Thank God You're Here: articles

Bourne and Gleisner

INSTIGATORS… Shane Bourne and Tom Gleisner from Thank God You're Here.

Bluff saves the day

SHANE Bourne is quite sure that if it would have been anyone else behind Thank God You're Here he wouldn't have been interested in the hosting gig.

But because it was another project from the creative genius that is Working Dog Rob Sitch, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy, Santo Cilauro and executive producer Michael Hirsh he jumped at the chance.

"My working life was heading down another path, doing the drama thing, and I was somewhat protective of that because I had come from the other side of the fence," Bourne says.

"If it had been someone other than Working Dog I would have told them that I was trying to concentrate on the drama but as soon as I saw the pilot of the show I knew I had to do it.

"Now I just love watching the scenarios; they are the funniest thing I have ever seen."

The "scenarios" that Bourne is talking about are the skits that make up Thank God You're Here which will premiere on Channel 10 tonight.

Every week four guest performers some of them comedians who have a history doing stand-up and other more serious actors are invited on to the Thank God You're Here set to be thrust into a situation they know nothing about and to bluff their way through.

They are dressed in a costume, which gives them a few hints about their character, but they walk into a room with a handful of actors who have rehearsed possible scenarios and are ready with lines to steer the performance in certain directions.

"As soon as they get in, they know their character, but the humour is in the fact that it is a matter of survival," Bourne says.

"It is about one person walking into a situation that's totally established but they are the only one in the room who has no idea what that situation is."

Sitch said Working Dog had been knocking the idea for the show around for years, while working on other projects like The Panel, but only got serious about turning it into a program for Ten late last year.

"The original idea was to imagine you walk into a room, and you don't know who you are or what that room is, and you have to bluff your way through," Sitch says.

"It is not improvising, it's bullshitting, and it's amazing how good everyone is at bullshitting, it's a curious skill.

"We spent the past four years saying it could be the idea for a TV show and we kept coming back to it, and everyone we told the idea to just loved it."

Bourne, who won an AFI Award for his part in the ABC's medical drama MDA back in 2003, said that during the first five episodes it was often the guest performer's body language that got the biggest laugh from the studio audience.

"The guests may not be coming out with the big zinger lines but the humour was just in seeing them thinking," Bourne says.

"It's the look in their eyes that is the most funny to me and people sometimes laugh the hardest when they think the guest has got themselves into a corner that they can't get out of, when they are not actually drowning but they are pedalling very fast."

Thank God You're Here which is the line that's used to kick off every scenario has recruited a variety of guests artists to appear in the eight episodes of the first season.

Kath & Kim star Peter Rowsthorn, FiFi Box from the Shebang radio show and RocKwiz host Julia Zemiro took part in some of the early episodes of the show which were recorded long before the program debuted on television.

"Every week there are totally different stars on the show and you can't predict what they are going to do at any stage," Bourne says.

"Just because they are a comedian doesn't mean they will be cracking jokes the whole way through the thing as it depends on the scenario, but the beauty of the format is we can use different styles of performers.

"But the best thing about the show is that it's family entertainment and people will be able to come back to the idea that family TV doesn't have to be less exciting than something that is on later at night."

Thank God You're Here, Ten, Wednesdays 7.30pm

By Sarah Nicholson
April 05, 2006
The Courier Mail