Thank God You're Here: articles

Shane Bourne and Tom Gleisner

Back on a new channel ... Thank God You're Here's Shaun Bourne (right) and Tom Gleisner

Thank God You're Here returns to TV for a fourth season

SHANE Bourne has no desire to go where many of his fellow comedians have gone before: walking through Thank God You're Here's familiar blue door.

Over the past three seasons of the popular program, the cream of Australia's comedic community has passed through the door dressed as fairies, sporting heroes and politicians, not knowing what scenario they would meet on the other side.

This week, after earlier this year defecting from Channel 10, the improvisation show's home since launching in 2006, Thank God You're Here premieres on Channel 7.

With a reported budget of $1 million per episode, the sets are bigger, the ideas are grander and the audience has been super-sized by more than 350 people.

But apart from those changes, little has changed. That includes City Homicide star Bourne staying on his side of the blue door as host.

"I don't have any desire to go through," Bourne says from the show's new studio in a pavilion at Royal Melbourne Showgrounds.

"We discussed it earlier on and thought it would be fun. But, as we suspected, a few hosts of the program overseas have tried it and it doesn't work. It just brings the bar down, so the stakes aren't as high for everyone else. It is like a coach running on and grabbing the ball during a game.

"The whole idea of getting someone of my vintage was that I have nothing to prove, (I've) been there, done that and love it, still love it. But I do strangely enough think that in comedy, dare I say it, the desire and motivation (to go on the show) tends to dwell in younger performers."

Reminiscing about his days doing stand-up and playing comedic roles on Australian television programs including Are You Being Served? and Hey Hey It's Saturday, Bourne understands why young comedians want to feature on Thank God You're Here.

"I remember that feeling of, 'Give me the mic, I want a crack'," he says. "I don't quite have that now. I am very happy if someone hands me the mic, but I am not chomping at the bit, which I think some of them are. I think that's part of the journey."

The Logie Award-winning Thank God You're Here is the brainchild of the Working Dog production team, which includes Rob Sitch, Santo Cilauro and Tom Gleisner, who also acts as the show's judge.

When the show launched more than three years ago it was the most successful new program of the year, attracting an average audience of 1.7 million viewers. Regular guests included Fifi Box, Jimeoin and Merrick Watts.

After three seasons on Ten, the final episode screened on September 26, 2007, and has been sold for re-creation in a number of countries, including the US.

Between leaving Ten and signing with Seven, the Working Dog crew gave the show a rest. Gleisner believes the break has created extra impetus for its return.

"Having taken a year off it felt right to try some new things with the show, including a different home," he says.

"Moving will give us the opportunity to expose Thank God You're Here to a whole new audience, while also allowing Shane to continue using his City Homicide parking space," he jokes.

Bourne agrees, but says while the simultaneous workload of playing a detective senior sergeant on City Homicide and hosting Thank God You're Here for Ten is a huge juggling act, he finds working on both cathartic.

"It's good to get out there after doing City Homicide and have a laugh," he says.

"With City Homicide you are pounding through information and yet you have to maintain a sense of authority; it does take its toll so it's a really good balance.

"For some of us, and not all of us, the balance of being able to do different styles is what keeps me quite grounded really. When I am only doing one I get kind of antsy about the other."

Bourne and Gleisner are keen for viewers to experience the new season, which almost has a rock concert feel.

"Our new location, which is very exciting and thrilling and shiny ...The first episode, walking out there it did feel like a rock concert and gee it cracks," Bourne says.

"People are asking what is new about the show, but every time someone walks through the door it's new. It's funny because the Working Dog guys say that time and time again they are watching and have gone through every possible response, but when the person walks in they are often like, 'That wasn't on the page'. That's the joy of it."

By Erin McWhirter
April 29, 2009
The Daily Telegraph