world's most animated host
smart, funny, quick on his feet, at ease with the
stars and on exceedingly good terms with himself.
All the things you might expect in a talk-show host.
The difference with David Tench, of course, is that
he's a computer animation.
official biography would have us believe that he's
a boy from Echuca who got his big break on TV in the
US (hence the accent) and has returned to Australia
to "put something back" into the local industry.
truth, Tench is the brainchild of Andrew Denton, brought
into the world by the electronic midwifery of Animal
Logic, an Australian firm that has created visual
effects for The Matrix: Reloaded, The Lord of the
Rings and House of Flying Daggers.
is also a world first. No one has ever created an
animated talk-show host before, much less one who
interviews his guests in real time.
are so far out there, without help," Denton says.
"We have no lifeline, which is very exciting
and pretty scary. "It's had a nine-month gestation.
It's a baby and there's a lot more that will and can
be done with it, but it will also have its flaws."
however, seems to be taking his first steps with aplomb.
His guests, seated before a live audience, see him
talking to them in real time on a video screen. Motion-capture
technology affixed to the actor who plays him gives
Tench an amazing range of facial expressions. Often
he says as much with his face and his body language
as he does with his preposterous repartee.
a taping last week, Tench had football star Dwight
Yorke and author Matthew Reilly in stitches. Yorke
later pronounced him the new [Michael] Parkinson.
Reilly happily endured Tench's literary criticism
("Like all Australians, I hate literature. But
I love your books.") and confessed that he was
pleased to have been interviewed by someone who had
done his research.
identity of the man who plays Tench is a closely guarded
secret but Denton is happy to reveal the identities
of those who provided the inspiration.
is some Gordon Elliott in there, there's some Alan
Jones, there's Norman Gunston, there's some Max Headroom,
there's some John Tesh, there's dozens of people,"
Denton says. "He's no one person - he's unique
- but there's a lot of people's DNA in him."
genetic make-up seemingly renders Tench unable to
ask anything resembling a serious question.
I think is nice for both the audience and the guests
is they're being asked to engage in something which
they can also just have fun with. There's nothing
important riding on it," Denton says.
is set up to be purely half an hour of fun and entertainment.
It has no other pretensions. It is meant to be funny
and fun and surprising, beginning and end of story.
guests are great and we always want good guests, but
the show is about David Tench. It's about a character
and he's the character.
a nice thing to see on television - guests actually
genuinely laughing and being surprised. We're kind
of used to television being predictable, and hopefully
if we get the show right you won't be able to predict
the guests' responses or the host's attitudes. As
a viewer, that's what I seek on television, something
that surprises me."
a sentiment shared by Ten's programming chief David
Mott, who says the decision to go ahead with the show
was "hugely risky" but not as risky as not
want to find shows that get people talking about it
the next day in the office, chatting on the internet,"
loved the fact that it was risky television ... You
have to be (prepared to take risks) nowadays. You've
got to put your balls on the line and go 'You know
what? Let's do this.' "
made that decision, Mott says he intends to stand
by it. No matter what the ratings are, he says, Tench
will not go the way of Ten's spectacular reality failure
Yasmin's Getting Married, yanked off air this month
after just four episodes.
are absolutely committed to this show because it deserves
a run, it deserves time to breathe so people absolutely
understand it, get to know who David Tench is and
what the format represents," Mott says.
made a respectable debut in the ratings last week,
attracting 1.15 million viewers nationally against
Celebrity Survivor (1.2 million for its first half
television these days you can't be the least objectionable,"
Mott says. "That's the easy way out. It's a cop-out.
can produce television that's not wallpaper. For that
older audience that's satisfied that there's a Getaway
or a this or a that there, you'll always get an audience,
but the breakouts, the shows that people are really
going to talk about, are shows like Tench.
of my philosophy is that we're never going to get
it right with everything, but if we don't take the
bold moves like this, television won't grow as a medium,
won't grow as an industry."
said Tench hadn't been particularly expensive for
the network, and that there could be money to be made
out of it, as he and Denton are planning on selling
the concept overseas.
the meantime, whether Tench turns out to be a golden-haired
boy or a problem child, Mott says he and the other
network bigwigs will be keeping their noses out of
we have here is a group of people who are not only
very intelligent, they know television, they know
their craft very well, and I'm saying to them, 'Guys,
you deliver us the goods.' "
Tench Tonight screens Thursdays at 8.30pm on Ten.