Australian Tumbleweeds

Australia's most opinionated blog about comedy.

Fresh Blood pt 4: Donna Good Job

Okay, so we kinda sorta knew Aunty Donna’s pilot was going to be the pick of the Fresh Blood bunch. For one thing, their previous efforts have been funny; for another, they’re an actual comedy team who’ve been working together for years. How often do you see one of them these days?

So their pilot was a cut above the rest; in fact, it was pretty much the only one of the five that we reckon could go to series as is. BedHead and Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am need a lot of work; The Record was 50% gold, but that’s not really enough to get the thumbs up; Fancy Boy was a solid sketch show, but does anyone think they’re going to get all the big names back for minor roles if it goes to series?

So yep, it’s not a contest… but if it was, they win. The opening musical intro alone is a stand-out, the plot – the handsome, popular member of their sketch comedy team has bailed, leaving the remaining three with no chance of actually becoming funny before the big gig that night – is a solid framework for a bunch of sketch-like events leading to a big climax, and unlike a lot of people trying the “manic” school of comedy they stick enough funny moments in there to stay on the right side of annoying. Like we said up front, it’s the pick of the Fresh Blood bunch. We all knew that going in. So wait, why are they even part of this talent quest?

What Aunty Donna’s presence here tells us is that something is not quite right in the ABC’s commissioning process when it comes to scripted comedy. These guys shouldn’t be jumping through these very public hoops: they’ve done enough good work to be on the ABC’s radar as part of their regular program-making process.

But of course, there is now a very, very big gap between the people who can get shows on the air and the people who should be getting a shot at getting shows on the air. The days when the ABC was a breeding ground for comedy talent that would then go on to the commercial networks are long gone; now commercial no-talents are welcomed at the ABC with open arms in the desperate hope that some of their audience will follow (Charlie Pickering, Josh Thomas).

With nowhere for even the quality ABC acts to go and ABC2 no longer running new programming, we now have a comedy logjam. We may not have been fans of a lot of the ABC’s scripted comedy output in recent years – we’re not calling for the return of The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife-Fighting, fuck that – but the guys behind The Moodys probably should have got another shot at a sitcom. Where’s the next series from Gristmill? The Twentysomething team? Where’s John Safran? Where’s Tony Martin? Oh wait, we’re back on the old guys again.

It’s a year ago this month that the Bondi Hipster’s TV series Soul Mates aired. It wasn’t perfect, but it showed promise. So where’s their follow-up? Okay, those guys scored a Screen Australia grant and so don’t need to work – uh, are “developing ideas” – for the time being. But the list of equally mildly promising Australian comedies from the last few years is reasonably long (no, not The Strange Calls); why is the ABC even holding public pilots when they aren’t giving the people who’ve already made a series for them another shot?

Could it be that they have no real interest in encouraging new comedy? Could these pilots really be as good as it’s going to get? Are guys like Aunty Donna going to be stuck waiting for a rope ladder that’s never going to be thrown down? Is the real joke behind all this the idea that these pilots are ever going to lead anywhere?

Utopia is a sitcom that’s funny

The second season of Utopia saw it evolve from a sitcom which was mainly about how difficult it is to build infrastructure in this country, to a sitcom about an office in which people find it difficult to build infrastructure in this country…hey check out that subplot about the overzealous plant hire guy!

This change of emphasis has been a largely positive move as far as we’re concerned because, well, the infrastructure project management woes have always been the least funny parts of this show. But plots about how an office becomes Chaos Central when someone tries to fix the air-con, or when it’s Heart Week? We can all laugh at that.

(By series three [we’re assuming there’ll be one] Utopia may well be what was once the Holy Grail of Australian sitcom: a local version of The Office. A show where it doesn’t matter what business the characters are supposed to be engaged in, it’s all about how the characters inter-relate and the stupid things that happen to them.)

With this narrower focus, watching Utopia has felt a bit repetitive – every week Tony will try to get something happening and fail, Rhonda and Jim will put up barriers or move the goal posts to make Tony’s job even harder, Nat will be dealing with something annoying that isn’t related to the project, and Amy will be ring-leading some initiative that distracts everyone who isn’t already distracted from the task at hand – but that hasn’t stopped it from being funny. Far from it.

