In this the second of our blogs about Comedy Showroom, the ABC’s pilot season, we look at the final three programs. The episodes are going to air at 9:00pm on Wednesdays on ABC while all six episodes of the series are now available on iView. You can read our blog about the first three shows here.
Who’s Involved? Eddie Perfect (Offspring, Shane Warne: The Musical) wrote the script and the music and plays the lead role. Matthew Saville (Please Like Me, We Can Be Heroes) is the director.
What’s It About? Eddie is an inner city stay at home Dad who lives in a nice house and seems to spend his time looking after his two-year-old daughter and doing DIY while his wife works. According to this article on TV Tonight, Eddie’s a musician, although there’s very little evidence in the pilot that he has any kind of career, apart from maybe the scene where Paul Kelly turns up to sing a song while Eddie’s building a deck. In fact, it’s almost like they forgot to set up the fact that Eddie plays gigs at night, or whatever he does, and just thought it would be funny for Paul Kelly to turn up and play for a bit. Er, okay…
Is It Funny? No, it’s just weird. And badly done weird at that. There are various scenes where the show tries to get laughs based on heightened realism or bizarre surrealism, but it just doesn’t work. The first scene ends with Eddie being chased out of the local park and one of the people chasing him being knocked down by a taco truck. Later, when Eddie has to take his daughter to a friend’s birthday party, Eddie complains that the birthday boy is a little shit, yet we never meet the boy. The closest we get is meeting the boy’s Mum, who takes the present Eddie’s bought and smashes it up. There’s an implication that she does this because her son would just end up breaking it, but that’s never made clear. It’s just basically a 30-something woman smashing up a wrapped gift box while Eddie doesn’t really react. Also, is Eddie some kind of sociopath? Or is his wife? Or are all the characters?
Should It Get A Series? Not on the basis of this, it shouldn’t. This show really needs to work out what it wants to be and how it’s trying to get laughs. Is it a dramedy or a piece of avant-garde surrealism? Or an unwanted revival of whatever style of program Ally McBeal was, but with sociopaths.
Who’s Involved? This is written by Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan (The Katering Show), with Kate McLennan in the lead role of Anna. Also in the cast are McCartney as Anna’s boss, Jean Kittson (Let The Blood Run Free, Kittson Fahey) as Anna’s Mum and Shane Bourne (City Homicide, Hey! Hey! It’s Saturday, Are You Being Served?) as Anna’s Dad. Kate McCartney is the director.
What’s It About? Based on McCartney and McLennan’s web series of the same name, this is about what happens when graphic designer Anna loses her job and her boyfriend on the same day, and realises she’s a friendless, directionless loser whose only choice is to move back in with parents who are, at best, indifferent to her.
Is It Funny? Sort of. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Anna, who, while fairly annoying, doesn’t really deserve this. And it’s here the problem lies: it’s hard to laugh at the various quite funny things that happen because it keeps cutting to Anna’s heartbroken face. As the series develops it will probably get funnier, but, as the title says, things are pretty bleak in episode 1.
Should It Get A Series? Maybe. As we said above, this will have to become a lot funnier fairly quickly to justify taking this to a full series, but there are good indications that it could do so. The cast includes a number of great comedy actors, with fabulous timing – Jean Kittson as Anna’s drunk/indifferent Mum especially – and McLennan and McCartney can always be relied upon to get laughs. However, we felt the visual scenes could have been better written and directed – the scene where Anna steals bubbly, champagne flutes and a cheese platter from her parent’s kitchen should have been a lot funnier, for example. Also, Anna’s going to need to start winning at some point, or this will just feel like it’s about laughing at a loser.
Who’s Involved? Lawrence Mooney (Dirty Laundry Live, stand-up) plays the title role and is credited with additional material while Scott Taylor (Neighbours, Home & Away) wrote the script. Ian Smith (Neighbours, Prisoner) plays Lawrence’s colleague Ian, and the show’s directed by Clayton Jacobson (Kenny).
What’s It About? When we meet Lawrence he’s being arrested for drunk driving in a golf cart as part of a celebrity golf day bet gone wrong. But it turns out that Lawrence isn’t actually much of a celebrity, he’s a midnight-to-dawn DJ on Soft FM, he’s in his 40’s, and his heavy drinking, partying ways have clearly taken their toll. But on the plus side, maybe, his girlfriend’s pregnant and he’s starting to realise that he needs to straighten out his life and get a job he finds more satisfying. Can he do it?
