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Series / Spicks and Specks

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Alan, Adam and Myf

Spicks and Specks is a panel/gameshow on The Australian Broadcasting Corporation themed around music and musical culture. It was hosted by comedian Adam Hills and team captains Alan Brough and Myf Warhurst from 2005 to 2011, then relaunched in 2014 with a new host, Josh Earl, and new team captains, Ella Hooper and Adam Richard (both frequent guests of the former incarnation). The 2014 version ran for one season only, as the ABC decided not to renew it for 2015. However, Adam, Alan and Myf have since returned for a few themed one-off specials since 2018, and a brand new series featuring them debuted in 2021 due to popular demand.

The program is frequented by a wide range of musicians, comedians and the occasional actor. Classical, Jazz, Pop, Rock, Metal, Hip Hop, Country, Rap, Electro, Blues, Punk, Ska, Reggae, Emo, Dance, Bebop, Rocksteady, Brass Rock, <insert other obscure music style here>. Any and every music genre has probably been touched on at some stage.

Two teams go head to head as they sing, shout and delve deep into the recesses of their collective minds to help earn their team an extremely inglorious victory. Whether discussing the lyrical genius of Gilbert and Sullivan, the reasons Ozzy Osbourne wore a dress or just how a musician can choke on a harmonica, no musical genre is overlooked well, except for maybe Swedish folk music, but hey, we've all got limits. Video clips, album covers, and information you never thought anyone could know the answer to, Spicks and Specks enlightens and entertains - and exposes the world of music like never before.

The ABC has a policy of keeping all of its content as available to the public as possible, so clips and entire episodes can be found on their website and on YouTube.

Tropes present:

