Thank God You're Here: articles

Thank God the Americans are buying our comedy

AN AMERICAN version of the Australian comedy hit Thank God You're Here is set to premiere on a major United States network with a dream cast and a prime-time slot.

US network NBC starts a run of six episodes of the show on April 9, with a cast that includes Bryan Cranston (the addled dad in Malcolm in the Middle), Seinfeld alumni Wayne Knight and Jason Alexander, veteran comics Fred Willard and Fran Drescher, wild-boy prankster Tom Green and singer Alanis Morrisette.

It is the first time an Australian comedy format has gone into production on a free-to-air US network.

The improvised sketch-comedy show was a smash hit on Channel Ten last year, with some episodes attracting more than 2 million viewers. The concept involves a guest responding to an unforeseen scenario into which they have been dropped.

The one-hour show will air on NBC on Wednesday nights at 8pm following Deal or No Deal.

Thank God You're Here was created by Working Dog, the tight-knit team behind The Panel, the feature films The Castle and The Dish and a series of comic travel guides "for the undiscerning traveller".

Working Dog partner Michael Hirsh attended the taping of the pilot and served as a consultant to the American producers. He said that while there were differences between the two versions, "the fear in the performers' eyes when they walk through the door is exactly the same; it's a human response and not geographic".

Mr Hirsh said it was rare for an Australian creation to be accepted by a US network and that the decision of NBC to produce its own version of the show vindicated the talent and creativity of Australians.

"We live in a very competitive environment, we need to be able to be good to survive," he said.

Other locally conceived formats to sell into the lucrative US market include the home renovation show The Block, which aired as The Complex on the Fox Network, and Kath and Kim, a pilot of which is expected to be shot in the US in mid-July.

New Australian Thank God You're Here episodes will be seen this year. The US version is not expected to air in Australia.

By Paul Kalina
February 28, 2007
The Age