Is It Funny? A bit. Lawrence Mooney’s a funny guy, and Ian Smith (Lawrence’s sort of sidekick and foil) is a good character actor, but the script really lets things down. Maybe it’s because most of the show’s set at night in either the seedy radio station or near the dodgy kebab van Lawrence frequents, but it just reminds us a lot of Roy Hollsdotter Live, a bleak but fairly realistic telling of the what show business at the mildly-successful-but-this-won’t-last end is like. There are many moments that could have been a lot funnier if they’d been better written and directed, but most of the time this is a pretty downbeat show.
Should It Get A Series? Maybe. We can imagine a series where Lawrence, having quit his job at the radio station, tries his hand at various day jobs and fails. And although this pilot’s not amazingly funny, it’s well-enough executed to suggest it could have a series in it. We’re not sure how Ian’s going to fit in, though, what with Lawrence not having to work with him anymore, and the pair hating each other. Maybe they’ll move in together and it will get all The Odd Couple?
The first episode from Comedy Showroom, the ABC’s new pilot showcase, Ronny Chieng International Student, aired last night and all six episodes of the series are now available on iView. In this blog we review the first three episodes; tomorrow, we’ll look at the final three programs.
Who’s Involved? Stand-up Ronny Chieng (The Daily Show, It’s A Date) is the star of the show, and he also co-wrote the script with Declan Fay (The Sweetest Plum, Dirty Laundry Live, Rove Live). Also in the cast are Dave Eastgate (Open Slather, The Moodys), Anthony Morgan (Denton, Problems) and Felicity Ward (stand-up), and the show is directed by Jonathan Brough (brother of Alan, and director of Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane, The Family Law and the upcoming Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor sitcom Rosehaven).
What’s It About? First-year law student Ronny is just off the plane from Malaysia and has sort of accidentally fallen in with a group of other first-year Asian students and Aussie Asher. In between fending off angsty Skypes from his mother, and invitations to a skulling competition from blokey student rep Mick, he makes enemies of a group of posh students in his first lecture. In a quest to complete their first assignment, things escalate between the posh students and the Asians, and the two groups find themselves pitted against each other in Mick’s skulling competition. Can the Asians win? With Asher’s help, maybe.
Is It Funny? We laughed a lot. Ronny Chieng’s got a good eye for highlighting stupidity and pomposity, and this compliments Declan Fay’s spot-on skewering of Aussie bloke culture (always one of our favourite elements of The Sweetest Plum).
Should It Get A Series? There’s a lot of potential for a series, here, with Ronny and his gang of the fish-out-of-water international students pitted against the poshos, baffled by Aussie culture and student traditions, and running into a variety of other weird and wonderful university characters. We’d like to see more from Anthony Morgan’s wrestling-obsessed law professor, and Felicity Ward’s postgraduate student, driven so mad by her research that she doesn’t seem to have left the library for years, but mainly we like this because it’s one of the best piss-takes of university life and Aussie culture we’ve seen for a long time.
Who’s Involved? Alison Bell (Laid) is the star of the show and co-wrote the script with Sarah Scheller-O’Donnell (No Activity). Also in the show are Noni Hazelhurst (Play School, City Homicide, Better Homes and Gardens) and Lucy Durack (Wicked the musical, and guest roles in shows such The Moodys and Here Come the Habibs). One of the producers is Julian Morrow (The Chaser), in fact, it’s a Giant Dwarf production, and the director is Trent O’Donnell (Review with Myles Barlow, The Moodys, The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide To Knife Fighting).
What’s It About? If you imagine Alison Bell’s character from Laid changed her name to Audrey, got married, and gave birth to her first child 12 weeks ago, you’re pretty much there. Audrey’s dealing with the fact that her lovely life in a nice inner-city house in Sydney is now dominated by a 12-week old she doesn’t know how to care for. The new mother’s group she’s joined just makes it worse, her husband’s never around to help, and she just wants to attend to her friend’s birthday dinners and go clubbing like she used to.
Is It Funny? If you’re a parent it’s probably hilarious. Or, at least something you can relate to. But if you don’t have kids the flaws stand out. This is one of those semi-serious sitcoms, the kind of show that wishes it was Offspring so it could tackle more issues. Instead, it’s boxed itself into the corner marked “wry”, and you find yourself watching a scene where a new Mum hides her 12-week old under her coat in order to get into a bar with her friends and do shots.
Should It Get A Series? As much as this is a show about a subject that a great many people can relate to, we didn’t think it was terribly well executed. It could work if the joke rate was upped. Or if they’d found a way to make the mother’s group scenes a lot more hilarious. When you’ve got that many crazy female stereotypes in a circle, plus Noni Hazelhurst in seen-it-all hard woman mode, it should be a lot funnier.
