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Tom Red

How to save Q+A, a Crikey guide

With its ratings down the drain and public sentiment darkening, the ABC’s once mighty Q+A needs to find a new way forward. Using the age-old media industry technique of studying better-rating shows and stealing stuff, Crikey has compiled a list of artistic appropriations that just might help Q+A find its mojo again.

From ‘Gardening Australia’

At the end of each Q+A episode, a bubbly Costa Georgiadis would spring up with a weekend “to do” list for viewers. For example: “If you’re going to be in Melbourne’s temperate inner suburbs this weekend, now’s the time to renew your Saturday Paper subscription and critically examine your lingering affection for Leunig cartoons. If you’re in Brisbane, I’m afraid you’re off to the Queensland Cultural Centre. Again.”

Pros: every program would end on a comparatively upbeat note.

Cons: seeing Costa may remind you of all the piles of steaming manure you’ve just waded through.

From ‘Hard Quiz’

Like Hard Quiz, Q+A should have the occasional battle of the duds episode, where the worst of the worst guests are invited back and put on a panel with other unhinged, narcissistic, book-flogging blowhards. Think Sophie Mirabella recoiling when Simon Sheik fainted or Christopher Pyne responding to news Lou Reed had just died by saying he preferred ABBA. Or Jordan Peterson being, well, Jordan Peterson.

Pros: no downside here, and when the inevitable Jerry Springer-style melee does happen, we all win.    

Cons: would probably out-rate regular episodes.

From ‘Oprah’

There has been a bit of criticism of Stan Grant for his “Stan-centric” approach to hosting. Rather than kowtow to the haters, perhaps Q+A could flip the playbook and give viewers even more Stan. After a 25-minute opening, Stan would introduce a guest and then talk at, to and about them for another 20 minutes. At this point he might say: “I’m so sorry. I’m a terrible person. I’ve been talking about Stan Grant all night and you haven’t got a word in. So, what do you think about Stan Grant?”

Pros: Stan would probably like it.

Cons: changing the program’s name to “Stangrantistan” could ruffle feathers.  

From ‘Ahn’s Brush with Fame’

Get a struggling local artist to paint a portrait of each guest as the program progresses. Cut back and forth to the painter throughout the show, climaxing in a big “Oh, wow!” reveal at the end.

Pros: it’ll give struggling local artists a semi-regular gig.

Cons: it would still be like watching paint dry.

From TikTok

Ask audience members to pose their questions using interpretive dance, sassy charades and terrible pop songs.

Pros: no more nervous, would-be activists staring into the camera reading torturously overwritten questions and/or statements.

Cons: new activists with overwritten questions, but now with face filters, killa moves and speed-warped Britney tunes.

From ‘Slime Time’

Every time the Q+A host speaks, a huge 1990s kids-TV bucket of slime would appear directly above them, along with a 60-second countdown. If their monologue, soliloquy or reminiscence takes more than a minute, they get slimed.

Pros: slime.

Cons: sourcing enough environmentally responsible slime.

From ‘Old People’s Home for Teenagers’

Let’s face it, Q+A is already old people’s home for old people, so why not own that and double-down? Cue more episodes about self-managed superannuation, “the Winnebago lap” and why police officers look so damn young these days.

Pros: as far as smoothing the Q+A pillow goes, this would be a fitting denouement.

Cons: would leave a bunch of tokenistic right-leaning journalists and ageing free-marketeers with time on their hands during late-night shopping. Never a happy prospect.

From ‘The Masked Singer’

Keep the usual Q+A discussion format but have the guests wear outlandish Masked Singer disguises. As the evening unfolds, the audience tries to figure out who is inside each outfit, based only on what they say about stage three tax cuts and how they say it.

Pros: we won’t see Alan Jones’ face.

Cons: we’ll spend the entire show worrying that we might see Alan Jones’ face.

From ‘Catch Phrase’

If a guest uses a hackneyed phrase such as “with respect”, “in this space”, “the only poll that counts is election day”, or “I don’t accept the premise of your question” they are bodily expelled from the panel.

Pros: it might limit the number of clichés we hear.

Cons: thought-leadership brahmins will invent new ones.

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