On the one hand this is great – laughs is often something Australian sitcoms fail to raise – but it is kind of a shame that the political satire elements of the series are taking more of a backseat. There probably is a reasonable amount of funny you can get from infrastructure, but only if you’re John Clarke. He’s really good at picking apart ridiculous political situations; Working Dog, less so. They’re more about everyday characters and the minutiae of situations, so it makes sense for them to get their laughs out of subplots about coffee machines.

But if there is another series we’re going to need more from this show. We’re going to need a reason for the characters’ tales to be told. A denouement, perhaps? Where the National Building Authority or Nation Building Australia, or whatever they’re called this week, pull off a project successfully? Now that really would be hilarious!

Fresh Blood pt 3: Record Scratch & Fancy That

And the Fresh Blood juggernaut rolls on! Not that there’s a lot to say about The Record, aside from “it’s good”, which is a bit of a relief after our first two reviews. And it’s not just the brief run time that made it a relief – though at just over 17 minutes, it’s easily the shortest of the Fresh Blood entrants – it’s a comedy that starts out with a funny idea then builds on it, continually finding humour in a series of logical developments. Hurrah!

Well… okay, it doesn’t do that all the time: the premise of The Record is a show about people trying to break records, with two stories running side-by-side (we’re assuming there was a third that was cut, thus the short run time). One, about an elderly couple trying to get the record for the world’s fastest homing pigeon, is a bit of a mess. The central concept isn’t that great, the plot twists don’t really build on that concept, and while the performances are fine it’s hardly memorable stuff.

It’s the other story, about a couple trying to set the record for most naturally conceived children (they currently have 69 boys), that’s comedy gold. The ways how they cope with their huge family (names! washing! bedtime stories!) all gets a laugh; the gradually revealed relationship between the couple (she wants more kids; he’s looking worn out) is just as funny. Even the set design is perfect; the shabby 70s-esque decor and clothing only adds to the seedy, run down vibe.

For once, we’re going to give this the benefit of the doubt: sure, the pigeon stuff is pretty much par for the firmly average course of Fresh Blood pilots, but the big family is a decent idea executed in a way that makes it even funnier. A show that was consistently that funny would be cause for celebration; as it stands, The Record is the first Fresh Blood pilot we can actually recommend.


Fancy Boy opens with Luke McGregor walking into a kitchen to find a man with his pants around his ankles sitting in his sink taking a shit. If you kind of feel like you don’t need to know any more to pass judgement, welcome to the club. Fortunately, the sketch turns out to be more about having a dickhead flatmate who wants to argue their way out of the obvious. It’s not even that someone taking a shit in a sink can’t be funny; it’s when that’s the opening image of your show that the alarm bells start ringing.

To Fancy Boy‘s credit, sketches that start out one way then develop in a more interesting fashion seem to be the goal here: the “Backyard Business” sketch starts out as a firmly average parody of gardening shows, only to become more interesting when the cameras are turned off. Okay, hiring a sex slave online to clean the house largely works thanks to Celia Pacquola’s horrified expressions. And the “albinos vs witch doctors” sketch is pretty predictable (though the bizarrely plausible set-up makes it work). And the Mark David Chapman sketch is a one-joke idea that pretty much runs on rails. Wait, weren’t we saying this was an okay show?

Thing is, when you’re doing a sketch show that’s largely just weaving in and out of extended sketches, you really need to make sure that every time you come back to a sketch you’re either building on what’s come before or taking a new angle on it. For example, with the sex slave sketch, the intro is “oh no, you hired a sex slave to clean our house because he’ll work for free, eww”; the first callback is “oh no, I hired a sex slave to clean our house and now my girlfriend is really getting into punishing him”, then we get “oh no, we’re exploiting him but not in the sexy way he wanted (“I want to be treated like shit, but not like this”)”. Same set-up, (slightly) different jokes.

So while this isn’t always kicking goals, it’s doing a decent job of serving up fresh jokes even when it keeps returning to various set-ups. We’d still rather that some – most – of the sketches were one-offs (having the shit-in-the-sink set-up turn into one of those “exasperated lead is the only person who can see the obvious” sketches so beloved of The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting was a big let down, even for a sketch that started out with someone shitting in a sink), but if you have to keep going back to sketches this is the way to do it.