Who’s Involved? The Legend of Gavin Tanner debuted as a short web series in 2014 and has now been made into this full-length pilot. It’s from the WA-based group Mad Kids, who are responsible for DAFUQ? Series writer Matt Lovkis plays Gavin, and also in the cast are Emily Rose Brennan (:30 Seconds, Underbelly) and Adam Zwar (Wilfred, the Agony series).
What’s It About? Mad West Coast Eagles fan and small-time outer suburbs drug dealer Gavin Tanner has a problem: he’s lost a bet to some Freemantle Dockers fans and now they want to tattoo his balls. Meanwhile, ex-Army officer and stay-at-home Dad Marshall (Adam Zwar) has just moved in next door, and Gavin wants to be his mate.
Is It Funny? There have been a lot of sitcoms about bogans and outer suburbs-dwellers in the past couple of decades – Kath & Kim, Bogan Pride, anything by Paul Fenech – and while this is slightly better than Fenech’s oeuvre, it’s nowhere near as funny as Kath & Kim. There’s a strong sense that we’re expected to laugh at the bogan characters, rather than with them and that always leaves a bitter taste in our mouths.
Should It Get A Series? No. Give the money to Ronny Chieng.
“Yes,” said one of the contestants on the final (ever?) You’re Back in the Room, “hypnosis is real”. Well that’s just awesome news, isn’t it? There are people walking around out there with the power to make anyone into their unwilling zombie slaves and there’s absolutely nothing the rest of us can do to stop them. The only thing that’s worse? They’re working with Daryl Somers.
C’mon, we all know how this is going to play out: Daryl – with the help of his hypno-buddy – is going to saunter into the Nine board room and before anyone there can say “sorry, the auditions for Human Toilet 2016 are next door” ZAP and they’re all in a trance. And with our nation’s top commercial broadcaster now in the hands of the man who laughed at Dickie Knee for over two decades, who knows what atrocities will follow?
Obviously he’s not going to try and bring back Hey Hey It’s Saturday; nobody alive is that deranged. It’s a show that was past its use-by date five years before it was axed; the rapid failure of the 2010 revival only underlined that. And yet You’re Back in the Room did manage to suggest a way forward for Daryl if only he had the strength of will and the passion to see it through.
Make no mistake here: You’re Back in the Room was total widescreen rubbish. If we wanted to watch an hour of people acting like dickheads frantically trying to complete meaningless chores, we’d watch a cooking show. But if it was a short segment on a variety show… well, it’d still be rubbish, but it’d be fast-moving, done-in-one rubbish. And who knows? Seeing Daryl doing his Igor act with clay smeared over his face might actually be funny when it’s not in the middle of a full hour of the same kind of crap.
Much as it pains us to admit it, Daryl is one of the few hosts currently working on Australian television who could front a variety show. We’d much rather see someone good in the role, but with Australian television in the state it’s in any variety show hosted by an unknown is almost certainly doomed. Daryl has a fanbase, Daryl has experience, Daryl is a promise of a certain kind of television experience that some people want to have. There just isn’t enough of them to bring Hey Hey back.
A tight one-hour variety show – it’d basically be a tonight show, only on earlier in the night – fronted by Daryl is the kind of thing that might work. Interviews, dumb stunts, maybe a live band, stand-ups telling jokes: it couldn’t do worse than anything else comedy-shaped the commercial networks have tried in the last decade. Hypnotism? Why not. Variety’s the spice of life.
But this, of course, would require Daryl to fucking give the fuck up on his fucking insane desire to reanimate the utterly fucked corpse of that fucking shit show Hey Hey Get The Fuck Off. And not even the full force of stage hypnotism – which, let us remind you, is really really real and in no way made up bullshit – could bring about that much of a shift in Daryl’s thought processes.
Hey Hey is a terrible format and why Daryl remains committed to it is a legitimate mystery of modern medical science. His devotion to it remains the single biggest obstacle to him having any kind of serious career on Australian television. It’s not coming back, and while he remains somehow convinced it will he’s unable to play any kind of serious, long-term role as a presenter or host.
Actually, we don’t have a problem with that.
Here’s an idea for a TV show: find a comedian who – by his own admission – knows next to nothing about sex. Then have him wander around talking to expert after expert, but in a shock twist they all give him rubbish or ludicrous advice and because of his lack of experience he takes it all at face value. Oh wait, that might actually be funny: forget we said anything.
