Taranto, he says, “is this strange human being who sees things that nobody else sees. In live sport footage, he’ll be watching a game of footy and he’ll see something behind the play on the left-hand shoulder of a player in the second deck of the grandstand that nobody else sees. That can become gold for a show like ours.”
And Origlasso he describes as a hard-core sports fan who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the video archiving system at Seven. “I don’t know how he finds the stuff, but by the time we get to a pre-show meeting a couple of days before the show he’s found a dozen pieces of vision that most of us have never seen before. I don’t know where he gets it from.”
And then there are the viewers. “We have a really invested audience,” Maher says. “I get messages on social media saying when you get Sav Rocca on the show you’ve got to show him this, or what about this ad that Anthony Koutofides was in. Stuff like that bobs up.”
While The Front Bar is now shot in a state-of-the-art studio dressed up to look like a pub, when it launched in 2015 it was beaming out of an actual pub, the All Nations Hotel in Melbourne’s inner city Richmond. Maher can’t remember who thought this level of authenticity would be a good idea.
“It was held together by a Band-Aid,” he recalls. “The technological creativity required to provide some sort of studio-type set-up in that pub was, well, you had to see it to believe it. The blokes in there at 2pm in the afternoon couldn’t quite believe it. It was the most agricultural television you’ve ever seen, but it was so much fun.”
And the timing was good. As technology enabled increasingly detailed analysis of sport, a gap opened up in the market that the show exploited. “I just think we came along at the right time,” Maher says. “Nostalgia was dead but that’s obviously a key part of what The Front Bar does. I think there’s a longing for stories to be told, and The Front Bar provides the opportunity for half a dozen really good stories a night to be told by the people that come on. I think we all enjoy a good yarn, if it’s funny or sad or somewhere in between, I think people warm to that.”
While the show has developed from raw recruit to seasoned pro, the format has been doggedly consistent: a trio of mug punters cracking a few gags and communing with their sporting heroes. “This is what it was intended to be right from the word go,” Maher says. “It’s the voice of the fan, sitting around talking to people we idolise and revere, we can only aspire to do what they’ve done. We’re all just fans talking to people who’ve done extraordinary things.”
The Front Bar is on Thursday, February 15, 8.30pm on Seven and 7Plus.
Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.