That said, having not one but two montages of all the various storylines while music plays might have worked in Magnolia, but a half hour sketch show is not an overwrought three hour long late-90s arthouse flick even if your DP is “Roderick Th’ng”. Full star off for pretentiousness there.


Fresh Blood pt 2: Wham Bam Flim Flam

We’re assured by the ABC PR department that Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am is “a rapid fast-flowing comedy with an uniquely female perspective.” “Uniquely female”, you say? Are we supposed to read this as saying “it has an unique perspective that also happens to be female”, or – as seems way more likely – “this perspective is unique because it’s female”?

If it’s the latter then a): nice one chumps, as comedy is one of the few areas of Australian cultural life where women get a semi-reasonable shake and do we really need to bring up Judith Lucy, Kath & Kim, Kylie Mole, Wendy Harmer and the list goes on and on, and also b): US comedian Amy Schumer is doing the exact same thing right now and it’s not a comparison that’s flattering to the Skit Box team behind this show.

Yes, we know outright comparisons are both unfair and extremely lazy criticism. But at the moment, and especially online, Schumer is the current owner of the “raunchy and insightful female-focused sketch comedy” title. That obviously doesn’t mean that other people can’t also do it: it does mean that someone else is already doing a really good job of it so you’d better bring your A-game because people are going to be making comparisons.

So when your opening is a girly slumber-party pillow fight that turns vicious… and that’s it… then you’re not really putting your best foot forward. Taking things TOO FAR is very well-worn territory now that you can pretty much show anything you like on television (or at least, anything that’s going to get across the TOO FAR point, such as the ear-biting here), and while there might be a deeper point to be made here – maybe about reality versus fantasy – this bit isn’t making it.

Then it’s time for the seemingly traditional one-upsmanship bit where two people try to outdo each other with… oh, just go watch Monty Python’s “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch instead, that pretty much put the capper on this kind of thing 40 years ago. Still, “I’m having a seizure on top of all this from the miscarriage of my autism AIDS baby” was a pretty funny line.

Hey, help us out here: is this a comedy sketch:

WOMAN: “Do you want sushi for dinner?”

MAN: “Didn’t we have sushi for lunch?”

WOMAN: “Yeah”

[Freeze-frame, caption BITCHES BE CRAY]

Yeah, we didn’t think so either. Don’t worry, this kind of thing doesn’t get funnier with repetition.

Like we always seem to be saying with these Fresh Blood pilots, there are bits here that work – usually the shorter the better. The all-junkie version of Friends complete with fake laff track is not a good idea, but the junkie version of the theme song (“it’s like you’re always shooting up someone’s gear”) is good; the animated toilet sign joke works; ‘Old-Fashioned Dating’ contains one “swipe left” laugh but it’s short enough to get away with it. And then it turns out to be a series of sketches and… yeah. Repetition.

The trouble with having an unique perspective on anything is that it telegraphs a lot of your jokes ahead of time. Hey look, it’s a workplace full of women and the new hire is a guy; wonder where this is going? No, no we don’t, because it’s going down the corridor marked “what if sexism worked the other way”. That doesn’t mean it’s not a decent sketch – the points the women made were funny because they were valid beyond the usual clichés – but when your punches are so clearly telegraphed ‘decent’ is really the bare minimum required to get a laugh.

(and then they bring the sketch back and you know what? If you have a long sketch that gets more and more crazy, cutting away in the middle to something else then coming back to it doesn’t make it funnier – it ruins the momentum you’ve built up and makes the whole idea seem drawn-out. This kind of thing worked when Fast Forward did it because they were doing (relatively) short sketches and could cut between three or four at a time across an hour-long show; when you’ve got 22 minutes, if a sketch feels too long to deliver in one go, cut it down until it fits)

And everything else was firmly in the “everything else” category. Ha ha, being murdered by a serial killer is like sex! What, no “I scared him off” punchline? And then it’s reprising old sketches until the end credits roll. When you only have what, five sketch ideas in 22 minutes, it’s not really the best advertisement for being given an entire series, especially when a decent script editor would cut that run time down to a core funny five minutes. It’s a good five minutes, mind you, and this does show a fair amount of promise. Would we watch it as a series? Yeah, we’ll get back to you on that.

