Why Rove’s show was axed so swiftly
A high-profile publicity opportunity for Rove McManus' now-axed variety show Saturday Night Rove backfired when the cast of Ten's top-rating Gogglebox slammed the program.
"I cannot bear this guy," said Gogglebox favourite Di as they sat down to watch episode one of Saturday Night Rove during last week's episode of Gogglebox, while Adam and Symon dubbed a segment in which McManus doorknocked for viewers "good old fashioned car crash live TV".
Rove's voiceover artist Judith Lucy scored universal praise, but an odd segment mixing stand-up from comedian Alex Lee with music from Anthony Callea drew a mixed response.
"Are we watching slam poetry?" asked one Goggleboxer. "I guess Channel 10 are quite desperate at the moment," said another.
Gogglebox couple Lee and Keith even let out a relieved "Oh, thank god," when the episode had finished.
looks like #GoggleboxAU has just screwed up Rove's Saturday night show— Grace Vassallo (@GraceVassall0) August 29, 2019
So the Goggleboxers loved that Rove show then? 😳 #GoggleboxAU— Clare Rigden (@iamclare) August 29, 2019
#GoggleboxAU give a scathing review of Rove’s new show and Ten follow it up with a promo of Rove’s new show.— Reese 🏳️🌈 (@reesieboi) August 29, 2019
This is making me glad I didn’t watch Sat Night Rove....... #GoggleboxAU— Sue K. (@SueKennedy19) August 29, 2019
804,000 people watched last week's episode of Gogglebox - that's a lot more viewers than the 244,000 who tuned in to episode one of Saturday Night Rove, meaning a slot on Gogglebox would provide some welcome exposure to the fledgling show.
David Knox runs industry website TV Tonight, which broke the news of the show's axing overnight. He said that, while any publicity was good publicity, the muted Gogglebox response to the show was indicative of a wider issues among viewers.
Should Channel 10 have given Saturday Night Rove more of a chance? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below
"Being on Gogglebox is always a positive in creating awareness. It's one of 10 and Foxtel's top-rating shows, so the value in marketing is brilliant and why networks even send them preview episodes in advance. The key to the show is authenticity, and while there were some Goggleboxers happy to see Rove back on air there were those disappointed in what they saw. Based on social media responses that reflects a lot of couches in Australia," Knox told news.com.au.
"Rove polarises audiences, but to be fair, that comes with the comedy terrain these days. A lot of viewers would welcome him back to his traditional variety format, but the problem is principally one of budget versus fragmenting audiences."
And the issue of budget, Knox said, was likely a key reason why Ten was so quick to pull the plug after Saturday Night Rove sank to just 138,000 viewers in its second week on air.
"The numbers were low on debut, but it was a big fall in week two. Live television does not come cheap - even in a small studio in Pyrmont. 10 has often found solace in social media reactions but that was overwhelmingly negative too. Even the Gogglebox cast were confused by the first episode," he said.
While Knox said he believed Ten had "made the right call" in stopping the show, he said the 7.30pm show could have survived had it started in a later timeslot "where viewers are more forgiving" and where the network may have been able to give it more time to develop.
"What Rove tried was something of an anti-Tonight show, a bit loose, a bit absurdist … Unfortunately a lot of people just wanted Rove Live again and that wasn't what he was proposing," he said.
Speaking to TV Tonight after the axing, McManus himself said: "It was clear looking at the numbers that the audience we hoped would find a freewheeling live show on a Saturday night just weren't there. We spoke with 10 today and we both called it.
"The opportunity to play live in front of Australia again was fun, no matter how brief, and I would like to thank my amazing co-stars, the behind the scenes team and everyone at 10 who got behind Saturday Night Rove."
A Network 10 spokesperson told the website, "Unfortunately Saturday Night Rove hasn't resonated with viewers the way we had hoped, so Rove and 10 have made the decision to remove it from the schedule. Rove is a sensational entertainer and a close friend of 10, and we thank him for all his hard work, and all the laughs, on Saturday Night Rove."
Knox said that, with Rove's successful TV production company Roving Enterprises now 20 years old and side projects including voicing animation and writing a children's book to keep him busy, the failure of Saturday Night Rove's would likely register as little more than a career blip for the triple Gold Logie-winner.