Meet The Hilarious Duo Taking On The Cheap Seats

We caught up with the hilarious hosts of The Cheap Seats, Tim McDonald and Melanie Bracewell.

Each week Tim and Mel show up with an absolute cornucopia of gags, recapping the events of the week in a way that’ll have you wondering what you’ve been watching.

With so much of the news exceedingly grim these days, the duo take utter joy in looking at the news, sports and entertainment worlds with a completely different view, showing off gaffes and gags while taking equal pleasure in taking the piss out of each other and themselves.

Chatting to 10 play via Zoom the pair were their usual self-deprecating selves, with Mel joking that she is only just coming to terms with what it means to be hosting a TV show.

“I’ve said this before but in New Zealand, there’s hardly any people... you’re bound to be thrown a couple of TV shows. It wasn’t until I came here that I kind of realised how big of a deal it was to have a job in TV,” she said, adding, “I just feel so lucky!”

The pair are familiar faces to any fans of Working Dog’s Have You Been Paying Attention?, with Mel appearing on both the Aussie and Kiwi versions of the series. Tim worked behind the scenes on HYBPA? before he started to feature on the panel regularly.

"The Working Dog team produce HYBPA?, Utopia, Frontline, Thank God You’re Here, all those classic Aussie shows,” Tim said.

“I grew up idolising these guys and so, to work with them and have a TV show with them – and to be the thing that eventually kills their legacy, it’s an enormous privilege,” he added.

Mel, less aware of the legacy, said she had the benefit of not knowing what she was stepping into.

“I didn’t know how big of a deal all of the guys are until I started talking to other Australians... I was like, ‘Oh it’s probably just a group of lads chucking on a TV show, I guess I’ll be involved.’ And it’s only now that I’m like oh, they have a legacy? Sh*t.”

To show just how big of a fan Tim is, he recalled first fawning over Working Dog’s Jetlag Travel Guides.

“I was reading them in a bunk bed,” he remembered, “I would have been in like primary school reading them, and so to be working with them now, it shows how long they’ve been doing it.”

“I don’t think that a bunk bed is as time-dependent as you think,” Mel responded, laughing. “Bunk beds are still around, Tim.”

“No but, you’re not still in a bunk bed,” he shot back.

“It’s not like, ‘Oh I was talking to my friend on a rotary phone!’ A bunk bed is still relevant today. You could be in a bunk bed now, I don’t know,” Mel added.

Now co-hosting The Cheap Seats, the pair have settled into their groove but are still surprised at how differently people react to their jokes now that they’re sitting front and centre.

“When I’m on HYBPA? they put me in like dinosaur knitted jumpers, and now I’m in a suit and shirt so people think I’m some news host,” Tim said.

“I sometimes get people commenting on clips I’ve posted going, ‘Oh congratulations, you’re a reporter now that’s really huge,’” Mel said, adding, “I have to be like no I am not a reporter at all I’m still very much a comedian!”

Though their show focuses on the news of the week you might not have seen, Mel and Tim agreed that it’s not necessarily the news itself they are focusing on.

“No matter what the story is, no matter what the actual takeaway Is, our job is basically to make fun of the media,” Mel explained. “It’s kind of impossible to punch down on the media because they are so powerful.

“If it’s kind of a bleak story, we’re not making fun of the story itself, we’re making fun of the reporter saying something stupid or the host saying something dumb. I don’t think we really try and find some awful story to laugh at someone having a sh*t time.”

Tim added, “We joke that we’re two jobseekers on Channel 10, there’s no way we can be punching down.

“The other thing is there’s no agenda on our show,” Tim continued. “We’re not trying to teach you anything, we’re not trying to explain how things work, we’re only showing you stuff that we think is funny so we tend to avoid some of the darker news of the week and say hey, we saw a funny moment in Perth. Let’s show it to you!”

Since the show’s launch, the pair have been overwhelmed by the warm response from audiences, despite having “found the time slot on Gumtree” fans are tuning in each week to see the pair skewer the best bits of the week.

“We have been so surprised,” Mel said, “like, is anyone going to even be awake after watching an hour and a half of Survivor? It’s been wild.”

“The response has been amazing,” Tim added. “Although the most common phrase I hear is, ‘Loving your show, I really enjoyed episode one,” and you go, “Actually we’re up to episode eight now’ and they’re like ‘Nah, I didn’t follow through’.”

An unintentional bonus of joining the show has been Mel’s quick introduction to the many faces of Aussie media.

“I had no idea who Kochie was, I didn’t know who Richard Wilkins was, now I feel like we are close friends, we’re mates!”

Since consuming news from all across Australia, Mel has become admittedly a little obsessed with 9 News Melbourne’s Peter Hitchener.

“I was watching so much news that I ended up tweeting about him, I was like ‘He’s so adorable’ and then he DM’d me and I felt like such a fan because I watched hours and hours of him read the news, I was like wow, this is huge for me.”

Tim jumped in, “Any other networks you want to promote, Mel?”

“Also, the Channel 10 newsreaders! They’re awesome! The best!” she quickly added, panicked.

“In New Zealand, there’s like... two sets of news and it’s for the whole country, so [The Cheap Seats] seems almost like an impossible show to make in New Zealand,” Mel continued.

The pair, along with their team, attempt to watch almost every news segment, briefing and clip from across the country, with some international clips thrown in for good measure.

The massive amount of news media they’re consuming must not be good for a person’s health with Mel wondering if she’s “probably going to die young” from the sheer number of daily pressers the pair have subjected themselves to in the last few weeks.

But sleuthing through hours of footage they regularly stumble upon utter gold, like the incredible dynamic between the Channel 7 Tasmania weather reporter and his co-hosts.

“This is the thing, sometimes me and Tim will watch the same things and I’ll be like, there’ll be nothing in the weather, I won’t bother to watch, and Tim’s like I’m going to stick around,” Mel said.

“That’s the amazing thing,” Tim continued, “we’re watching so much news and yet Mel will come into the meeting and show something you haven’t seen and you’re like, I watched that press conference four times and still didn’t find that!

“And that’s really what the show is, it’s almost that moment – you know how you see a funny video on Instagram or TikTok and you go, ‘I can’t wait to show my friends and send this to my family!’

“That’s what the whole show is, we can’t wait to show these bits to the crowd.”

The Cheap Seats airs Tuesday nights after The Masked Singer on 10 and 10 play