Thank God You're Here: articles

Thank God going global

US network NBC is the latest international programmer to pick up the rights to Working Dog's series Thank God You're Here.

The network home of ER and America's Got Talent will film a pilot of Ten's improvisational variety show in November after coming to Melbourne to watch episodes prepared here.

FremantleMedia has already sold the format in 10 territories and versions of the program created by Rob Sitch, Santo Cilauro and Tom Gleisner are screening in Denmark and the Netherlands. Denmark's program debuted extremely well on Sunday and the Dutch version improved in its second week.

Working Dog's Michael Hirsh concedes it is early days for any potential US version.

"We're realistic that we know pilots are pilots and series are series," he said. "I know that, basically, NBC wants a hit show.

"We got on to their radar like the rest. When shows are successful somewhere, people are looking to see if they can make it work for their own territory."

FremantleMedia is selling and producing the format worldwide after signing with Working Dog in March. The simple format drops celebrities, actors or comedians into unfamiliar situations. A variation on Theatresports, it sees one person improvise in a real environment where everybody else is scripted. Shane Bourne hosts the local edition in which Shaun Micallef, Peter Rowsthorn and Tony Martin have all starred. Last week's episode attracted 1.7 million viewers.

Hirsh said Working Dog's previous successes, including films The Castle and The Dish, Ten series The Panel and the Jetlag Travel Guide books, count for little internationally.

"I think Fremantle have the weight, not us," he said. "They're one of the big production companies in the world so when they walk into a room it's about them. Our track record helped us in Australia with Ten and helped us get the appointment with Fremantle."

American networks are currently open to international formats, particularly British. English adaptation Dancing With the Stars is taking off again in the US and FremantleMedia has sold America's Got Talent and American Idol into the territory. It has already sold the Thank God format to networks in Russia, Sweden, Portugal, Romania, Belgium, Israel and Germany and expects to seal more deals at next week's Mipcom. Hirsh said the program's appeal is obvious. "This show is attracting an audience that's not normally watching television, the young."

That audience is also working online. Free clips from the series have already been downloaded more than 200,000 times from, and its podcasts were the top-rated download from Apple's local iTunes podcasting service last week, while Ten is adding clips to YouTube.

The program's success is yet another hit for some of the graduates of the D-Generation. Their current-affairs spoof series, Frontline, continues to resonate and the third book in their satirical travel-guide series, San Sombrero, has just been released. Hirsh says The Panel will return for its annual Christmas program on Ten but the group's 2007 time is likely be devoted to Thank God You're Here.

By Michael Bodey
October 05, 2006
The Australian