Is variety dead? Nine kills Ben Elton Live From Planet Earth

Ben Elton Live From Planet Earth has been axed after just three episodes due to poor ratings.

The live variety show written, produced and hosted by Ben Elton has been cancelled by the Nine Network despite Elton's claims the show needed time to develop.

A spokesperson for the network said: "Ben and his team have done a fantastic job uncovering new Australian talent and we appreciate all of their hard work and dedication. We are all very proud of the show, but unfortunately it has not found the audience we had hoped for. We thank Ben and all the cast and crew for their commitment and wish them all the best."

After a disappointing premiere with an average of 455,000 viewers, the program continued to decline with its second episode rating just 384,000. Pushed back until 10:40pm on Tuesday due to coverage of the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, 189,000 viewers was the final nail in the coffin.

The news is not particularly surprising, with TV.com staff and readers predicting its demise from the start. Sketches such as schoolgirls "Courtney & Bree" ranting Kylie Mole-style about iPhone and Facebook scandals, and "Girl Flat" which explored the premise of Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen sharing a house were deemed crude and just not funny. However, there did seem to be some positive comments and support from the show's Facebook group.

Ben Elton Live From Planet Earth isn't the first new variety show Nine has abandoned prematurely, with Shane Warne's cricket-themed chat show Warnie being pulled in January, before its final episode went to air.

The resurrection of Hey Hey! It's Saturday in 2010 also proved an ultimate failure -- two high-rating reunion specials spawned a limited "revival" season, which was criticised for its outdated and racist sketch comedy, suffering poor ratings as a result. Despite its move back to Saturday nights at host Daryl Somers' insistence that the time slot was the problem, the show's final episode drew a meagre 1.52 million viewers nationwide.

Other networks have also been quick to dump under-performing comedy and chat shows, with Seven dropping The White Room after just two episodes last February and Sky News' panel discussion show Hadley! lasting just four episodes; however, reports state that Ray Hadley's resignation was the reason the show ended.

Sky is already trying the formula again, with Former Australian Labor Party (ALP) Senator and Minister Graham "Richo" Richardson hosting the "entertaining" and "light-hearted" political chat show Richo, which premiered last night.

So what conclusions can we draw from the train wreck of cancelled variety shows? Is the format dead or are the networks simply not writing for a broad enough audience?

Sound off in the comments below and tell us which variety shows you do enjoy, what else should be axed and how the format could be successful.

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