Shaun Micallef dishes up an uneasy mix of jokes and current affairs in <i>Mad as Hell</i>.

Shaun Micallef hosts Mad as Hell.

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (39 votes)

ABC1, 8pm

Shaun Micallef is not a man to simply learn lines by rote. He prefers the spark of spontaneity, which explains why he's had such a hit with Talkin' 'bout Your Generation. Its format is loose enough to allow Micallef to ad lib and goof around, thereby avoiding the staged sameness that infects too much TV. No wonder viewers love it.

Mad as Hell, by contrast, is more scripted. It has four writers - including Micallef's regular collaborator Gary McCaffrie - mining current affairs for gags. And, much like Good News Week and The Hamster Wheel, it's recorded in front of a studio audience just two days before it airs.

The approach is a typically Micallefian blend of surreal and incisive as it tackles Craig Thomson, Schapelle Corby and others. The host's monologues are offset by interviews and sketches, and the tone is set at the start. ''I'm not an angry person by nature,'' Micallef said in episode one. ''Even though this show is called Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell, I'm here as a peacemaker … This show is all about a perfectly balanced non-judgmental state of wisdom and enlightenment. Mind you, one thing that got me really f---ing mad this week …'' In other words, it's as funny as A Current Affair, only more substantial.