I must admit, when I saw an advertisement promoting Magda Szubanski as the host of the new reboot of the Weakest Link, I was a little perplexed.
Funny lady and all time Aussie comedy queen Magda Szubanski as the quizmaster on the Weakest Link? Is this the greatest joke of all?
For those unfamiliar with the format, which originated in the UK in 2000, the host is usually the star of the show who uses the contestants as fodder between stages.
The last host of the Australian show, the late, great Cornelia Frances, was a firecracker and truly proved a great mirror to the UK’s bluntest host, Anne Robinson.
Frances fit the bill. Her characters have been generally villains, so the “Queen of Mean” was an obvious fit.
My confusion is a shared experience. The choice to hire Magda was “surely a mix up”, according to the SMH’s Andrew Hornery.
“For millions of Australians, myself included, Magda Szubanski is anything but a bitch,” he so succinctly put it.
Magda did give us some indication of change earlier today when she told Nine that the show has “a larrikin Australian” vibe to it.
“You’ll see hints of my old characters, more banter with the contestants. It’s more fun,” she said, worryingly.
“I believe in evolving traditions, and it’s not your mum and dad’s Weakest Link at all.
“There’s actually a lot at stake,” she said of the competition. But it seems there’s a lot at stake for this new iteration.
So, after the show’s debut episode how did she rate?
It’s a confusing mix of trying to be what it was and trying to move on.
Magda is no Cornelia, she got some laughs. We scored a glimpse of a former character, the iconic Lynne (“I said pet”). She tried the nasty vibe. But did it work? You can’t help but love Magda but is it enough to sustain the show for such an iconic role?
Critics weren’t so sure.
“She just shouldn’t have done the stern character. If she did it as herself it could have worked,” TV insider Rob McKnight said.
“I think I’m done.”
It seems the strength of the show could rely on the quirky contestants and their devastatingly embarrassing incorrect answers as they fight to stay in the game in the hope of winning a cash prize of up to $250,000. Laura Bingle, any one?
Julia, below, is particularly cheerful, she’s a celebrant whose highlight was marrying a couple in…a hot air balloon.
Then there’s sassy Priscilla, pretty in pink.
And some sassy banter.
Magda told Media Week that she “has no desire to be another Cornelia” and deliberately didn’t watch the Australian version. She drew instead from Jane Lynch, host of the American version of the series.
“Jane Lynch did a very different thing and that was what encouraged me to do it,” she said.
“When the producers first approached me, they sent me an episode of Jane Lynch doing it and I went, ‘ah, now that I get.’
“So, it’s not brutal like some of the earlier iterations of the show, and it is its own beast, which is appropriate. It’s playful as well as stern, you know?
“And the contestants are up for it. It’s hilarious. They want me to roast them, and I’m like ‘alright!!!’.”
She told A Current Affair that “the world’s just a different place you know, so, it’s stern but it’s not quite as brutal as the English one.”
Whether that will be enough to keep the Weakest Link on top is another question.
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