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ABC lights up social media with NYE fizzer

With national coverage, a host of guest stars and spectacular fireworks, the ABC's coverage of Australia's New Year's Eve celebrations should have been a sparkler, so what went wrong?

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COMMENT

New Year's Eve comes with the perennial question: should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Thanks to the ABC's coverage of last night's fireworks-laden festivities, we have an answer: come back Richard Wilkins, all is forgiven.

With the 2013 best and worst lists safely out of the way, the national broadcaster cleverly waited until December 31 to slip in one of the great televised train wrecks of this or any other year, taking the tired but tested formula honed over many years by Channel Nine and setting fire to it with a suicidal enthusiasm not seen since the first time they asked someone other than Bert to host the Logies.

It is hard to tell exactly what went wrong; suffice to say that almost nothing went right as the nation tuned in to watch Lawrence Mooney and Stephanie Brantz attempt to wrangle the annual harbourside celebration into something new, fresh and interesting. It was - in case you missed it and have only your own embarrassments to contemplate today - like watching a Quentin Tarantino remake of The Sound of Music.

In that sense, it had the advantage of keeping viewers screwed to the floor – it was hard to look away. But if you did, it hardly mattered: listening to it from another room was all you needed to know. Not a personality – be they Chaser luminary, newsroom star or musical act of head-scratching provenance – passed across the ABC couch without hollering their contributions with the fervour of harbourside guests who had fallen over the edge to find themselves being mauled by sharks.

At times, a viewer could sense the desperation from the talent: how bloody long till the big bang? Never fear, people. We at home shared your fevered hope that it would soon be over.

Quite what the ABC was trying to achieve may be unclear today, even to those who set out to achieve it. That it was an exercise in detonating the dag element of the Nine years seemed to be the obvious goal, but it's fair to say the half dozen people who found the exercise a breath of fresh, hip air were otherwise occupied on the night.

The shame is the waste of talent. There was poor Mooney, a man of great and varied wit, who might have wreaked havoc with the formula but was rendered largely startled by the occasion; Brantz, an accomplished ABC presenter who had the obvious misfortune of knowing she was the conductor of a train going off a cliff in a blaze of gunpowder; and a parade of guests about whom we will remember that they came, they sat, and they shouted.

In search of a redeeming feature, let's dip our lid to Shaun Micallef, who provided the voiceover on a series of year-in-review segments. Micallef doesn't miss a trick: he got the lines right and made sure he was nowhere near the place when the bomb went off.

But it wasn't enough. Next year - for Auld Lang Syne – let's leave the sparkly business with the experts in adding dazzle to an old dirge. Over to you, Richard Wilkins.