Sky gives Jones a ‘blank’ cheque

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In a bid to invigorate its late-night schedule and attract new subscribers, Sky TV will package its right-wing “after dark” commentators into a five-hour program based on the 1970s hit quiz show Blankety Blanks.

The hosting role for the new Monday-to-Friday program with the working title Wankety Wanks will be filled by Sydney shock jock Alan Jones.

The Bug understands Sky has convinced Jones to take on the role by offering him a multi-million-dollar contract.

“It was an offer too good to refuse,” a Sky insider told The Bug.

The late Graham Kennedy hosted the original Blankety Blanks for just two seasons in 1977 and 1978 on Network Ten but in that time turned it into a smash hit that outrated rival programs on other networks including what were then must-watch and heavy-hitting current affairs shows such as the Nine Network’s A Current Affair and Willesee at Seven on the Seven Network.

The Sky insider told The Bug senior network executives were hopeful that Jones will be able to do the same for the pay TV channel’s ratings.

In each nightly episode, just like Blankety Blanks, Jones as host will be joined by a panel of at least four other Sky TV commentators who will forsake their own individual evening shows.

Regulars will include knockabout former Brisbane Sunday Mail editor, Peter Gleeson, who will fill the role that stand-up comic Ugly Dave Gray made his own in the original show, delivering saucy jokes and double-entendres.

The laidback, sophisticate role synonymous with the late Stuart Wagstaff will be filled by Andrew Bolt and Peta Credlin and Paul Murray will fill out the regular panellist seats occupied in the original program by Noeline Brown and Noel Ferrier.

Guest commentators will fill the other two spots on the panel each night.

The format will be very similar to the original Blankety Blanks. Alan Jones will read a question with a word missing, and ask the panellists for answers for what the “blank” should be.

For instance, in a pilot episode seen by The Bug, Jones asked: “Bill Shorten’s negative gearing policy will ‘blank’ Aussie home buyers and the national economy.”

Other questions in the same episode included: “Bill Shorten’s carbon tax policy will ‘blank’ Aussie power bills and jobs and the national economy”; “Militant and radical union thugs will have a tight grip on Bill Shorten’s ‘blank’ if he is ever Prime Minister”; and “Labor’s weak border protection laws means every Aussie will be at risk of being ‘blanked’ by terrorists”.

Also like Blankety Blanks, the program will be staged before a live audience, or as live as some diehard Sky viewers can be.

However, the Sky insider told The Bug the program will not go directly live to air but will be recorded to accommodate a five-minute delay before being broadcast.

“Nobody at Sky is taking chances with Alan on this one. We all know his reputation for acting as a magnet for defamation actions and we don’t want to see the network’s tenuous financial position made worse.”