What exactly did we learn from three hours of Luke Warm Sex? For one thing, maybe don’t get the documentary department to make a comedy series? Come on, the only joke on offer here was “ha ha, an awkward guy is going to be put in awkward situations” – even the worst “awkward” comedy series knew to at least vary the build up to that kind of joke, but here it was just “oh look, now Luke’s in a bondage dungeon. Now he’s looking at people in full-body suits demonstrating sexual positions. Now he’s licking a fruit”. And it all led up to what? “Hey guys, I’m way more comfortable about sex now”? ORGY OR GTFO.
[just back to our first idea for a moment: done right, it’d be a great way to point out just how funny real sex actually is. C’mon, most of the antics involved in real sex are totally mental – how could purposefully stupid sex advice be more funny than the real thing? Oh wait, that’s probably what the makers of Luke Warm Sex thought]
Yeah, it was informative: who watches television for information? Even the nightly news knows it has to tell a compelling story or people will tune out. This was a show that figured its audience would be so obsessed with sex they simply wouldn’t give a shit that everything else going on in a seemingly endless succession of late-Victorian front rooms was as boring as, to coin a phrase, fuck. Okay, we know: when it comes to sex on television, it’s either instructional or pornographic with nothing in between. But couldn’t they try a little? “Sexy” is actually a big part of “sex” last time we checked.
This show was a failure, and not just in the ratings sense (though dropping down to 303,000 viewers in prime time is not a good look); we predicted pretty much everything wrong with this show in our original review and lo, it came to pass:
You can’t make fun of sex in 2016 because only uncool creeps have hang-ups about sex. In fact, the entire point of this show is meant to be that McGregor wants to get rid of his hang-ups about sex; if they’d made this show with an unrepentant prude as the host then all the comedy would come from sexperts mocking his or her foolish inhibitions. And you can’t make fun of a guy wanting to educate himself about sex because that would just be straight-up cruel. So the only possible source of comedy here comes from having an awkward guy put in an awkward situation and then realising he’s got nothing to be awkward about. Awww. Wait, this goes for three hours?
But the one thing we have learned from all this is to never under-estimate the ingenuity of Australia’s TV critics. Sure, you can just come right out and say a show is crap:
McGregor’s goofy boy-next-door personality couldn’t possibly cater for that sort of edge, and nor should he have to. His style is deliberately meek, a milquetoast we can all to some extent relate to.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but great television it does not make – at least not in this form. Padded out into six derivative episodes (the central conceit, that he wants to get great at sex, is in no way realised), Luke Warm Sex has as much kick to it as a joint with oregano substituted for weed. The ABC are broadcasting it at 9pm; that time slot feels off by at least a handful of hours.
But where’s the fun in that? You won’t score an invite to the ABC Xmas party with that approach. Better to follow the lead of a far more experienced critic:
Hopefully if someone as nervous and gormless as this young man can get better at sex, defined in the show as any activity undertaken for pleasure between two or more consenting adults, then everyone can. (School, he tells us, taught him that sex was something that happened only between a man and a woman and at some point involved a banana and a condom.)
The style of the show is what’s known as docu-comedy, a charming example of how TV genres these days play with each other and how so much factual programming is based on multiple generic participation, the term reality TV simply a convenient container.
The first episode, directed with lots of cinematic invention by Hayden Guppy, is a disarming, idiosyncratic excursion into some painful truths for McGregor as he confronts his fear of being nude.
Notice how, while there’s a generally positive vibe to the article, there’s actually very little positive that’s being said? If the show helps people with their sex lives, that’s good; it’s “charming” the way today’s television mixes up genres; the show itself is “disarming” and “idiosyncratic” rather than, you know, “entertaining” or “funny”. It’s not damning with faint praise – even the praise has bugger-all to do with the show that’s supposedly being discussed.
There’s a real art to writing a positive review that doesn’t actually say anything positive. The author can’t be nailed down to any specific claims – saying McGregor “comically undertakes weekly challenges” doesn’t exactly promise laughs – yet gives the impression that the show being discussed is worth your while. If we were wearing a hat, we’d take it off in salute.
Luke Warm Sex was still a fucking huge waste of time, mind you.
A few weeks ago the online comedy world was rocked by the news that someone was actually making money from online comedy. No, wait, we got it wrong: it was rocked by the news that someone was making money from their videos. Hang on – was it that it was rocked by the fact that videos can provide income? Someone was being paid? On the internet? Shit.