It’s been a very long time since Australia was up there with the world’s best in sketch comedy. The UK may have given up on the format but the USA is really doubling down on it and as a result the days of getting laughs with half-finished ideas, sketches that don’t really say anything about anything beyond “what if X was like Y”, and banging a concept into the ground with repetition is… well, obviously not “over” because that would be wishful thinking. But if you want to make good sketch comedy, you now have a lot of current examples of how it should be done.

So that running bit where the punchline to each wacky request was always “ugh, you’re just like my dad”? Not really the way to go.



Fresh Blood pt.1: BedHead on Arrival

When we first encountered BedHead in the ABC’s 2014 online comedy initiative Fresh Blood, it’s safe to say we weren’t overly impressed. So of course, it was one of the five shows to be given the chance to come back in sitcom length-form. As a relationship comedy, surely the extra airtime would be used to flesh out the characters, make the storylines more involving, and just generally provide a richer, deeper experience, right?

If the use of the word “surely” in the previous paragraph didn’t already give it away, then no. The sitcom-length version of BedHead did none of those things. In fact, in more than a few ways it was actually a step back from the original five minute version. We didn’t exactly love the Peep Show-style voice over narration in the original version, but at least it provided another potential avenue for comedy; without it, what’s left is little more than an extremely basic “will they or won’t they, oh wait they just did but it was totes awkward so they’re pretending they didn’t even though it’s obvious they both still want to” sitcom.

There are a lot of problems with BedHead, and the opening scene – Nick is wanking over computer porn, so of course he’s completely naked, then when he gets a Skype call he answers it and on no it’s Sophie his best friend! – is a pretty good advertisement for all of them. Basically, it’s not realistic, but it’s not so over-the-top that it’s funny in itself. It’s just implausible, which is not a good note to strike in a rom-com.

The set-up that follows is so generic the only real explanation is that someone high up at the ABC said “we need one of those relationship comedies like, um, Coupling? Or the Ross and Rachel bits of Friends?” Sophie has split with her man so she’s coming back to Australia and wants to move in with Nick, which she does and that night in they drunkenly have sex. THE MOST AWKWARD SEX EVER.

Unfortunately for this show, awkward sex stopped being hilarious around 2005, so this scene is just awkward: he over-thinks things, he can’t remove a bra, he can’t stop talking during oral sex… is anyone else seeing the actual problem here? Is sex just a thing a man does to a woman? Oh wait, she finally goes the grope and it’s not fun for anyone. Just like watching this scene.

The real problem at the core of Bedhead is that Sophie is one half of the show but gets 0% of the personality. All we know about her is that she broke up with her partner and is friends with Nick. That’s it. It’s a good performance from Sarah Bishop, but it’s a nothing role. Not that Nick has much more going on, but there is one scene where we find out he’s – shock – a bit of a nerd. Which provides at least some shading to the “gormless loser” performance given by Paul Ayre.

This kind of rom-com is a tricky balancing act. The characters have to be bland – uh, “universal” – enough that the audience can project themselves into the situations they’re dealing with, and yet not so bland that they’re ciphers. Bedhead? Ciphers all the way. And it doesn’t help in the slightest that the core dilemma – Nick and Sophie like each other but their awkward sex session means they’re now acting like they’re not romantically interested in each other – is utterly generic. If you’re going to do a “will they or won’t they” story, it helps if we actually care them enough to care if they will or not.

Character criticism would be a minor issue if there was anything else going on here, but the back half of the episode involves Mick meeting co-worker Daisy at a bar and – despite pretty much throwing himself at an oblivious Sophie (one of the many things this show gets wrong is not realising that 80% of the time people know when a friend is crushing on them) who is also at the bar – he ends up going back to their office to have sex with her. Shock twist: Daisy, despite seeming to be a sweet nerd, is actually a violent sexual psycho. Remember how the awkward sex was horrible instead of funny? Same deal.

So Nick is a sad sack loser who somehow has (bad) sex with two different women in twenty four hours. Meanwhile, Soph is this desirable and amazing women Nick’s been in love with for years, only she has no personality whatsoever. Bedhead would be an offensively stereotypical male fantasy if only it seemed smart enough to be pandering to male fantasies. Instead, it’s just a lazy mess.

Of course, if this does go to series it could easily turn itself around. It’s just sloppy, not terrible. But if it did suddenly put all the pieces together, it’d only ever be a retread of every other dull sitcom based around whether two people are going to have sex. The characters are utterly forgettable, they inhabit a world that is completely without quirk or humour, and their every feeling and situation is taken from a dozen other sitcoms whose heyday was a decade ago.