  • Air Guitar: A variant - Geoffrey Rush plays an air piano and air drumset in his appearances.
  • Appeal to Audacity: The basic premise of "One Out of Three Ain't Bad": Each team is given a description of a real-life event, and then asked to guess what happened next from three options. There's always one that's either R-rated or calculated to offend someone.
  • Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: Two Little Words involves a blind-folded team member guessing an artist or band, with one word from each of the other members as a clue. Sometimes the team members fail utterly to build off the other person's word.
  • Artifact Title: "Cover Versions". Originally, panelists would sketch album covers that their team-mates had to identify. Soon, the drawings changed to Pictionary-style pictorial representations of song titles, yet the game retained its initial name despite no longer relating to any type of cover.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Adam asks two questions with answers involving the word "white". Hamish then buzzes in before he can ask the next question, rattles off a few possible answers containing "white". The answer? P!nk.
    • This happens frequently with the last three questions of "The Final Countdown" by Europe. In one case, the required answers were "(Wake me Up, Before You) Go-Go", (Lady) Gaga, and Pussycat (Dolls) (as opposed to Goo Goo).
    • One set of three questions asked the names of the people holding three titles in The Mikado. As it turns out, the same character had all three titles.
  • Book Ends: Sometimes Adam will make a music-related joke early into a episode, and it will be expanded during a musical performance played at the end of it.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Hamish Blake occasionally on account of his terrible wrong to right answer ratio. The fact that he was by some margin the most prolific guest didn't help.
    • Alan Brough during the "Sir Mix 'n' Match A Lot" round - despite his encyclopedic music knowledge, he was utterly inept at that round, stupid and irrelevant a round though it was.
    • Dave O’Neill during the revival series appears in various ridiculous costumes and situations and is often subjected to (good-natured) mockery during these appearances, mostly from Alan and Adam.
  • Captivity Harmonica: Referenced in episode #11.5 when Adam reveals that there are more harmonicas sold worldwide than any other instrument:
    Nazeem Hussain: There's a lot of people in prison.
    Alan Brough: (sarcastically) In the 1930s! (beat) If you ever go to prison, you're going to be bitterly disappointed.
  • The Cast Show Off:
    • Happens during the “Substitute” and “You’re the Voices” rounds. If a professional singer has to read a body of text or otherwise sing for a round, they'll go the extra mile. Lampshaded by Amanda Keller, who jokingly claimed she was at a disadvantage when she had to sing in "You're The Voices" against accomplished singer and musician Kate Miller-Heidke. Amanda then proceeded to win said round by a landslide.
    • Soprano singer Antoinette Halloran once sang with her signature operatic voice. In a televison studio, no less
    • On occasion, panelists have stepped up to provide the closing number for the episode, for example Tim Minchin.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Adam has "Bang on the money" or just "Bang on", whenever anyone gets a question exactly right. He also opens each episode’s play after the introductions with “Everyone on your buzzers, let’s Play Spicks and Specks”. And of course his regular signoff:
      Adam: "My Name's Adam Hills, thanks for watching Spicks and Specks. Goodnight Australia"
    • Alan has "Oh, of course!" whenever Adam says an answer nobody got. He also has “Why are we so terrible at this?!” When his team is performing particularly badly in a given round
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Chrissy Amphlett (who, of course, sang "I Touch Myself") claimed that there was a girl who threw up every time she heard Amphlett's name because she once walked in on her brother masturbating to a picture of Amphlett.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The 2014 series is always skipped from ABC TV Plus repeats, and tends to be ignored by hardcore fans. Helps because the original hosts did not reprise their roles and instead had replacement hosts, and the 2018 reunion special is officially considered to be the series’ “big comeback”.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Hamish Blake's tie in the fifties special.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Adam has a moment of this during the '00s special. For "Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma!" some Nokia 3310s are used to play the songs instead of a live band like usual. He played each song by dialling each phone to play the songs. Before the second song, he has to stop himself from turning to the inanimate phones and asking them to play the next song as he usually would with a live band.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Adam, Myf and Alan all have their moments of this
    • Certain guests. Reginald D. Hunter was a particularly adept one.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Initially, Adam and all of the team members would be sitting around a single table which makes for a far more crowded look compared to the more familiar arrangement of a long desk for each team and a separate podium between them for Adam. This would occasionally result in moments where Adam accidentally leans into the frame frame during shots of Myf and Alan
    • The traditional large screen mounted centrally above the host is also absent in the aforementioned early set, resulting in the contestants having to look somewhere offscreen when answering visual questions and choosing categories for “Know Your Product”
    • The show in general is far more subdued early on, with many of the zanier rounds, as well as those relying on the presence of live musicians, absent in the first season.
    • Season 1 episodes did not end with the usual closing musical number, instead closing with a typical credits sequence and a closing version of the shoe’s theme that is now seldom, if ever heard.
    • Early on, Adam would introduce Alan and Myf by their occupations as a comedian and Triple J radio presenter respectively. As they became more associated with this show than any of their other work, Adam’s introductions for them became more comedic, often quoting song lyrics.
  • Embarrassing Old Photo: Adam likes to dig them up. Including ones of himself.
  • Exact Words: One round of One Out Of Three Ain't Bad asked where a particular song had first been heard. Unlike the usual 'only one option is right' questions, each answer actually was a place where the song had been heard, it just all came down to which was first.