But for the crack team at Buzzfeed, it seemed worthwhile pointing out that Jordan Shanks – better known to many as Friendlyjordies – had been paid for a five minute viral video on the importance of voting. It gets worse:
BuzzFeed News can reveal the comedian regularly approaches progressive organisations with a pitch email to make branded video for them.
According to the man himself in a recent chat, it’s more a case of him first coming up with an idea and then pitching it to various organisations to see if anyone wants to sling some cash money his way. You know, like every other freelancer on the planet.
these sponsorships do not represent an uninterrupted income stream. Jordan says he maintains 100% editorial control and “because they believe in the cause and want to keep the channel going, they chip in money here or there. Essentially, it is a donation for what I was going to do anyway”. An email, written by necessity in the soulless style of a research grant, is sent out to left-wing organisations ahead of the release of a new video to solicit funding and keep the machine running.
To Jordan, his work is online activism, with his videos acting as “virtual protests of two hundred thousand people”. He sees satire as a “gateway drug” for political engagement.
That’s pretty bad news for those who thought satire was a way to make people laugh.
But let’s be honest: after fifteen billion years of Jon Stewart hosting The Daily Show, we’ve now had at least twenty-five generations of humans grow up thinking that political comedy is meant to be ruthlessly partisan first and funny somewhere further down the list. The old idea of political satire – that the audience should never have a clear idea of which side you’re on – is deader than Richard Nixon’s dog: these days people want their political comedy to go the enemy and go them hard.
So when Buzzfeed says:
It’ll also be interesting to see whether Shanks’s fiercely loyal audience is turned away from videos that are funded by different political organisations.
Who are they kidding? Friendlyjordies audience doesn’t care that he’s taking money, they only care that he’s not taking money from the chumps funding the other side. And what accusation is Buzzfeed throwing his way? That he’s “sold out”? What is this, 1993? Have fun enjoying the hilarious comedy stylings of Janeane Garofalo, slacker. Over here it’s 2016, and selling out – now known as finding a way to get paid to do something you love – is pretty much the whole entire point.
Look, once upon a time, not so long ago, this kind of thing actually would look pretty bad for a comedian. The laughs are meant to come first and foremost: if you’re being paid to shill a message, then by definition the message (and not the laughs) has to come first. If you think of a hilarious joke that’s not “on message”? Into the bin.
But this kind of “satire” isn’t that kind of comedy. Its purpose isn’t to make you laugh: it’s to sink the boot into the other side. It’s partisan cheerleading, not the kind of even-handed “satire” the ABC still aims for (and which increasingly looks bland and toothless by comparison).
[to be fair, Australian television in general has such a relatively small audience that its programs can’t afford to deliberately alienate even a single viewer. Which is why Australian television is doomed]
Obviously there are still plenty of ways it can look bad for a comedian to take money. If The Katering Show suddenly started talking up a particular brand of cheese, it’d run pretty firmly against what makes the show work. And if Friendlyjordies was selling itself as taking an even-handed look at the issues then accepting sacks of cash from shadowy lefties to push their cause would be something of a problem. But he’s all about the partisan rants sinking the boot into the right-wing types that run much of this country: when you’re already that compromised, you might as well make a few bucks out of it.
The Katering Show was the comedy phenomenon of 2015, the YouTube series sending up cooking shows that quickly went viral all around the world. Now the series has been bought by the ABC, and is back for eight new episodes, released on iView today.
When she was asked last year about how she would feel about bringing the format to television, co-star and co-writer Kate McLennan told The Age:
There’s something really special about having this little concise seven-minute episode, and also, the freedom we have to say whatever we want, we’re not beholden to anyone
Quite. And the great news is that the new ABC-funded episodes have the same feel as the YouTube ones – like a show its creators really wanted to make, not something that’s been dicked-around-with by TV executives, worried about how it will play with key demographics, the government or the media. If anything, The Katering Show season 2 seems even more what it wants to be – acerbic, savage, weird, and really, really funny.
In one episode, beloved South Australian chef Maggie Beer cops a pasting from the pair, who dress up like her, present the show like her, and drizzle a Katering Show version of Beer’s ubiquitous verjuice over a Beer-inspired lamb dish. SPOILERS but things don’t exactly work out as they would had the actual Maggie Beer been running things, because Kate and Kate are two impoverished Gen-Xers living in inner-city Melbourne who can’t cook and don’t care. The fact that they’re presenting the show at all is presumably due to a desperate need for cash, or some kind of administrative error.
Speaking of which, one of the things that makes this show stand out above other cooking show parodies is that it isn’t just about taking the piss out of the cooking shows – they’d soon run of material if they did that – it’s about two women in their thirties on the edge of a breakdown. And yet the show’s so crammed full of great lines, well-timed slapstick, and background strangeness that you barely notice their descent into madness. It’s very much the Fawlty Towers approach to the mentally ill rather than the Please Like Me approach, with an emphasis on creating hyper-real-but-funny characters rather than going for realism.
But before you think we’re heading off down the “all this political correctness these days, you can’t even make a joke about the blacks/Asians/gays/women/mentally ill” path with the above paragraph, we’re not. We just point that worrying about realism when making a comedy is setting yourself on the path to Not Funny. You need to worry about getting laughs, in as many ways as you can. Something that The Katering Show does with the skill of a true master chef – layer upon carefully-applied layer of funny. We give it three Michelin stars.
It’s been a bit of a theme here these last few weeks: where has all the Australian comedy television gone? With the ABC having diverted funding ever-so-slightly from long-running comedy panel shows – which were shit, but were still technically comedy – to long-running shows that just happen to feature comedians, we’ve entered an age where we can now expect long periods of the year to be pretty much comedy free. Those days when The Comedy Company was the highest-rating show on Australian television? Long gone.
And it’s not like there’s an awful lot coming up to get excited about either. Sure, Mad as Hell isn’t far off and thank Azathoth for that because if it wasn’t for Shaun Micallef (and yes, John Clarke & Brian Dawe too but once we bring them in we’ve a): basically summed up the quality end of the Australian Television Comedy Scene and b): they’re all old-ish guys who’ve been in the biz for twenty years or more, which is just a tad depressing) we’d have given this blog over to the real tumbleweeds years ago.
But what else is left to get us excited now that we’ve seen Here Come the Habibs? Of course there’s this:
Get ready to browse ABC TV’s Comedy Showroom
Six brand new comedy pilots…Tell us what you think!
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 — Starting Wednesday 27th April at 9pm, ABC TV’s Comedy Showroom launches six new comedy pilots made by some of Australia’s most exciting comedians, comedy writers, producers and directors. But viewers won’t have to wait each week for the latest pilot to be unleashed, with all of the pilots being made available to watch on ABC iview straight after the Comedy Showroom premiere.
Further to this, and in a network and Australian television first, we want our audience to tell us which pilots they think should come back as full TV series. Simply by clicking through from iview, our audience will have the opportunity to provide their feedback by answering a few quick questions or just by telling us what they like and don’t like.
No other network nurtures and supports Australian comedy like ABC TV.
So which pilots will our audience gravitate to? Which will they laugh at most? And which will they blast with criticism or want to see more of?
Will it be Ronny Chieng sharing his experiences as an International Student; Eddie Perfect’s absurd suburban life in The Future Is Expensive; The Katering Show’s Kate McLennan hitting rock bottom in life and love in her and Kate McCartney’s Bleak; Lawrence Mooney discovering what it takes for a 40-something-year-old man to finally grow up in Moonman; the desperate attempts of a deadbeat weed dealer to win his new neighbour’s affections in hot WA comedy team Mad Kids’ The Legend of Gavin Tanner; or Alison Bell’s struggles as a new mum in an oddball mothers’ group in The Letdown (produced by The Chaser’s Julian Morrow).
Ronny Chieng: International Student – tx: Wednesday April 27th at 9pm
The Letdown – tx: Wednesday May 4th at 9pm
The Legend of Gavin Tanner – tx: Wednesday May 11th at 9pm
The Future is Expensive – tx: Wednesday May 18th at 9pm
Bleak – tx: Wednesday May 25th at 9pm
Moonman – tx: Wednesday June 1st at 9pm
And all pilots are available on iview from Wednesday April 27th from 9.30pm.
All will be revealed when our best and brightest comedians invite you to join them in ABC TV’s Comedy Showroom.
A joint initiative with Screen Australia, made in association with Film Victoria, Screen NSW and ScreenWest. Executive Producer Head of Comedy Rick Kalowski.
But let’s be honest: this is the equivalent of one sitcom series, only every episode is a pilot so you don’t get any of the advantages of doing an actual series-length sitcom. Or the advantages of doing a regular sketch show. But hey, iView! The kids love that.
Let’s break it down: since time began, TV comedy has been largely divided into sketch comedy and sitcoms. If you have a whole lot of one-off jokes, you make a sketch comedy because that’s the best way to showcase those jokes, even if you plan to repeat those jokes in slightly different contexts each week to create reoccurring characters; if you’d rather mine humour from going in deep on a handful of characters, you create a sitcom where once the audience gets to know the characters you can get big laughs simply by placing them in various situations (hence the name “situation comedy”).
Comedy Showroom, while having the appeal of being a kind of talent search and we all know how much Aussies love that garbage, is the worst of both worlds: too long to work as a one-off sketch, too short to let us get to know the characters. And considering how most sketch comedy plays out today – the first episode is great, then the second episode rolls around and awww fuck, they’re doing the same jokes all over again because all those great one-off sketches are actually boring-arse reoccurring sketches – being served up the first episode of a sitcom like this is the worst possible guide to what the actual show is going to be like. Either it’s going to be exactly the same thing over and over (see: Utopia) and so one episode is all we’re really ever going to want to see, or it’s going to be completely different when it goes to series (see: every US sitcom ever) and so the pilot was really bugger-all use as a guide.
And what happens if the audience picks a show where all the good jokes went into the first episode? It’s not like the creators have any incentive to hold any quality material back for later in the series when they don’t even know if there’s going to be a series. Traditionally a pilot is part of a long-running process that includes convincing the people holding the purse strings that you actually have a series or two’s worth of ideas; is each episode of Comedy Showroom going to end with “and now here’s our proposed plots for the rest of the season” followed by five minutes of written notes?
(yes, we’re pretending that this series isn’t rigged, even though it seems likely that at least some of these pilots are, for whatever reason, less likely to go to series than others. Hey, whatever happened to the Fresh Blood pilots anyway? Oh right, Fancy Boy and Skit Box got the gig even though Aunty Donna was easily the popular and critical fave.)
And that’s only the first of our increasingly annoying questions. What happens if the audience picks the show the ABC head honchos like the least? What happens if it turns out one pilot is clearly head and shoulders above the rest? What if they’re all great? What if they’re all awful? What if there’s a tie? What if somehow the shit one is the one that gets the green light? Yeah, because that’s never happened at the ABC before.
For us, Comedy Showroom is a great idea – six new pilots to review! But from an audience point of view, it pretty much sucks. If the pilots are good, why are we only getting one episode? And if the pilots are shit, why are we even getting one episode? And if we’re the best judge of which shows are worth going to series, why aren’t we pulling down six figure salaries from the ABC?
Just don’t forget: “No other network nurtures and supports Australian comedy like ABC TV… by turning the commissioning process into a public competition.”
Ok, so tonight The Weekly continued on its merry way being a shithouse news program, but somewhere in there they decided to throw in some coverage of the media’s coverage of Waleed Aly’s Logie nomination. You know, this kind of rubbish:
5. Aly needs to be truly popular to win.
It would be great if Aly was popular, but his show isn’t yet the league of breakfast television juggernauts Today and Sunrise. As prosaic as those shows can be, there’s no arguing with their huge draw with audiences.
“The Logies are an embarrassment. It is a complete joke. What has Waleed ever done? Because he does an editorial slapping someone down every now and then, does that qualify him for a Gold Logie? And is The Project successful? No.”
(we’re guessing the journalist found that particular “well-placed TV insider” inside the Herald-Sun offices, as it’s remarkably similar to opinions publicly held by at least one of their regular TV writers)
And most importantly for the clumsy and ham-fisted point we’re about to make, this:
‘Where is Lisa Wilkinson’s Gold Logie?’ fellow Channel Nine star Ben Fordham inquired during the show, to which Karl eventually responded: ‘Lisa’s too white’.
Clearly there’s enough going on there* for a hard-hitting show like The Weekly to really sink their teeth into. So what jokes did they get around to making?
Well, it seems Charlie Pickering was the one who should be outraged, because he was on The Project for years and never got a nomination. “Was it because I’m white?” Pickering said, “who knows?”
Obviously that joke wasn’t the same as the joke made on The Today Show. Totally different. Not at all similar. Not alike. Nup. Sure, The Weekly didn’t actually mention The Today Show‘s clumsy racism, but just because they made the exact same joke doesn’t mean… wait, what?
(rumors that we’ll be offering a prize to anyone who can actually tell Charlie Pickering and Karl Stefanovic apart are clearly untrue. We can’t afford to give away prizes)
Basically, if you felt like it’d be nice to have some more evidence around to point out how pissweak The Weekly actually is when it comes to anything remotely resembling a tough issue, then good news! Watching them confront a pretty gosh darn obvious case of entrenched racism in the Australian media and not only being unable to say the word “racism” but instead going with a recycled joke from The Today Show – before deciding that the best angle to take was “ha ha Charlie, Aly was nominated for doing your old job better than you did” – should get the job done pretty nicely.
