Andrew Denton is the host of new ABC game show Randling.
Andrew Denton is the host of new ABC game show Randling.

Randling braincells

WHAT does it mean to groak?

Well, apparently it's when you watch silently while others are eating, hoping they will ask you to join in.

Or what if someone says you have a backpfeifengesicht?

That's German for "a face badly in need of a fist".

And leave it up to the people of Ghana to come up with the beautiful term womba, which refers to the smiling that children do in their sleep.

What do all these weird and wonderful words have in common?

They are some of Andrew Denton's favourite discoveries during the making of his new game show Randling.

The ABC series mixes elements of QI, Spicks and Specks and Sale in the Century in a sports meets language format.

Ten teams of prominent Aussies - including Merrick Watts, Julia Zemiro, Benjamin Law and Denton's wife Jennifer Byrne - compete in a series of knockout rounds.

"We hadn't quite realised that when you put competitive people in a competition they become really competitive," Denton said.

"My wife is the most disgracefully competitive of all of them."

But all of their knowledge often does little to help the contestants in challenges like "IKEA products or Top 20 Queensland baby names".

"To see someone as smart as David Marr and Jonathan Biggins debating whether or not Dave would be a baby name or a product and getting the wrong answer is hilarious to watch," Denton said.

"The show is made up of things you're not supposed to know."

Despite airing in the old Spicks and Specks timeslot, Randling was never meant to be a replacement for the much loved musical quiz show.

Denton and co-creator Jon Casimir, the two minds behind The Gruen Transfer, were working on the concept of Randling long before the Spicks and Specks crew called it quits.

"In my mind it was hopefully going to be a book end for Spicks and Specks," he said.

"Coming into that Spicks and Specks timeslot hasn't been to our advantage.

"It's a very volatile, competitive timeslot. In the tortoise and hare race of television we're the tortoise. We're there every week moving to much the same pace and what we're supposed to become is your friend."

It's the first time Denton has fronted a TV series in three years.

The role of Randling host is certainly a more light-hearted and playful compared to the last time Australian audiences saw Denton on their screens in his interview series Elders.

"I didn't want to repeat what I'd done before," he said.

"I wasn't hanging out to be back in front of a camera but this was great fun. Television is a pretty taxing thing to do, so I said 'if I'm going to come back I want to do something that's really fun'."

Unfortunately, the series does not seem to be holding on to viewers since its respectable 857,000 debut.

Where their winning Gruen formula has boosted Wednesday nights for the ABC, Randling appears to be more of a slow burner.

But Denton believes there will be a long bedding-in process with Randling.


Randling - ABC1 - Wednesdays at 8.30pm



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