I'm not sure there's any point to the ABC and free-to-air television now there's no Mad As Hell on.
You remember free-to-air TV. It's the one with the shows that start playing when the TV wants them to start playing. Which is different to streaming, which is the one with the shows that start playing when you want them to start playing - if only you can decide on which flipping show to watch. Or at least start to watch.
Anyway, Mad As Hell ended on September 21 after 11 years, 15 seasons and 170 episodes. I'm as sad as hell because they're not gonna make it any more.
As the show's occasional guest, Senior Sergeant Max Payne (played by Francis Greenslade), once told host Shaun Micallef while comparing criminal behaviour to a terrible wallpapering job in a multi-storey apartment building: this is wrong on so many levels.
Mad As Hell has been by far the funniest program on Australian TV for years. Not counting Sky News after dark, of course.
Each week Micallef would sit at his fake new desk anchoring a fake news show and interviewing fake people about slightly less fake political news and current events.
For a program that just made jokes about the news, it was the best news show on TV.
In a moment, we'll look back at perhaps the cleverest sketch the program ever put to air. But first, a recap of what we're already missing: Micallef playfully swaggering through clever, intricately scripted commentary drawn from the headlines and laced with deliciously wry wit; characters that parodied politicians with precision; comedy sketches that veered vigorously to the absurd; and hilarious fake ABC promos for fake documentaries and dramas you wish you could watch ("Farmer Wants Some Bastards To Picking His F---ing Fruit").
With its title and its attitude inspired by the landmark 1976 movie Network, starring Aussie Peter Finch as an unhinged TV anchorman who becomes "the mad prophet of the airwaves" ("I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"), Mad As Hell excelled at barbed swipes at politicians. Given the circus in Canberra, the show pretty much wrote itself most weeks, which Micallef himself has noted was a nice budget saving for the ABC.
There has been talk it might return without Micallef, who has a new book out this week but who's said he wants to work with the ABC on "evolving the show with someone else in the chair".
There'd be few performers capable of carrying on Micallef's calibre of satire. None of them are Charlie Pickering. All of them are known to Mad As Hell fans: series regulars Emily Taheny, Stephen Hall, Christie Whelan Browne, Francis Greenslade, Roz Hammond or Tosh Greenslade. Any one of them would shine as host of Mad As 2.0.
Taheny's fake TV news reporter, Bovina Jhizquax, features in what, for mine, is Mad As Hell's best ever sketch. It's not topical or political. It's a genius bit of cliche word play written to perfection, beautifully performed and shrewdly framed through the artifice and inanity of the TV news "live cross".
The scene: Bovina is reporting breaking news of an explosion in the suburbs. She is on the street interviewing resident Ian Dream (Francis Greenslade, again) about exactly what he heard.
Ian: I heard this almighty explosion. It sounded like a bomb going off.
Bovina: A bomb had gone off.
Ian: Yeah I know, I heard it.
Bovina: So it sounded exactly like what it was?
Ian: Well yeah, but I didn't know what had happened.
Bovina: Why wouldn't you have thought a bomb had gone off?
Ian: Well, it sounded like a bomb had gone off, but I didn't know what actually happened.
Bovina: Why couldn't it have been a bomb going off?
Ian: It only sounded like a bomb going off. It could have been anything.
Bovina: What else could it have been, other than a bomb going off, that sounds more like a bomb going off than a bomb going off?
Ian: I don't know, I've never heard a bomb go off.
Bovina: Yes you have, about an hour ago.
Ian: Yeah, yeah, but before that.
Bovina: If you'd never heard a bomb go off, how did you know it sounded like a bomb going off? You couldn't have, could you?
Bovina: You're a liar, Mr Dream. Back to you, Shaun.
Watch the clip here and look for Mad As Hell on ABC iView.
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