been more relevant in, say, 2009.

So, as the curtains close on Jono and Ben's seven years on air together (which is approximately 85 years in Kiwi comedy terms), it's time to look back fondly at their ill-advised bouncy castle voyages across Lake Taupō, their houses covered in post-it notes, and all those expertly-timed flour cannons — and then accept the show has well and truly run its course.

 

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