Melanie Bracewell and Tim McDonald on the view from The Cheap Seats


• “It’s almost relieving to know that the people that are watching the show quite like us!”

Major news stories, not-so-major news stories, stories involving cats, entertainment, sport, and viral videos. The Cheap Seats takes a look back at the week that was at 8:30pm Tuesdays on Channel 10 and 10 Play.

Mediaweek spoke to hosts Melanie Bracewell and Tim McDonald about how the show came together and what the world looks like from The Cheap Seats.

The Cheap Seats

The Cheap Seats is produced by the team at Working Dog Productions, and it was that team that originally approached Bracewell and McDonald.

McDonald: “The Working Dog boys had been playing around with this idea for a long time, then Channel 10 came to them and said, ‘we’ve run out of NCIS, have you got anything for Tuesday nights?’. They turned to Mel and I – we had both been doing Have You Been Paying Attention? for them – and they said, ‘we’ve got this idea, do you guys want to have a play around with it?’ We got to play around with it at the start of the year, and we did about seven or eight pilots.”

Bracewell: “It almost started with the Have You Been Paying Attention? off cuts. They’d say, we find all the stuff and we have no idea where to put it, so could we just hand it off to you guys and you guys make it funny.”

McDonald: “On Have You Been Paying Attention?, the clips we play tend to be about five seconds long. We don’t have time to play anything longer than that. We were finding great stuff that was 20 or 30 seconds long, so I think it was a way to use all that stuff that we find each week in a different way.”

The Cheap Seats

McDonald and Bracewell alongside Ed Kavalee, Kitty Flanagan, and Sam Pang on Have You Been Paying Attention?

Finding Their Feet

With almost a whole season of the show under their belts, the pair are feeling a lot more comfortable.

Bracewell: “We’re a little bit more relaxed and maybe slightly less frantic about it now. Tim and I had never really hosted a TV show before, so those first few weeks it felt like a lot was on us. But now it’s almost relieving to know that the people that are watching the show quite like us! So that’s a lot of pressure taken off. Sometimes when you’re on Have You Been Paying Attention? people might go ‘I love the show, but not you’, but if they watch our show they probably like us, which is nice.”

McDonald: “It’s a lot of fun to put together. We come in on a Monday morning going ‘did you see this moment from Seven News Tasmania?’ and we get to show funny clips to each other. So we enjoy the process of making it. Then it’s showing some fun clips to an audience, it feels like when you walk in to your partner or your friends and go ‘did you see this?’. It’s that fun sharing moment.”

The Cheap Seats Correspondents 

Jumping behind The Cheap Seats desk every week are entertainment correspondent Mel Tracina and sports correspondent Titus O’Reily. Bracewell and McDonald say that getting the pair involved made perfect sense.

McDonald: “I’ve known Mel Tracina now for 10 years – we did a uni comedy show together, and then she went off and did radio. We were looking for an entertainment person and I threw Mel’s name in because she’s always wanted to do TV. The guys said yeah, okay, we’ll have a look, and then they called her the next day. This is her first TV gig, which is so hard to believe because she’s such a natural and she’s super bubbly and funny. 

“We’ve known Titus for a while, and the guys have known Titus for a while. He’s been on The Front Bar here in Melbourne, he’s a great comedian. We needed someone to do sport and he seemed like the perfect fit.”

Bracewell: “It’s almost strange how it all fit together so easily. We thought we’ll do these tests with all these people who are going to give it a go, and then those two just smashed it. We were like, okay, so that’s the show, we don’t need to go ‘sorry, we’ll try someone else.’ Those guys smashed it out of the park.”

McDonald: “We also did that with the hosts!”

Live Audiences

So far The Cheap Seats has been filmed without a studio audience, but with Australia opening up and Covid-19 restrictions easing, Bracewell and McDonald say it could be a possibility in the future.

Bracewell: “Interestingly, when we weren’t in lockdown, that wasn’t the plan. We were coming out of the end of the last lockdown – four or whatever it was – and we thought we’d just have the crew in the audience. I think it’s a tough sell to say come and see this show you’ve never seen and never heard of, but now that the show is out there and there are people that really like it, it would be quite cool for people to be able to come to the recordings.”

McDonald: “It would be great, and hopefully a part of opening up. That’s something that we can have a look at for next year is inviting people to come and see it who don’t have to be there.”

Bracewell: “People who aren’t contractually obliged to stand behind a camera and laugh!”

Looking Ahead

The Channel 10 upfront brought with it the news that The Cheap Seats has been renewed for another season in 2022.  

Bracewell: “I think my hopes were probably a bit too high. As soon as I got here I was like, I’ll buy a car cause I’m sure this will last seasons and seasons. But it just so happened to work out that way. So it’s very, very lucky for my presumptions.”

McDonald: “We had to get renewed because literally as soon as the first episode went to air New Zealand closed the trans-Tasman bubble and Mel was stuck here. We had to make it work just to give Mel something to do. 

“But it’s amazing, we’ve loved doing the show and 10 are very kind in supporting it.”

Top Image: Melanie Bracewell and Tim McDonald

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