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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 ABC 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 is set to debut 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, Beebop, 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". 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.
  • 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 segment. If a professional singer has to read a body of text, they'll go the extra mile.
    • Soprano singer Antoinette Halloran once sang with her signature operatic voice. In a televison studio, no less.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Adam has "Bang on the money" or just "Bang on", whenever anyone gets a question exactly right.
    • Alan has "Oh, of course!" whenever Adam says an answer nobody got.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Certain guests. Reginald D. Hunter was a particularly adept one.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Panel Show
  • The Points Mean Nothing
  • 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.
  • Scatting: "You're the Voices" had rival contestants scatting different songs at once.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?"
  • 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."