  • Facepalm: Alan has a tendency to do this while laughing. Especially following a particularly raunchy or gross joke
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Adam mentions that he uses his eyebrow to give clues. Unfortunately, he can only lift one, so Alan's team receives no clues.
  • I Can't Believe I'm Saying This:
    Adam: I never thought I'd say this, but listen to Hamish, he's right!
  • Large Ham: Anytime Barry Morgan appears.
  • Lame Pun Reaction:
    • Adam's "Sax Bomb" joke earned him lots of ribbing about telling "dad jokes".
    • Tim Minchin's serenade to Adam Hills, which contains several references to the book of Genesis throughout - one line about halfway through, "If a serpent with an apple entices me to swallow" seems to arouse Adam's suspicions. If so, they were confirmed by the last line: "But if inside my throat I feel a lump, it'll be my Adam's (Adam headdesks in realisation) apple".
  • Mondegreen: One occasional game revolved around these, with Adam explaining the story of Lady Mondegreen at one point. A particularly memorable example was "I've got shoes, they're made of pythons".
  • Namesake Gag: Adam once asked the question 'Australian opera singer Helen Porter changed her name to what to honour her birthplace?'. After an incorrect answer was given, Adam said the correct answer was Nellie Melba. Who, of course, was born in the town of Nellie.
  • Once an Episode:
    • Adam makes a bad pun on some song titles to describe Alan and Myf.
    • In the revival, recurring panelist Dave O'Neill shows up to help Adam with one segment per episode, except for one episode in the 10th season, where he returned to the panel on Myf's team
  • Panel Show
  • The Points Mean Nothing: While Adam does keep track of the scores more than most examples, there is ultimately no prize for winning an episode.
  • A Rare Sentence: This gem from Alan:
    Alan: Can I just say something that I thought I'd never get to say in my life? So, you're about to have sex with Tom Jones, and then what happened?
  • Recursive Translation: "Turning Japanese" used this. The contestants had to guess the song lyrics after they'd been translated into Japanese and back.
  • Revival: After the original show ended. It was pretty much inevitable due to a couple of reasons: first, audiences loved it, and it was one of the ABC's most popular shows. Second, despite running for six years, nobody even slightly thought that it was getting outdated or repetitive. Third, the original show ended because Adam, Alan and Myf thought that it was time to end it, and best to do so on a high note. As the revival shows, not only did a large number of viewers disagree, but it also wasn't hard to find regulars to do it.
  • Running Gag:
    • Hamish's lack of musical knowledge.
    • Alan’s ineptitude at the “Sir Mix ‘n Match-alot” round
    • Adam's missing foot has been the source of many jokes over the years.
  • Scatting:
    • "You're the Voices" had rival contestants scatting different songs at once.
    • Contestants will often do this if they know a melody but have difficulty actually naming a song. Myf is particularly known for this, and in her case it is almost always effective in getting her to the answer. In fact when Michala Banas filled in for her on the show, one of the tips she left was "when in doubt, sing it out". Sure enough, following Myf's advice earned Michala several points over the course of the episode.
  • Scunthorpe Problem: Their iPhone app was censored from the iTunes store because "spic" is apparently a racial slur in the US. Never mind that it wasn't even on sale in the US store...
  • Self-Deprecation: The first episode of the new series has host Josh Earl comparing it to AC/DC frontmen Bon Scott and Brian Johnson: "Can you imagine the pressure that Brian must've been under replacing someone so loved by Australia after 7 years?"
  • Sitting Sexy on a Piano: Adam being serenaded by Tim Minchin.
  • Ship Tease: Meat Loaf spends part of his episode mercilessly flirting with both Adam and Myf (much to Myf’s sheer excitement and Adam’s bewilderment)
  • Speed Round: Each episode ends with one of these, called "The Final Countdown".
  • Squee:
    • Myf's reaction to Guy Pearce sitting next to her.
      • Hell, she pretty much had a heart attack when she sat next to Meat Loaf, to the point that she was too overcome to do the intro to "You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)" with him.
    • Adam was quite starstruck when Weird Al was on the show.
    • Gabbi Bolt reacted this way to getting to sing for "Substitute", having grown up on the show's original run.
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: In the Australia vs, New Zealand episode, Alan Brough mentioned that Australians think New Zealand is such a small place that everyone must know everyone else. When one Australian asked him if he knew a particular New Zealander, Alan was all set to launch into a blistering retort, but instead had to—somewhat shamefacedly—admit the person in question was actually his cousin.
  • Stopped Reading Too Soon: Alan has a bad habit of buzzing in way too early and subsequently only being able to answer part of the question before having to let Adam throw to Myf’s team
  • The Summation: In the second series of the revival, Adam would do this at the end of each episode to reveal all the clues to the week's secret song after it had been revealed. This would then lead into a musical performance of said song to close the show. Cal Wilson described it as "The Columbo moment".
  • Team Dad: Adam, much to his displeasure.
  • Trivially Obvious: "The Final Countdown" would often end with a question like "what was the title of Madonna's self-titled album?"
  • Visual Pun: In the second series of the revival, clues for the Secret Song would often be delivered this way. For example, one episode featured a graphic of Keith Moon sliding over an image of the band Heart. The secret song for the episode? "Total Eclipse of the Heart."
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Molly Meldrum and Michael Gusinski, who were actually close friends, spend the 70s special trading barbs and trying to one-up each other.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Happens occasionally.
    • In one memorable example, Darlene Love started telling a story about the time she almost had sex with Tom Jones. Reginald D. Hunter chimed in "From what I hear, that's not unusual."
    • During the second series of the revival, Adam would provide clues for the episode's Secret Song this way.
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: The version of The Horne Section's "Those Were the Days (Of the Week)" performed in one episode features this, courtesy of Doc Brown.