And on top of all that, it’s just not that funny.

If the Boot Fits

Press release time!

Festival Of the Boot returns for the 2015 Grand Finals

Friday, September 25, 2015 — Celebrate the climax of the 2015 footy year with ABC NewsRadio as we proudly present “The Festival of the Boot” – a two pronged affair covering both the AFL and NRL Grand Finals on October 3 and 4.

Be part of football history – yes, again! – and join rampaging Roy Slaven and HG Nelson for the annual weekend of all things football, no matter what code you follow.

Nothing else matters when Festival of the Boot is up and running!

“This year’s Festival of the Boot is for all Australians but especially women of calibre, shark shooters, Taylor Swift Freaks, Ashley Madison swingers, humanitarian coal miners, shoe collectors, first home buyers, zombies and vampires, wedding celebrants, job ready tyre-fitters looking for flats, cosmetic surgeons, day spa operators, Tinder types, Qantas crews, Bronwyn Bishop Chopper Pilots and south coast beauty students,” HG Nelson said.

Rampaging Roy Slaven also observed, “I am thrilled that the new Skipper, Malcolm Turnbull, has realised that there is no more exciting time to be an Australian in the history of the world than in 2015. When you settle down in the comfy chair with a large one handy on that one weekend in October and give the Boot a good hard look, you will know exactly what he is talking about.”

H.G. Nelson said, “This year’s Boot is all about “jobs and growth”. It’s a message all real Australians can get right up behind.”

‘It’s simply un-Australian to swerve past the Festival of the Boot. It makes us what we are – the greatest football nation on earth,” Roy Slaven said.

“The Boot in 2015 celebrates the work of coaches everywhere. These unsung heroes of sport are real Australians doing the heavy lifting week in week out in the toughest competitions in the world.”

The Boot Part One  –  the AFL Grand Final live from 2pm AEST, Saturday, October 3

The Boot Part Two  –  the NRL Grand Final live from 6.30pm AEST, Sunday October 4

Festival of the Boot is live and exclusive to ABC NewsRadio – on air, online, on digital radio and the ABC Radio app.

The days when we cared all that much about Roy & H.G. are about as distant in the past as the bombastic style of sport commentary they’re making fun of – well, we’re assuming sports commentary has moved on, it’s not like we actually give a shit about sport in any way shape or form – but it’s still good to have them back covering the various Grand Finals.

The big problem with sports comedy over the last few years is that it’s all been coming from the sports side of things, and having a bunch of ex-players talk shit loses its lustre after the first thousand hours or so. So while Roy & H.G.’s glory days are a decade or so in the rear view mirror, at least they’re able to make fun of sport in a way that’s (occasionally) funny to people who know next to nothing about the sport.

The fact they’re on ABC NewsRadio suggests this approach isn’t quite the draw it used to be when the duo were Triple J fixtures with regular gigs on commercial television. Fingers crossed it’s just their star that’s faded, and not the idea of poking fun at sport. As Australia’s biggest scared cow, sport should be in the sights of a lot more comedians a lot more often.

Just as long as it’s not Hughsie. Or Straunchie. Or Mick(ie) Molloy.

Another stroll down Ricketts Lane

In our review of episode 1 of Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane we hoped that the rest of the series would ”place more emphasis on getting laughs from dialogue, and writing song and dance sequences which work well on camera”. And in happy ending news, it has. Episodes 2-6 are much stronger than 1, with smarter dialogue, some well-realised musical sequences, and an ending which anticipates a second series…something we’d be happy to see. One of the better sitcoms this country’ produced for a while? Probably.

Partly this is down to the classic “odd couple” premise at the centre of the show – two people in a love/hate relationship = laughs – but it also helps enormously that one of them’s a puppet. As Team America: World Police and The Muppets proved, you can get away with a hell of a lot more with puppets.

Audiences will let puppets do just about anything (we can’t think of any other sitcom character who’s been able to dangle their cock and balls on screen). Oh, and the slapstick’s heaps funnier. Randy can be chucked about, over and in to anything – his legs and arms flailing and dangling amusingly as he flies through the air – and he’ll still survive. Humans, less so.

