The missing W from Will & Woody’s new Drive show
One week into Will McMahon and Woody Whitelaw’s new national Drive show on the KIIS Network, it’s already evident that someone is missing. The question is, who?
Some of the common ‘bro humour’ on display last week – “My mates latest squeeze” / “A nice little boob honk…” – will contribute little in engaging the network’s core audience, mostly made up of 35+ females.
It’s also precisely why any of the predictable parallels drawn against Hamish and Andy are unsubstantiated and unfair.
As one senior programmer put it, Hamish Blake and Andy Lee are “a once in a decade show”. The spark between them travels far beyond friendship and chemistry. It’s a brotherhood so rare that it can’t be copied. No experienced content director or executive producer would dare try.
So can Will and Woody reach the top echelons of radio stardom, too? Maybe. The chemistry is there. But it won’t happen on their own. Perhaps, at least, not without the inclusion of a woman’s wit, humour, strength and perspective.
Former Hit Network group content director Craig Bruce says Heidi Anderson was an imperative part of their last gig on Hit92.9 Perth. “They needed her life experience and perspective to help broaden the show, but Drive is a little different,” he tells Radio Today.
The bigger, more pressing question, says Bruce, is whether the show can compete with the comedic chops of Marty Sheargold, Dave Hughes and Mick Molloy? “I would think at this stage they will struggle to build those ‘funny’ images that you need to be successful in Drive.”
“Will and Woody are fun, likeable and marketable,” he added. “But I don’t think they have those consistently laugh-out-loud moments built into the show.
Up against some remarkable heritage brands, Will and Woody have only a fighting chance, one that demands constant finessing and the stamina to weather a ratings drought by network bosses.
Nova’s Kate, Tim and Marty, being the powerhouse that they are, will likely be the immediate beneficiary of any Hamish and Andy devotees twiddling the dial.
Loyal listeners of Dave Hughesy and Kate Langbroek, two very seasoned professionals, will inevitably move to Southern Cross Austereo’s Hit Network, where they begin next Monday.
And then there’s Mick Molloy and Jane Kennedy, the latest arrival to Triple M Drive. “Mick and Jane will probably turn out to be the funniest network show in the country,” says Bruce.
All three programs include a funny as all get-out comedian with a strong female personality. Any future addition to KIIS FM Drive certainly wouldn’t be the first time a network installed a third wheel to an all-male lineup. There are a few recent examples to draw from.
NOVA Entertainment recognised the need to add Sarah McGilvray to Fitzy and Wippa on Nova 96.9 Sydney. She delivers content the boys just couldn’t, or wouldn’t.
Triple M Sydney spiced up The Grill Team with Emma Freedman in 2016. A year later Triple M Brisbane seised a golden opportunity to sign Robin Bailey to Breakfast.
In adding McGilvray, Freedman and Bailey to the mix, all three of these shows have enjoyed a ratings lift from female listeners, something major advertisers look fondly upon.
With almost all of the five KIIS FM stations being female-skewed, including the two most important markets to win (Sydney and Melbourne), it’s a conversation that ARN’s top brass must have.
However, ex Hit Network Drive co-host Maz Compton believes the show can work without any interference. “If the dynamic is strong, leave it,” she tells Radio Today.
“I don’t think adding in a female for the sake of having three names in the title of a show and a new person to laugh at their jokes is a strong programming decision.”
When asked if she’d consider another round of radio roulette, Compton tells me she wouldn’t rule out a return: “I am taking each day and open door as it comes”.
But Compton isn’t the only option. A jungle of radio hopefuls will leave the wilds of Africa in a few months. Tanya Hennessy, while still signed to SCA, is without a full-time radio gig. And Sophie Monk, premium price tag aside, would comfort advertisers withholding any concerns about the network’s direction.
If the show is to have any real chance of winning over the KIIS core, competing for belly laughs and carving out a piece of the Drive pie, Will and Woody are in need of a comedic third W: Woman.