By Rachael Gavin
If you could invite any five people to dinner who would you choose?
It’s a thought provoking question with an answer you can probably only dream about. Unless you are Waleed Aly and you have a new six-episode talk show on SBS called The Late Session where you get to do just that.
Each week five guests sit at a table with the politics lecturer come sometime TV and radio presenter to have a chat based on a theme.
The idea was developed before Aly came on board, pitched to him as inspired by Ruby Wax’s ‘90s talk show Ruby, where guests would sit around a dinner table and enjoy food and conversation.
“They told me there were a couple of shows… sort of similar that they thought had potential to be adapted," Aly said. "There was a show that Ruby Wax once did that was quite similar though not as many guests, and not necessarily around a theme or anything like that, which kind of served as some of the inspiration.”
Topics for the five episode program range from storytelling to identity with guests as diverse as actor Jack Thompson, author Randa Abdel-Fattah and singer/songwriter Lior.
“Gerry Harvey was very interesting to have on. We did a show on happiness and being one of the richest men in Australia it was very interesting to talk to him about that. You really want diversity so that you get a range of perspectives on [the theme].”
The Late Session is a return to in-house production of factual entertainment for SBS. The idea was hatched by executive producer Vincent Beasley and, because the broadcaster had the resources to create the program, it was decided not to outsource the project.
The laid-back host who can also add musician and lawyer to his resume isn’t new to TV or SBS, though he admits he’s not quite sure how it all started.
“The short answer is I don’t really know. I’m not in television in the way that Bert Newton is in television, it’s just one thing I do. My job is that I’m a lecturer in politics but I ended up doing a lot of radio for ABC in Melbourne and started doing more and more TV and it just kind happened.
“A couple of years ago I did do a show with SBS called Salaam Café which began on community TV in Melbourne… and ended up being picked up by SBS and produced by GNW and that’s sort of the first time I’d done TV, generating content for TV. So I suppose you can say the starting point is there."
With so many late night talk shows coming and going from our screens each year, it’ll be interesting to see how viewers respond to The Late Session, but Aly is confident it’s something they will want to see.
“I think it’s going to be very attractive to watch. The experience that [viewers] will get is quite an intimate television experience and more intimate than your average TV show.”
The Late Session with Waleed Aly starts Tuesday January 4, at 10pm on SBS One.