We Asked The ‘Spicks And Specks’ Team Why The Show Is Just So Goddamn Wholesome
"It was like a family -- Adam, Alan, and I are all really close and have remained so over the years."
Adam Hills remembers one piece of advice he was given at the very start of Spicks and Specks: “You should always remember this, no one sets out to make a terrible song.”
In an early episode of the show, they’d been making fun of an Australian musician’s pretty awful music video from the seventies. Afterwards, their producer warned them about being wary of the tone the show wanted to convey.
“Paul [Spicks and Specks’ producer] came up to us and said ‘look, you are completely right to diss this guy that’s a terrible video, however…. everyone is doing their best and trying to make a good song.’ So, I think that stuck with us from the very early days. Yeah, we can make jokes but let’s not be mean.”
It’s both extremely good advice for everyone, and an indication of Spicks and Speck’s defining feature: wholesomeness. It’s genuinely feel-good, delightful television, like spending a night at the pub with all your funniest and most charming friends.
I once heard it described as Never Mind The BuzzCocks, but with nice people. And it’s just so true. It was funny, weird, often lewd, but never mean. It was always a celebration.
“Bill Bailey said something similar,” agrees Adam Hills. “after doing an episode [of Spicks and Specks], he said ‘well it was like being on Buzzcocks, but whenever I said something funny, no one said shut up freak -boy.'”
— ABC TV + iview (@ABCTV) October 15, 2018
The long-running and beloved show is coming back for a one-off reunion special, so we chatted to hosts Adam Hill and Myf Warhurst about what it’s been like bringing the team back together.
“I think we were a bit unsure at first until we knew whether it would be the right thing to do because we left out on a high. It rarely happens these days, but we didn’t get the sack,” Myf Warhurst tells me, referring to the rash of cancellations on the ABC recently.
“So, when the offer came up to do this, I know I went, ‘Oh, I’m not sure. I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do. If it doesn’t work, we’ve ruined the legacy that we left. But then the other option is that it could work and it could be heaps of fun.’ And we filmed it, and I can safely say as soon as we sat down, and I looked at Adam and Alan, and it’s just like putting on an old pair of boots, you know? It was so good. We just had that magic.”
For Hills, it was a no-brainer: he told me he felt “absolutely no different” about the prospect of reuniting.
“If anything, it felt a bit more fun, because we’d been away from each other, and we’re all excited to get back to do it again… We were just loving being back with each other’s company, and it all clicked. It absolutely clicked.”
So, Why Was Spicks And Specks So Wholesome?
As well as the idea of “not being mean to people”, Spicks and Specks had other ways of creating wholesome TV. Adam Hills points out it was the quality of guests that the show regularly had on that helped with this.
“The other great piece of advice we received that I think made it a show people loved to watch, came from Peter Faiman, he was one of our consultants early on. He said to me, ‘you’ve got to treat this like a dinner party where the viewers don’t know who the guests are or who you’re talking about.'”
Adam Hills tells me about the time Alan Brough was approached on the street by an elderly woman who said, “I’ve been watching Spicks and Specks since it started, I don’t know who any of you are talking about but it’s just nice to see people enjoying each others company on television”.
“It was like a family — Adam, Alan, and I are all really close and have remained so over the years,” Myf Warhurst explains.
“I think we all knew at the time, we just got so lucky to have this moment where all three of us just gelled really easily. We didn’t have to work hard at it, and that happens so rarely in anything you do in the creative field, I don’t know what the magic is, but it worked for us and just getting back together and hanging out was just as much fun.”
What Was The Most Iconic Spicks and Specks Moment?
With such a lengthy and hilarious run, there is an abundance of iconic moments from the show. But I’m not interested in iconic moments — I want to find the example of the most Spicks and Specksiest instant in all of Spicks and Specks. The segment or scene or game that exemplifies the soul of the show, that you’d use to seduce a new watcher into it.
Myf immediately picks a ballsy choice:
“Oh, I think speaking of Frank Woodley, it would have to be the one where he is on and at the end, one of our guests — Little Nell — had a ’60s pop hit which had her in a bathing suit doing the swim. During the original filming apparently, her bathing top came down and that was the story she told — and then Frank did his own version of that, the dance in a bathing suit. I don’t know if you remember this.”
I totally remember this.
“As he was doing it, he was pulling because the bathing top was coming down, he started pulling up his bathers so… everything was coming out.”
She’s talking about at least one of Frank Woodley’s testicles.
“We had no idea it was happening. It is I reckon one of the funniest moments on Australian television I’ve ever seen. I just… I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. I laughed so hard it hurt. I was just thinking about that the other day. It’s such a perfect indication of what the show is about, which is about artists and their stories. I reckon that’s the episode that would have to go down as one of the iconic episodes for sure.”
Adam Hills also agrees with Myf’s choice, adding: “Frank’s testicle, you can’t get past that, that’s television gold.”
But he also identified another top moment:
“I mean, the top for me, for me the most iconic Spicks and Specks moment would be a choice of either when we did the Time Warp the episode with Richard O’Brien. I really enjoyed that, because it came out of nowhere, then suddenly you had Alan, and Myf as Brad and Janet and Richard Gill — God rest his soul — and then you had Richard O’Brien down the front singing Rocky Horror, and then at the end all stripped down fishnet stockings.”
Is Spicks and Specks Ever Coming Back For A New Series?
Reminiscing is all well and good, but we need to know: does Spicks & Specks have a future beyond this one-off special?
“Oh, I can’t imagine that that could happen, to be honest,” Myf says, citing Adam Hills busy UK schedule as the main hurdle.
“We had such a nice time, and it was so much fun. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll ask if he’ll be interested for a special or two here and there. Maybe that might be nice. I had such a good time.”
Adam Hills seconds the idea of specials.
“I mean, after we did this reunion special, I said to the guys I don’t know about you but I would happily come and do this every year for Ausmusic Month,” says Adam Hills, which is pretty hopeful.
“I said to Alan after the reunion special, if this our way of saying goodbye to Spicks and Specks for good, I’m happy with that because when we did our farewell special it was too much sadness in the end, because we knew we wouldn’t be back on again. But this time it was just right for me, so if this is the end, I’m glad we did it our way.”
The Spicks & Specks reunion will kick off at 7.40pm on Sunday, November 4.
Patrick Lenton is the Entertainment Editor of Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton.