Australian Tumbleweeds

Australia's most opinionated blog about comedy.

Its a Jungle Out There

Press release time!

Sando doing deals on your ABC in March

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 — Australia’s discount furniture queen Sando is coming to ABC and iview, Wednesday 21 March at 9pm. The six-part family comedy series Sando, from the team at Jungle Entertainment (Squinters, No Activity) will have audiences shouting “Do em’ a deal Sando!” right across Australia.

Starring Sacha Horler (The Letdown, The Dressmaker) as Victoria ‘Sando’ Sandringham, the terrific ensemble cast also includes Firass Dirani (House Husbands), Phil Lloyd (The Moodys), Rob Carlton (Paper Giants), Krew Boylan (Schapelle), Adele Vuko (of online comedy sensations Skitbox), Uli Latukefu and newcomer Dylan Hesp.

‘Sando’ is Australia’s queen of the discount furniture package deal. She’s built her empire on being a down-to-earth larrikin and is something of a national treasure – to all but her family. They banished her a decade ago when her one-night stand and resulting pregnancy to her daughter’s fiancé was shockingly revealed… at their wedding.

Now, after a health scare, her career on a precipice and her professional nemesis primed to push her into the abyss, Sando is determined to rekindle the family relationship. She needs them, and in spite of their initial apprehension…and unbridled hatred…soon they’ll discover they might actually need her too.

Production Credits: A Jungle Entertainment production for the ABC. Principal production investment from Screen Australia and ABC in association with Create NSW. Created by Phil Lloyd and Charlie Garber. Producer Chloe Rickard. Directed by Van Vuuren Bros. and Erin White. Executive Producers Jason Burrows and Phil Lloyd. ABC Executive Producers Rick Kalowski and Andrew Gregory.

We’re guessing it won’t be “Do us a deal, Sando” that audiences will be shouting right across Australia when this goes to air.

Still, thanks again to Jungle for serving up yet another program skilfully designed to solve a problem nobody had. Do they just underbid everyone else pitching sitcoms in this country or has everybody else just given up?

Sammy J and missing John Clarke

If there’s one tweet which has captured the mood this past week, it’s this from comedian Michael Griffin.

Griffin’s tweet even got a mention on the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday.

We miss John Clarke too, and his take on Barnaby Joyce (and the continuing madness of Trump, and Section 44, and various other things) would have been amazing, but he’s gone, and we need to accept that and move on.

So, we come to Sammy J, who took over the Thursday night satire slot a few weeks ago and last week presented his take on Barnaby Joyce’s recent antics. And with Griffin’s tweet fresh in our minds, the first thing that struck us was that John Clarke used to write sketches quite a lot like this. Remember those Clarke & Dawe sketches set at Wimbledon or the Sochi Winter Olympics, where sport would be used as a way to discuss a topical matter such as the European financial crisis or Tony Abbott’s latest mad doings? Well, they were a pretty similar format to Sammy J’s sketch, where he, as a parody Play School presenter, shows Joyce performing various political manoeuvres as Winter Olympics sports.

Sammy J - Barnaby on Ice

Was it as sharp as something John Clarke would have written? Maybe not, but it was still pretty good. And it’s a style of comedy that Sammy J’s been honing for a couple of years now, debuting it during the 2016 election campaign in his Playground Politics series.

We were less impressed by Sammy J’s song The Ballad of Section 44, his first Thursday night sketch (which aired 8th February). Comedy songs are very hard to get right. If you write a bad one people just think of Frontline’s Elliot Rhodes; if you write a clever/satirical one and perform it in a suit you risk looking like Philip Scott (The Gillies Report, The Wharf Revue). Or a crap version of Noel Coward. Or Gilbert and Sullivan.

When it comes to comedy songs, writing lyrics that will actually make people laugh is key. And The Ballad of Section 44 wasn’t funny, it was just a telling of what happened. Painstakingly accurate, well-written, and well-performed, sure. Just not funny.

So, so far, Sammy J’s Thursday night satirical sketches are on safer ground with the Play School parodies. And if they’re a bit like what John Clarke used to do, then that’s hardly a bad thing.

It Comes Into Focus If You Squint

Squinters is – well, it’s not good, no denying that – but it’s also a show that manages to combine the worst of two worlds: the unchanging set-up of a bad sitcom with the repetitiveness of a bad sketch comedy. At barely over 20 minutes, there’s just enough time to re-establish the astoundingly boring set up –

– and seriously, this bears repeating: this is a show about ten or so people driving to work and back. It’s not a show about two or three people driving to work and back together so we really get to know their characters; nor is it a show with a range of people in various different comedy situations. By the time we’ve been reminded of the dynamic between each character, their segment is pretty much over; it’s a twenty two minute show where it feels like a quarter of the run time is spent telling us things we were told last week.

C’mon, one segment was literally:

“I’m sorry I got the job you wanted”

“You know I wanted that job”

“But the longer I have this job, the more money I will have for our joint business venture – now tell me comedy facts about people we will never see”

“Someone has two glass eyes, someone else is a hugger, a third someone is a spinster”

“Spinster is a funny word.”

“So is divorcee”

“And… scene”

Roughly half of that was reminding us of what we were told last episode. Presumably we’ll be told it again in some form next episode, especially as nothing else actually happened with those characters.

And yet, reminding us of things we already know is vital because Squinters is a show based entirely on people sitting next to each other in their cars so the only possible source of comedy is the dynamic between them. There’s not enough time to do more than establish the various characters, yet establishing the characters is the only way anything going on here could possibly be amusing. It’s a sketch show where every sketch is the same and also the most boring set-up for a sketch imaginable; it’s like they actively worked hard to come up with a format that can’t possibly be funny.

That said, if you find Sam Simmons in and of himself amusing, then this show features a performance from Sam Simmons. We’re not being bitchy: he’s a performer who can make something out of nothing with his personal style of performance, and he’s definitely given nothing much to work with here. Tim Minchin is also someone in this show but again, with maybe four minutes of air time he’s not given the chance to do much more than get wacked in the nose.

We’re not saying that Squinters is produced by people who don’t know how to be funny. Who knows? Maybe they think that actual traffic reports and numerous shots of busy roads and highways are somehow making this show hilarious. Cutaways to boring stuff worked in The Office because treating boring stuff like it was interesting was the joke – and does anyone else remember that for a show seemingly set in a dull location, The Office was full of pranks and amusing visuals while also featuring broad characters with a solid comedy dynamic? In this we get jokes about forgetting to hang up your phone.

Best case scenario is, Squinters is a show written by people who think that television comedy begins and ends with a funny line. But even then, if the best description of Sam Simmons you can come up with is that he looks like “some kind of… Greek sex pest”, then you really need to work on the funny lines too. A joke that a bad painting of a woman reminds her of Salvador Dali – not his style of painting, his actual face – isn’t bad, but this format just throws it out there with no support.

Then again, if your idea of a great comedy character for 2018 is “humourless teen girl feminist”, maybe exploring your characters in more depth isn’t going to help matters.

Back in Black

Press release time!

Black Comedy is Back

Monday, February 12, 2018 — New cast, new writers and a whole lot of new laughs…ABC is pleased to announce that series three of Black Comedy starts filming in Sydney today.

Fresh, original and just a little bit wrong, first launching in 2014, Black Comedy debuted to rave reviews and garnered a legion of fans and millions of views online.  Featuring sketches that spawned catch-phrases mimicked all around the country, Black Comedy takes a cheeky look at Australian culture through the comedic prism of our nation’s first people, with no area off limits.

Nurturing the next generation of comedy writers, the new series showcases a talented line-up of Indigenous actors and comedians. The core team will feature new writer/performers including standup comedian David Woodhead, Gabriel Willie (Bush Tucker Bunjie) and social commentator/writer Nayuka Gorrie. Returning favourites include actor Aaron Fa’Aoso and writer/performer Nakkiah Lui, who will be joined by actors Wayne Blair and Rarriwuy Hick.

Guest appearances will include Adam Briggs, Leah Purcell, Jack Charles, Christine Anu, Elizabeth Wymarra and Elaine Crombie along with Matt Day, Lisa Hensley and plenty of surprises.

Written and directed entirely by Blackfellas, the six-part series combines a mix of observational and physical sketches, historical sketches and parodies of TV, film and commercials.

Black Comedy will film in and around Sydney over the next five weeks and will screen on ABC later in the year.

Finally the ABC seems to have figured out that if you actually want to nurture comedy talent, you have to provide them with a regular showcase, one where experienced performers can mingle with first-timers to create an environment where expertise and enthusiasm can feed off each other – with audiences the winners.

If only they took this approach with the rest of their comedy output instead of just running an seemingly endless series of slap-dash talent shows that go nowhere, maybe they could create a few more shows that weren’t Squinters.

Suspect Moustache

If there’s a genre of comedy that Australia doesn’t make a lot of and probably should do a bit more of, it’s animated comedy. Sure, we had Pacific Heat about a year ago, and Fresh Blood produced Koala Man, which is being made into a series, but that’s kinda it. So, it was nice to discover Suspect Moustache, tucked away on SBS On Demand, a surreal animated sketch show which shows some promise.

Suspect Moustache

Made in 2015 as part of SBS’s Comedy Runway new talent scheme, Suspect Moustache is a free-wheeling, fast-paced show full of high-concept, irreverent ideas. In one series of sketches, scientists clone Jesus, producing a new Jesus every day of the year…meaning it’s Christmas every day, and zombie Jesus clones are taking over the world. In another series of sketches, Evolvo, the God of Evolution, intervenes in everyday situations and causes chaos thanks to his rigid application of the survival of the fittest doctrine. There are also a bunch of sketches which are parodies of TV shows and TV ads, so something for everyone, here.

Amongst the voice cast a few well-known performers, actor Aaron Pedersen (Mystery Road, A Place to Call Home) and comedian Demi Lardner, as well as Suspect Moustache’s creator and writer Fabian Lapham.

Given that this show was made three years, it’s probably safe to say we won’t be seeing any more of Suspect Moustache, which is a shame as it’s funnier and more inventive than many recent sketch shows. If you like animated shows from the US like Archer, or even the British magazine/comic Viz, you’ll probably enjoy this.

We’re on the Road to Nowhere

Australian comedy rarely rewards original ideas. But Squinters goes one better than the usual rehashes and retreads: not only is it basically a remake of production company Jungle’s recent Stan series No Activity, but within the same format you’ll spot a number of popular comedy dynamics being dusted off and taken for a spin. Is it a new rule that one-fifth of all new ABC comedy must resemble Broad City? Don’t let them see The Good Place, the ABC’s output is hellish enough as it is.

So this is a sitcom about five batches of people who in the morning drive into work, and in the evening drive home again. It seems like the kind of idea a network would adopt largely because it’s cheap – even cheaper if, as with No Activity, they just give the cast rough outlines to improvise their dialogue from – and yet for some reason a chunk of this Sydney-set show was filmed in Los Angeles. Presumably Jacki Weaver, Sam Simmons and Tim Minchin weren’t able to return to Australia to film their parts, and they’re the kind of big names a sitcom about people sitting in cars needs to pull in the audience.

… or, you know, you could come up with a sitcom based on an interesting idea, but the people who greenlight Australian comedy seem actively allergic to that kind of thing. It’s this grim fixation on the idea that the only possible thing audiences tune in for is personalities that gives us year after year of largely forgettable comedy from the National Broadcaster; almost every memorable sitcom ever made turned its cast into much-loved personalities, not the other way around. Putting big names into a shit show creates a shit show: putting unknowns into a great show makes them stars.

But we have to make do with what we have, which in the case of Squinters is solidly professional and occasionally amusing. Five cars spread across around 25 minutes of sitcom means we only get under five minutes with each car (once the constant shots of busy streets and highways plus co-creator Adam Zwar’s voice-over traffic reports are taken into account) – it’s basically a sketch show where every sketch is just two people talking to each other. Remember how loathed the restaurant sketches were on Fast Forward and Full Frontal were because they were just two people talking? No? That’s how this show got made.

Car number one on its way to Kosciuszko headquarters is carrying middle-aged Lukas (Sam Simmons) and his mum Audrey (Jackie Weaver); he’s hoping for a promotion, she’s taking her dog to a breeding session, and if you find awkward sex chat hilarious this is the segment for you as Audrey suggests her corpse could be turned into a diamond that Lukas could use as a tongue stud and Lukas – who is gay – points out that they’re made for “pleasure”. This is easily the broadest segment of the show, but the trip back (where things have taken a turn for the worst for Lukas) salvages the character to some extent… though really, both there and back are largely excuses for Simmons to do his patented strangulated “I’m not yelling” voice.

Car two features Paul (Tim Minchin) who has clearly set up a fake carpool to get his unknowing crush Romi (Andrea Demetriades) into his not-at-all-suspicious white van. The hilarious comedy dynamic here is that he’s a quiet, sensitive type, while she’s more confident and starts bringing up masturbation at random on the first drive. This one works reasonably well because it’s about the characters interacting: “will they or won’t they” is rightly mocked as a character dynamic in comedy but for four minutes a week it’s tolerable.

Macca (Juston Rosniak) and Ned (Steen Raskopoulos) have known each other since high school… where Macca bullied everyone around him. This feels like Zwar returning to the dynamic of Wilfred: a smart, subdued nerdy type has to deal with an aggressively rough-as-guts Aussie-as type. Plus more sex jokes, this time about Macca having to wank at work for stress relieve (plus he can’t wank at home because his wife’s always there). You know when you think back over all the classic comedy sketches of yesteryear and realise that almost all of them involved characters who were either physically doing things or meeting each other for the first time and you’re working on a show where neither of those are options? Jokes about wanking.

At least the car with Simoni (Susie Youssef) and her free-spirited bestie Talia (Rose Matafeo) doesn’t feature any wanking jokes, because the dynamic between the two, uh, owes a large debt to Broad City. But Broad City is (well, was) a pretty good show, so this plot – Simoni is taking Talia to a job interview so she can contribute financially to the small business they’re planning together – is one of the better ones. It doesn’t hurt that this is also the one with the most straightforward comedy concept, though it seems that after this week the new status quo is going to leave them with nowhere to go* but a run of episodes based on the exact same joke.

As for car five, in which mum Bridget (Mandy McElhinney) is driving teenage daughter Mia (Jenna Owen) to school, this one has a few too many ideas going on: Bridget is trying to live through her daughter (“don’t make the same mistakes I did”, etc) while also trying to manage her dating life, while Mia is horrified by the very idea of her mother getting laid but also has a wacky boyfriend who seems to have wandered in from a completely different show.

The best installments are generally the ones where the drama is based entirely inside the car: the possible relationship between Paul and Romi, how work upsets the relationship between Simoni and Talia. That’s because this is a show set entirely inside cars: the stuff going on outside is only relevant when it impacts on the situation inside the car. Bridget’s romantic life is only interesting because it impacts on her relationship with her daughter, because her relationship with her daughter is what her segment is about. Jokes about outside stuff might be funny, but if they don’t connect to the core point of the sketch then they’re going to stop being funny pretty quickly.

Put another way, Romi talking about wanking is both funny and relevant: if Paul wants to be in a relationship with her, the fact that they have different attitudes to sex is kinda important. Macca talking about wanking is just some boofhead talking shit about jerking off – it’s funny at first but it doesn’t take long to start thinking “who cares?”

And with Squinters, you might find yourself thinking that a little too often.

*so many opportunities came up to say Squinters is “going in circles”. So many.

Last chance to see (almost)

While we were noodling around on SBS On Demand the other day, we came across some of the pilot shows from Comedy Runway, a 2014 SBS comedy pilot scheme that we’d completely forgotten about. And because some of the shows are about to disappear from SBS On Demand quite soon, and we’ve never reviewed them, and a couple of them feature comedians who are currently doing quite well for themselves, we figured we should take a look…

Fully Furnished

Comedy Runway - Fully Furnished

When Dayne and Todd (Tonightly’s Tom Ballard and The Little Dum Dum Club’s Tommy Dassallo) lose their housemate because they’re so awful to live with, they advertise for a new one. Answering their ad is Malaysian business student Ronnie (Ronny Chieng from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and International Student) who, short on funds, turns his new home into a laundromat. Finding the house suddenly full of people and laundry, Todd fights back by opening a rival laundromat in his room…and things just spiral from there.

If this seems slightly like Ronny Chieng International Student, that’s because it is; this is the comedy of things getting more and more ridiculous, with a Malaysian student right in the centre of it all. That said, it’s a very different show with completely different writers, and nowhere near as clever.

Part of the problem is that most of the characters are pretty dislikeable, particularly Todd, who makes racist remarks about Ronnie and describes the laundromat customers as “low breeds”. Fair enough, he’s a parody of an awful guy in his 20s, except, for the parody to work you’d have to be able to laugh at Todd, and the script isn’t clever or funny enough to make you do that. So, Todd just comes across as the massive racist arsehole.

Having said that, Fully Furnished is one of the better shows from to come out of this scheme – it’s inventive, there are lots of potential plots, and parts of it are funny.

Apocalypse Events

Carlos and his gang might look like hitmen or kidnappers, but they’re actually corporate team-building day facilitators. Trust exercises? Nah, boring. The way to sort the wheat from the chaff in the business world is to subject an executive team to a terrorist siege, or to hood them, drive them out into the bush and make them fend for themselves. There are some funny moments in this, like when Carlos and team burst into a client’s office wearing balaclavas and toting guns and the bored receptionist asks them to sign in…which they do. Problem is, there’s barely enough in this idea to sustain a six-minute sketch, let alone a series. Still, nice attempt.

Dog Squadron

This is more cute than funny. Imagine if the famous air battles of World War 2 were fought by dogs, with the RAF squaring off against, wait for it, the Luftwoofe, whose squadron leader is, wait for it, General Woofenstein. And that’s the extent of the comedy in this.

Heaps Good Hostel

When English backpacker Byron checks in at an Adelaide backpackers’, it isn’t immediately obvious that he’s a vampire. And when permanent resident Finegan works out that he is, hostel staff Jaz and Sam don’t believe it and don’t care. There’s not a great deal of hilarity here, apart from a reworking of this old gag: “I banged that French chick last night.” “Where?” “In the vagina.”

Nulton

This is a sort of mash-up of The League of Gentleman and the Beaconsfield mine disaster, except it’s a bunch of weird locals trying to help a trapped Dutch backpacker. You want rural grotesques? This has lots of them. Although, sadly, none of them are particularly funny.

Looking Back – Dack Attack!

Fictional nostalgia programme Looking Back looks back at fictional 90s TV favourite Dack Attack! in which rugby hall of famer Darren Tackle (Greg Larsen) went up to people on the streets and dacked them. This is a fairly solid parody of 90s entertainment shows and features a lot of high quality dacking. And who doesn’t find dacking hilarious? Problem is the whole thing is slightly too drawn-out to be really funny, and while this concept could have made a decent series, let’s face it, Greg Larsen’s gone on to bigger and better things and that’s a good thing.

There’s one more Comedy Runway show currently available on SBS On Demand, and that’s Suspect Moustache, but as there are five episodes of that we’re going to review that in a separate post.

Thursday’s the Day for Sammy J

Press release time!

GRAB A BITE OF SAMMY J EVERY THURSDAY NIGHT!

Monday, February 5, 2018 — Welcome aboard Sammy J, a brand-new weekly bite-sized satirical sketch series to broadcast on ABC at 6.55pm starting Thursday 8 February. Sammy J will also be available on ABC iview, ABC iview Facebook and ABC COMEDY YouTube.

Multi award-nominated comedian Sammy J is making his boldest pitch yet to the electorate: a three-minute frolic through the issues of the week. From craft activities with Malcolm and Bill, Question Time debriefs with the Government Coach, to singalongs in the Parliamentary Bar, Mr J will continue to flog our leaders with wet lettuce until they refer him to the High Court.

Sammy J’s unique comedic talents, satire, and his insatiable appetite for politics will blend with the successful characters and ‘small worlds’ of his previous two series, Sammy J’s Playground Politics and Sammy J’s Democratic Party, to create a new platform from which he can harass and heckle the politicians of the day.

Sammy J said; “In the words of Julia Gillard – there will be some days I delight you, there may be some days I disappoint you, but on every day, I will be working my absolute hardest for you. Thank you for inviting me into your living rooms, and I promise to clean up after myself.”

Sammy J is an award-winning comedian, writer and musician. He won the Best Newcomer award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and went on to performed in Edinburgh, Montreal, and every major Australian comedy festival. His album Skinny Man, Modern World received an ARIA nomination for Best Comedy Release. His current solo show, Hero Complex, won Best Comedy at the Melbourne Fringe Festival and was nominated for a Helpmann Award in 2017.

We’re a little surprised the ABC is keeping the Clarke & Dawe timeslot open without Clarke & Dawe – 6.55pm on a Thursday never felt like a much sought-after spot for original content – but Sammy J is probably the best current choice for it. Even if this does sound like they’ll just be parceling out segments from his somewhat hit and miss Sammy J’s Democratic Party in an easy-to-upload format.

Fingers crossed the focus on one sketch a week will sharpen things up, as we enjoyed a lot of Sammy J’s Playground Politics. Just less interviews with cardboard cutouts of Robert Menzies, please.

Still Mad as Hell always

We’re currently living through an Australian topical comedy glut. There’s not just one topical comedy on TV, there are two: Tonightly with Tom Ballard and the newly-returned Mad As Hell. That’s two different shows giving their two different takes on Australia/Invasion Day, dual citizens in parliament, Malcolm Turnbull, and various other current affairs – actual consumer choice!

So, obvious question, who does it best? To which there’s an obvious answer…

Mad As Hell 2018

…or is there?

Clearly Mad As Hell is doing the sketch comedy side of things way better. The entire show is basically a half-hour news desk sketch, a rolling news desk sketch if you will. This means there aren’t the great, juddering tonal shifts that you get on Tonightly… when it cuts from Tom Ballard’s stand-up to a pre-recorded sketch featuring one of the cast doing comedy in a totally different style.

When Mad As Hell cuts from the Shaun Micallef host character reading a story to an interview, then on to the next story, and so on, it feels like a more cohesive show. Not just tonally, but in terms of overall quality. Mad As Hell feels like a show where material is written in a house style, and to a certain standard. It’s the kind of show where material gets rejected, or re-written until it works – an attitude which even makes it into the show. When Micallef points out that that photograph of Barnaby Joyce isn’t quite right, it’s the cue for the team to cycle through about 10 different shots, the joke getting funnier the longer it goes on.

Meanwhile, on Tonightly…, parts of it feel like a first draft. Like there’s an attitude that “It’ll do”. To be fair, the Tonightly… team have more material to write each week. On the other hand, that’s not a good enough excuse.

Here’s a tip, straight out of last night’s Mad As Hell: if you’ve pre-recorded something that’s a bit average, add something funny in the background. Some dead bodies floating down the river, for example. Sketch saved!

Tonightly…, though, intends to do things very differently to Mad As Hell. At least half the show is stand-up which sometimes has a serious point to make, for example – a perfectly reasonable approach to take when you’re making topical comedy. And Tonightly…, it has to be said, does a pretty good job of expressing the real rage and frustration that many people, particularly young people, feel towards our politicians and the political process – who else is doing that on TV? Also: no knowledge of cult cinema is required to get the joke – you follow the news, you get the reference.

So, to the various people wondering why we’re giving “ongoing soft support” to Tonightly… it’s that we appreciate the difference between it and other shows, and think it’s got something to offer. Even if it hasn’t reached Mad As Hell‘s level of brilliance yet.

Problematic Content

Look, we really appreciate Ten doing their level best to bring light entertainment (without sport) back to the commercial networks. And who can blame them: with Have You Been Paying Attention? now a ratings hit and a cross-promotional gold mine, no wonder they’re going back to the well over and over again. Personally we would have bricked over that well once we fished Cram! out of it, but here we are again with Hughesy, We Have a Problem, and… yeah.

We’re old enough to remember exactly why Dave Hughes is famous, which already puts him well ahead of most of the other television “personalities” dragged into the spotlight thanks to the massive gravity of the black hole that is Rove McManus. Specifically, where Carrie Bickmore was an everywoman and Peter Helliar was an everywoman but a man, Dave Hughes was angry. He was angry on Rove, he was angry on The Glasshouse, he was angry when he was on the Triple R Breakfasters in Melbourne, he was angry when he and the rest of the Breakfasters were bought across to Nova and he was angry when… actually, somewhere along the way he discovered mindfulness, gave up the booze, started doing a lot of material about his wacky family and became the richest man in Australian comedy.

Which is kind of a problem here, because this show – which, as others have pointed out, is basically just a do-over of the old Beauty and the Beast format of a panel solving various problems by throwing jokes at them – really needs a host with a bit of an edge. Somebody’s got to be the one who takes things too far on this kind of show, and it’s got to be a regular so we know them well enough to know they don’t really mean it. But 2018 Hughesy isn’t that guy any more: he’s too busy making jokes about how his dog likes to bite strangers.

That’s one big problem; having this show run for a full hour is another. In comedy you definitely can have too much of a good thing, especially when your format is just “four people answer questions”, and bringing out a couple of audience members and a celebrity guest doesn’t really qualify as mixing it up. Especially when around 40% of the questions seem to involve parenthood. With it being scheduled after I’m a Celebrity So We Can Run Well Over Time If We Feel Like It, there’s no good reason this has to be a firm hour long; a tight thirty minutes plus ads would be ample.

Otherwise though, and much as it pains us to admit it… this didn’t totally stink. Part of the reason why the Beauty and the Beast format has endured is because it allows the guests to ramble on a little while having an aim – answering the question – in mind, and so this (largely) landed in the sweet spot where the panel (which importantly was a good mix of types who generally played well with each other) got to chat without burbling on for ages. Yes, Julia Morris was one of the panelists and so we got to hear more about herself and her career than we would have liked, but even then a reasonable amount of her self-promotion was actually on topic, which as far as she’s concerned is extremely refreshing.

It wasn’t rapid-fire funny like a good episode of HYBPA? – in fact, decent jokes were fairly thin on the ground – but most of the conversations eventually arrived somewhere funny and the interjections (which seemed surprisingly natural for Australian television circa 2018 – no ABC-style constant cutaways to the audience here) almost always served to raise the humour level. Basically, the basics were strong: this is a show that needs a few tweaks rather than being burnt to the ground.

Strange as it is to say because this actually showcases him pretty well, Hughesy is probably the weak link here. The host needs to be a counterpoint to the panel, not someone competing with them for laughs, and while Hughesy himself did well out of things the show itself would have been better if the host had been more distinct from the panelists.

Basically, his current “top family bloke” persona is just too nice to be the host of a show built around people being bitchy about strangers’ personal problems. He seems like the kind of guy, dead doll eyes aside, who really wants to help people, whereas all we want is to get the maximum possible laughs out of each problem.

And those laughs aren’t going to come from useful advice.