We also enjoyed the plots involving the various combinations of the love/hate/weird hexagon that was Sammy, Randy, Victoria, Borkman and Wednesday. Ricketts Lane did a good job of setting up that one, and in creating Boss from Hell Borkman, Super TV Bitch Victoria and Lovely/Slightly Creepy Wednesday. None of it was subtle characterisation, but it was funny.

As for the songs, they were pretty good too. You didn’t have to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of recent pop music to get them (hello Flight of the Conchords!) and they (mostly) weren’t what Andrew Lloyd Webber once described as the sort of musical song where you pause the action to sing about it for four minutes (and he should know!). Even shot without the kind of budget that made great screen comedy songs like Python’s Every Sperm Is Sacred hilarious, the Ricketts Lane songs were funny. That was nice to see after previous Australian comedy musical fails such as Bogan Pride.

Good dialogue, characters, plots and maybe some music – that’s all you need to make a good sitcom. Maybe more people should try it?

Kevin Perry Goes Large

And after that pun on a crappy British comedy film from 15 years ago, here is the announcement it relates to…

Steve Molk and Kevin Perry join forces to launch DeciderTV

September 21, 2015

News – Kevin Perry

From today, Kevin Perry ( & Steve Molk ( have joined forces to deliver a brand new media commentary presence focusing on the Australian TV landscape.

From free-to-air to subscription to SVOD, Australians have never had more choices when they turn on their TVs. Or tablets. Or phones.

Kevin & Steve have combined to bring years of media experience to DeciderTV that will present all the available information for audiences to be able to make easy decisions about what they watch (& when they watch it).

Together with a very talented team DeciderTV offers news, opinion, interviews, reviews, recaps, ratings, a TV guide, podcasts and more that will engage readers at all levels – from those with a passing interest in TV to passionate fans.

With the launch of the new site, & will cease publishing new content. Both Steve and Kevin would like to thank everyone that has supported our previous sites and we hope you will love joining us on this new publishing adventure.


As the newspaper TV supplements vanish (i.e. The Age’s legendary Green Guide is now around six pages plus listings), and with only TV Tonight posing any kind of online threat, DeciderTV is setting itself up as the alternative. They’ll talk about free-to-air, subscription, new-fangled TV delivered on devices, catch-up – you name it. Plus there’ll be interviews, podcasts, reviews and opinions. Sounds great doesn’t it? Let’s take a look at their first day…

Its Back! Offspring confirmed as returning to Ten in 2016

September 20, 2015

News: Kerry Perry

Kat Stewart and Asher Keddie return for a new season of Offspring on Ten.

After a year of waiting the Ten Network has given Offspring fans the news they were desperately waiting to hear with confirmation the show will return for a sixth season in 2016.

Exciting times for Offspring fans, but why’s it coming back?

The resurrection of Offspring comes at a time when Ten has little other drama in production. Wonderland was a massive flop that has since been axed while the Melbourne based political drama Party Tricks, which also feature Asher Keddie failed to engage viewers.

The sixth season of Offspring will be a more costly program for Ten to produce. Australian Tax Rules allow for a 30% rebate for TV Drama programs, however this ends after 65 episodes have been produced. Offspring hit that limit at the end of season 5.

So, it’s coming back because Ten’s fucked it drama-wise. We wonder if DeciderTV has any opinions on this?

The Return of Offspring – Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

September 21, 2015

Opinion – Steve Molk

Yesterday Network Ten made a lot of noise about the return of their dramedy hit OFFSPRING for season six in 2016.

As well they should.

Offspring remains the high watermark for the Network that hasn’t seen anything come close since the neatly-wrapped series finale in August 2014. Not one of their subsequent Aussie drama products (PARTY TRICKS, WONDERLAND) have delivered the ratings success or audience engagement of stories of the Proudman family.

Resurrecting Offspring will only end in one of two ways – it’ll be really great and the audience will lap it up, or it’ll just do OK and be seen as mediocre. Either way there will be guaranteed tears.

This isn’t a comment on the crew, cast, scriptwriters or anyone associated with Offspring. The production itself will be made well and with love, in the usual hope that the audience will embrace these adored characters and settle right back in with them.

But haven’t we all moved on?

Plenty of opinions in there, but a lot of them quite contradictory. Mainly the bit about criticising Ten for failing to make programs other than Offspring, then predicting the new series of Offspring will be crap, whilst making it clear you’re not commenting on “anyone associated with Offspring”.