Not that “ha ha Charlie, Aly was nominated for doing your old job better than you did” isn’t kind of funny.
*what actually seems to be going on is that this year’s Gold Logie’s field is so weak the winner (whoever it is) will be coming from a dud show, which looks bad for the awards and the industry as a whole. It was fine for Carrie Bickmore to win last year because she’s blonde and pretty and there’s the whole tragic dead partner backstory to justify her winning on a show no-one watches, but Aly is a lefty Muslim (and therefore supposedly not on-side to TV Week / News Corp readers) on that same low-rating show so now it’s time for “insiders” to sink the boots in.
A long time ago one of us read an article that revealed the secret behind stage hypnotism: it’s all fake. Basically, when a stage hypnotist brought someone up out of the audience they’d whisper to them “play along”, then do a whole bunch of hand-waving “hypnotism” that had the grand effect of bugger-all. But because they’d now been given a free pass to act like a dickhead – and didn’t want to be the chump who ruined the night – almost all the participants were happy to act out whatever silly commands they were given.
And that’s just about all the serious thought we’re willing to give the soggy shit-filled bog that was 80-odd minutes of You’re Back in the Room. Who cares if it’s real or not when the result is just a hellish death march slog towards a vision of entertainment that never actually gets any closer like some kind of mirage with the Channel Nine logo in the corner? Just segment after segment featuring the same four people lurching around on the stage pretending to be riding wild horses or staggering though a maze or shitting themselves uncontrollably… oh wait, that was just us daydreaming about a more entertaining way to spend our evening.
Has anyone ever created a game show where all the contestants were stinking drunk? If not, why not? Surely getting hammered out of your skull can’t be any more dangerous than having some sleazebag stranger use his mental powers to turn you into his unwilling zombie slave? At least then with Ahhh What Ya Fukkin’ Lookin’ At: The Great Piss-Up Challenge we’d know the on-stage idiots really were doing shit beyond their conscious command. Plus projectile vomiting, one-punch fights and loss of bladder control are all acceptable reactions to finding yourself sharing a stage with Daryl Somers.
Ah Daryl, AKA the only reason this show even counts as “comedy” because fuck knows his career for the last twenty years sure has been a Daryl “Snowtown” Barrel of laughs. Here’s a tip for next weeks episode, and don’t try to pretend you won’t be tuning in because it’s already the only hit show Nine’s had all year: get up real close and take a good look in Daryl’s eyes every time there’s a close up. See the despair? See the desperation? See the way his eyes dart around as if looking for a way to escape?
If nothing else – and it’s not like a show based entirely on “pretend your testicles are hand grenades and someone’s just pulled the pin” has anything else to offer a sentient lifeform – this has confirmed that Daryl Somers is a one trick pony. Unfortunately for him, the vet shot that pony a few years back when his Hey Hey it’s Saturday revival died in the arse. He just can’t do anything else but host that one particular show, and no-one wants to see him do that any more.
But hey, ratings win! Daryl’s back! Hey Hey is “still on the table“! God is dead! Satan is real!
In a week when the only comedy on TV has been the try-hard satire of The Weekly, the only-funny-if-you’re-the-sort-of-arsehole-who-laughs-at-the-inadequacy-of-others Luke Warm Sex, the brilliant-but-short Clarke & Dawe and You’re Back In The Room hosted by Daryl Somers, there’s only one way to cap things off: this year’s comedy Logies nominations.
Could have been worse, we suppose.
Although, just as you realise that at least Gruen probably won’t win because either The Voice or The X Factor will, you also realise that Mad As Hell also probably won’t win because the kind of comedy shows that comedy fans like almost never do. (We’re predicting a win for Utopia in the Most Outstanding Comedy category.)
We do question whether the result of the Logies is something anyone cares about in 2016, though. Once, the teen vote was important to the Logies and teens bought extra copies TV Week so they could get the coupon to vote for their favourite soap stars. Now, teens are absorbed by online media providers like Snapchat and YouTube, and probably don’t know the Logies exists. As for adults, they’re still watching TV but the buzz is around American dramas on streaming services like Netflix. It’s great that the Logies is now recognising locally-made streamed shows (hence the nomination for No Activity) but does anyone care about them, let alone who wins the Logies?
Remember that old gag about network publicity chiefs rigging the Logies results by getting their minions to vote multiple times? Now we’re wondering if they’re the only ones interested in the entire ceremony. That’s the best explanation we can come up with for the nomination for Open Slather.