Winner: The Front Bar (Seven)
The Thursday night AFL football show The Front Bar has built a big audience and helped kill off Nine’s long-term franchise The Footy Show which now exists as a Sunday morning program with possible other special events.
The Front Bar features hosts Mick Molloy, Sam Pang and Andy Maher on three bar stools each with a glass of the sponsor’s product in front of them.
The format couldn’t be simpler as they joke with each other and then with one or two guests who either stand at an adjacent bar or sit with them at the front bar!
Behind the simple banter though is hours of painstaking research which uncovers some wonderful footage from the Seven AFL archive, and from elsewhere, which is one of the keys to the program’s success.
During 2019 The Front Bar had a brilliant running gag with Garry Lyon and Seven also programmed a short series of successful cricket specials at the start of the summer.
Speaking about the TV format that has given Nine heartburn, Molloy told Mediaweek recently: “We originally had the idea for the show many years ago.” He recalled how the concept was developed with his brother Richard Molloy, TV producer Adrian Brown and lawyer and producer Greg Sitch.
“Funnily enough, I watch a lot of live football in a front bar, or in my lounge room at home.
“One common denominator I noted was that everyone’s IQ drops 50 points the minute the football comes on with a lot of table thumping and momentary madness.
“If I had a black box recorder set up in my lounge room I’m sure that after listening back to it I would feel ashamed and quite embarrassed. To me, that’s what footy is.”
Molloy said he and his colleagues realised there seemed to be a hole in the media landscape for a footy show made by fans for fans. Molloy mentioned a UK series called Fantasy Football League which ran for several years in the 90s hosted by David Baddiel and Frank Skinner where they talked about English football purportedly in their London flat with guests. “That show was bloody brilliant,” he remembered. He also noted his involvement in 10’s Before The Game which was in a similar vein, with fans making a program for fans.
“Initially there didn’t seem to be an appetite for The Front Bar from the networks. Convinced it was a good idea, we took it to market first to look for what seemed natural sponsors – CUB was the obvious one given it was set in a bar. We also went to the AFL and we secured enough funding to make an online series.”
Ranking second amongst Mediaweek readers was The Late Show with Matty Johns which goes to air on Thursday nights after the Thursday NRL match. Over the years Johns has built a great team that also features Gorden Tallis, Nathan Hindmarsh and Bryan Fletcher.
Johns also keeps busy on Fox Sports with a video version of The Matty Johns Podcast on Wednesdays and then he hosts Sunday Night with Matty Johns. For the Sunday show Johns has an expanded team featuring Bryan Fletcher, Brett Finch, James “The Professor” Rochford, Andrew “Barney” Barnett and Emma Freedman.
Third place in our poll was a tie between AFL 360 on Fox Footy and Offsiders on ABC.
The Fox Footy show runs at 7.30pm four nights a week across the footy season with the once unlikely duo of Gerard Whateley and Mark Robertson hosting.
Offsiders was formerly hosted by Barry Cassidy and then former guest Gerard Whateley, but hosting duties are now in the capable hands of Kelli Underwood. The show screens at 10pm Sunday mornings following The Insiders.