COMMENT

Two years ago, The Spinoff founder Duncan Greive wrote a fairly lengthy piece headlined: "TV is dead", which included the damning line, "Television's not coming back".

Three weeks ago, The Spinoff launched its very own TV show on Three. Funny ol' world innit?

They're aware of the contradiction. Spinoff writer turned Spinoff TV host, Alex Casey introduced the first episode of the 16-part series by joking: "You might remember us from such headlines as 'Good news: TV is dead'. We admit now that might have been a tad hasty."

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But three episodes in, I'm thinking they got it right the first time.

You know that feeling when the kids in your life put on a "show" and you have to pretend to love it so as not to hurt their tiny feelings and crush their dreams?

Well, that's where we're at. I want to like The Spinoff TV, because I like these guys - especially hosts Alex Casey and Leonie Hayden. They're great humans with important things to say, and I hate begrudging anyone giving something new a go.

But it's just not good. And the resounding silence from commentators and social media in general, makes me think we're all in the same lounge, watching our nieces and nephews dance to Let It Go from Frozen.

For the first time, the nation appears to have collectively agreed, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

But here's the thing about TV: It's much easier to criticise than it is to make and anyone who does the former for a living should know that.

It's especially hard when the people making it are a bunch of journalists trying to find the line between news and humour - and have been given one of the most established comedy slots in the weekly TV schedule.

The Spinoff TV airs straight after 7 Days on Friday nights, in a slot which has previously been home to Jono and Ben, Fail Army and Funny Girls.

But it isn't a comedy show. It draws on content from a news website, presented by journalists who have sub-zero on-screen chemistry and is produced by people whose backgrounds are in news, current affairs and local drama.

Normally, this is where I'd tell you what The Spinoff TV is, but I don't actually know. And I strongly suspect they don't either. There are some news aspects, some comedy segments and some of what Hayden herself has referred to as plain "nonsense".

It's a hodge-podge of whatever they can pull together each week with no flow or format, and without the strong comedic writing or charismatic presenters that could potentially make that okay.

This approach might work for The Spinoff's online audience, but this is TV. Publicly funded TV in a highly-sought after slot, which could have been much better filled by the likes of The Male Gayz or Anika Moa: Unleashed, which have both been reserved for online streaming (perhaps because TV is "dead" and "not coming back"?)

Here's the real kicker: The Spinoff TV was publicly funded to the tune of $700,000. A massive investment for a show, which simply is not doing well.

In the three weeks since launch, The Spinoff TV has lost half its target audience (viewers aged 25-54), plummeting from a debut audience of 73,000 to just 35,000 last week. By comparison, Funny Girls averaged an audience of 68,000 viewers aged 25-54 this year.

The numbers are slightly more promising in the 5+ demographic where the show debuted to a 114,500-strong viewership, but as The Spinoff's Duncan Greive has been quick to point out in the past, that's a demographic that doesn't really matter when talking about a show in a time slot like this.

Oddly, much of what Greive has said in the past is relevant here. When heartily sledging the TV show he most loves to hate, Filthy Rich, Greive said its audience of 250,000 meant it "wasn't particularly popular in the mass market". And even lower ratings as time went on "suggests it was not a product we wanted".

Yet, here we are with another 13 episodes of The Spinoff TV still to come, despite viewers declining at such a rate there'll be no one left by the end.

I'm not saying everything about this show is awful. There are some solid ideas in the mix, just poorly executed - and without the accessible humour that this timeslot demands.

Casey and Hayden regularly joke about how they don't know what they're doing. But preempting your content with the acknowledgement it's probably not very good, doesn't make it any better.

"We're not professionals but we're giving it a go" doesn't quite cut it when you're playing with $700,000 of taxpayers' money.

In fairness, we're only three episodes in and the show could still be - very slowly - finding its feet. But at the rate things are going, no one will be left to see if they ever get there.