Still, one vague opinion does shine through: Australian television makers can do no wrong, and the only judge of quality will be the ratings. “The production will be well made”, you say? Isn’t it possible that after five seasons there’s nothing left to say about the characters? And that after a full year off (and perhaps a reduced budget now the tax concession has gone) maybe the production side of things could be rocky too? But that would be a critical – as in displaying critical thinking – opinion, and this site doesn’t seem to be the place for that.

After all, having a clear opinion and being able to express it isn’t what’s made Steve Molk what he is today. The kicker for us was his first TV Guide for DeciderTV:

TV Guide for week commencing 20/09/15

September 20, 2015

TV Guide – Steve Molk

2015 week 39;

31st week of 2015 ratings year.

All times AEST unless noted otherwise.


   #MustWatch (bold & italics)

   #MolkPicks (bold)

Everything else worth a look without guarantee/endorsement.



Compass: For Better or Worse (E01 of 5) – 6:30pm ABC

Scorpion (S01E13 of 22) – 6:30pm Ten

The X Factor Australia (S06E06) – 7pm Seven

The Block (S11E09) – 7pm Nine

Open Slather (E13 of 20) – 7:30pm Comedy

   Doctor Who (S09 premiere – E01 of 12) – 7:40pm ABC

Vera (S04 premiere – E01 of 4) – 8:30pm ABC

Sunday Sessions: Michael Hutchence: The Loved One – 8:30pm ABC2

60 Minutes (S41E34) – 8:30pm Nine

Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Rush – 8:30pm ABC

   Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door (part 2/finale) – 8:40pm Seven

House of Lies (S03E11 of 12) – 10:15pm Eleven

Who knew there were so many good shows on Australian TV on just one evening. Presumably there’ll be less worth watching on Monday…


Cats Uncovered (E01 of 3) – 7:30pm SBS

The X Factor Australia (S06E07) – 7:30pm Seven

The Block (S11E10) – 7:30pm Nine

   Show Me A Hero (E06 of 6) – 7:30pm showcase

   Australian Story: The Making of Malcolm – 8pm ABC

   Four Corners: Dethroning Tony Abbott – 8:30pm ABC

   Humans (S01 finale) – 8:30pm ABC2

The Wonder of Dogs (E01 of 3) – 8:30pm SBS

Ramsay’s Hotel Hell (S02 finale) – 8:30pm Seven

Have You Been Paying Attention? (S03E20 of 30) – 8:30pm Ten

   Ray Donovan (S03E11 of 12) – 8:30pm showcase

House Husbands (S04E07 of 10) – 8:45pm Nine

What Really Happens In Thailand (E02 of 6) – 9:10pm Seven

   Media Watch – 9:20pm ABC

The Island with Bear Grylls: Reunion (S01E02 of 6) – 9:30pm SBS

Episodes (S04E03 of 9) – 9:30pm BBC First

   Q&A Live in Ballarat: Bill Shorten – 9:35pm ABC

AAARRRGGGHHH!!!! There are almost 100 shows listed for this week. How are we supposed to find time for all this? Even getting through the #MolkPicks would be a challenge. And isn’t the point of a critic-curated TV Guide that the critic only suggests a manageable number of must watch shows per evening (i.e. two or three)?

Don’t get us wrong, we think there’s room for an alternative to TV Tonight and what remains of the TV commentators in the traditional media, but if it’s DeciderTV then DeciderTV needs a bit of work. Online’s a place where you can have opinions and survive. But if you’re setting yourself up as an opinion forming website, and none of your opinions are usable, then what’s the point?

Double Zero is Still Zero

Press release time!

Charlie Pickering returns to ABC with a double offering

Friday, September 18, 2015 — Following a highly successful debut season, ABC TV is thrilled to announce The Weekly will return this December with an end of year special called The Yearly.

Host Charlie Pickering: “The team at The Weekly is currently on an extended hiatus from screen duties. Our priority has been expending much-needed time and development funding coming up with a name for the one-hour annual news roundup special. After a laborious three minutes, we settled on The Yearly and will be taking the rest of the time off. See you in December!”

The Yearly will put an arm around the shoulder of 2015, gently take it aside and ask it to take a long hard look at itself. Charlie, Tom Gleeson and Kitty Flanagan, along with The Weekly’s global correspondents, will make sense, and make light, of an extraordinary year of change, upheaval and ridiculous breakfast television clips that no family can afford to miss.

And the good news doesn’t stop there. Charlie and the team will also return with an entirely new season of The Weekly with Charlie Pickering in 2016.

The news comedy show that Australia has ended up with will be back on our screens in February to again cut through the white noise of news, identifying this country’s hypocrisies and absurdities and finding new ways to laugh through the tears. Charlie will again be flanked by two of Australia’s best loved comedians Tom Gleeson and Kitty Flanagan, who would have been rapt to return even if they weren’t contractually obliged to do so.

Executive Producer Chris Walker: “It’s very exciting to be coming back so soon, and one thing we can be sure of in this country is that 2016 will be even ‘newsier’ than 2015 … so I personally can’t wait to see what Charlie, Tom and Kitty come up with.”

ABC Head of Entertainment Jon Casimir: “The Weekly With Charlie Pickering has established itself this year as a genuine new voice, a part of the public discourse, sometimes urgent, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes silly, always funny. We’re very proud to bring more of it to a hungry audience.”

The Yearly will premiere in December on ABC.

“And the good news doesn’t stop there”. No, the good news stopped with the headline. Actually, it stopped with “Charlie Pickering”.

You know how we work here: we drag quotes out of the press release (“highly successful debut season”; “two of Australia’s best-loved comedians”; “identifying this country’s hypocrisies and absurdities”) and point out that the truth lies roughly 180 degrees the other way. But this? Way too much to handle on a Friday afternoon. Talk it out amongst yourselves.

We did like the way the ABC boss referred to a “hungry audience” though. Shame he didn’t specify exactly what they were hungry for that they’d swallow this.

The Circus is Back in Town

So The Chaser’s Media Circus returned last week, and we had nothing to say about it. Well, actually we did: compared to the stodgy, plodding panel show we recalled from last year it was a snappy, pacy – even, dare we say, funny – slice of political comedy that used the game show angle to (mostly) move things forward and pile on the jokes. So of course, we decided to wait a week in case it all fell apart.

That’s not (entirely) bastardly behaviour on our part: this kind of political comedy is slightly more reliant on the week’s news than, say, The Weekly, and with nine months or so of news to work with for the first episode it wasn’t surprising at all that the first episode was serving up gold. But could they maintain that level of quality? Why not wait a week and find out?

Of course, a week in which a serving Prime Minister was dumped isn’t exactly going to be short of material, but we’ll be buggered if we’re going to wait around for a third week. So we squinted hard, tried to filter out the way 99% of the jokes were about the spill (the other 1% were fat jokes about Kim Beasley), and focused on the substance of the show. Kinda.

The big problem with Media Circus last year was that – like every other panel show ever – it was labouring under the impression that we actually wanted to hear from the panellists. So we’re pleased to report that the couch waffle has been cut back to the occasional quip or one-sentence insight. And extended segments on media guff – Manufactured Outrage was this week’s topic – was a return to the golden days of The Hamster Wheel’s worthy attempts to educate as well as amuse. As for using old news clips… well, fine, so long as they’re interesting. Having Chris Bath talk about burping on live television… well, not so much.

The game show bits remain the weak point, which is a problem as they’re the core rationale for the show. All the usual problems apply: the results don’t matter so the games have to be funny, but telling the same joke twice doesn’t work so having both teams do the same game is a dud 50% of the time. Fortunately they seem to have upped the number of games that directly pit the teams against each other, so those segments aren’t always lethal.

Generally speaking, this year’s Media Circus feels like there’s been a bit more work put into each episode than last year’s model. But while it doesn’t have last year’s air of exhaustion, it still feels like a bit of a mess. The scripted segments – again, a firm highlight – riff on various aspects of the local media, but the games are just the usual comedy game show stuff poking fun at the news. They sort of fit together in that they both involve “the news”, but one has real insights to offer; the other is just “guess which news stories we cut up to make this funny sentence”.

We’ve said it before, but the big problem facing television – and especially comedy – is that the internet is now the go-to place for lightweight crap. Making fun of the week in politics? Unless you’re able to go smarter or deeper than twitter, you’re wasting everybody’s time. So while the scripted parts of Media Circus remain strong, the game show part?