Australian Tumbleweeds

Australia's most opinionated blog about comedy.

Australian Tumbleweeds on Howard on Menzies

It’s easy to be cynical about the term “event television”, largely because the event in question is usually a rose ceremony or some sport, but it’s hard to deny that Howard on Menzies has been an event. Love them or loathe them, Robert Menzies and his gushing admirer John Howard strode large across the Australian political stage in their days. And even now, little Johnny can’t catch the tram or walk through a university campus without being mobbed by selfie-seekers. If only Mad As Hell was on air now to parody it some more.

Shot more than a year ago, Howard on Menzies has sat on the shelf while we got our latest Liberal leadership spill and federal election out of the way, presumably to ensure Howard did a sit down with the current PM. In the meantime, we’ve been treated to a promotional campaign for this series that’s gone almost as long as the American Presidential campaign. Or at least it seems like that. When did Micallef start parodying it? June? That’s a long pre-promotion period for two hours of television.

You’re probably wondering why we’re talking about it. It’s not a comedy. Well, not an intentional one. Here’s our justification: since the days when TV’s top satirist was Max Gillies, John Howard has been a laughing stock. Little Johnny, geeky, baldy guy with a nasal voice, big glasses, and even bigger eyebrows. Your classic 1980’s friendless-nerd, dumped by his party only to rise again, defeat Paul Keating, and spend more than a decade as Prime Minister, providing endless material for the likes of Martin/Molloy, Clarke & Dawe, Shaun Micallef and numerous others. Put it this way, it was hard to watch Howard crapping on about Doc Evatt and “the Labor party” and not add one of the Get This’ Aaaaarrrggghhh’s.

When event television happens, or a major national event, we need and want our home-grown comedians to take the piss out of it. But where were they? Micallef’s on a break, Clarke & Dawe focused on other things, and even Charlie Pickering was nowhere to be seen. If you’re looking for an actual parody of some of this series’ many mock-able moments, you’ve (largely) had to do it yourself.

Here’s something we’d like to have seen: someone nailing exactly what it is that Rupert Murdoch looks like now he’s ditched the spectacles. A 1980’s Transformer? Darth Vader? Either way, he looks shockingly weird these days, and that’s even comparing him to fellow Howard on Menzies talking head Clive James, WHO’S DYING OF CANCER!!!

Speaking of Clive James, and for that matter, Barry Humphries and Thomas Keneally, since when have that generation of our cultural commentators been fans of Menzies? Didn’t most of them leave the country because the Menzies era was notoriously one that stifled creativity and new ideas? Are we alone in suspecting there was some rather tight editing of what they had to say?

Oh, and that bit where Howard pointed out that it was Menzies, not Whitlam who was responsible for free university education…uuummm…bullshit. The Menzies government may have dished out lots of scholarships, but Whitlam’s government abolished university fees altogether. So, yeah, this wasn’t exactly a dispassionate look at Sir Bob.

We did enjoy Howard’s poor TV presenting skills, though. And whoever came up with sticking him in front of a fisheye lens that made him look like his own Rubbery Figures puppet, we salute you! It’s the most laughs we’ve got out of a camera effect for ages.

So, yeah… Howard on Menzies was far from a comedy, but it wasn’t exactly lacking in laughs either. We just wish there was a crack squad of satirists on TV right now to amplify them.

Movement at the Station

Here’s all we know: No Activity is returning to Stan with new episodes on October 26th. As the press release says:

Rose Byrne and Damon Herriman join Patrick Brammall, Darren Gilshenan, Genevieve Morris,  Harriet Dyer, Dan Wyllie and David Field for more action, more romance, more… well, just more sitting around.

We weren’t exactly massive fans of the first series, but that was mostly because it largely passed us by – hey, it was on Stan, a television channel you have to pay money up front to watch, which puts it near the bottom of our viewing options – rather than because we didn’t like what we saw.

This time around we’ve vowed to change our ways and give it the attention it deserves. Which for this blog means at least a handful of rambling posts talking about “laughs” like they were some kind of quantifiable unit of measurement.

Oh, it also seems that Hard Quiz starts October 19th at 8pm on ABC1. A comedy quiz show! It’s like it’s 2011 all over again.

 

 

Jesus Built My Hotrod

Movies, like many things in life, have seasons. Sometimes it’s the season for expensive yet stupid blockbusters; at other times of year cinemas are full of prestige arty projects. But this particular time of year is the school holidays, and that’s really all you need to know about the latest all-Aussie film to hit the big screen, Spin Out. It may be full of characters above the age of consent drunkenly partying in some lawless free-fire zone where the only morality involves doing circle work in your ute, but at it’s heart it’s a kids movie.

Or just one that treats its audience like kids, it’s hard to tell the difference really.

The story is so simple we really should just stick a picture of the poster here because it doesn’t get more complex than that: there’s a bush ute muster which a lot of Aussie types are attending and shock twist, pretty much everyone in a relationship suddenly finds their relationship on the rocks. Time for everyone to win their partners back! Plus there’s some mildly suss big city types hanging around looking for a root and a woman is worried her boyfriend isn’t going to take well the news that her baby isn’t his baby, though considering he seems to be a professional beer drinker you’d think he’d be happy at the chance of avoiding fetal alcohol syndrome. Party!

It’s a decent enough set-up for laughs but in a brave move this doesn’t actually deliver any. It’s like the creative team – that’d be writer Tim Ferguson (The Doug Anthony All Stars), who co directs with Mark Gracie (You and Your Stupid Mate) were so keen to make a kid-friendly slice of all-Aussie adventure that they made a film full of events that technically look like comedy but lack the spark that turns a seemingly funny idea – hey, lets have a character go into a portaloo then have someone else throw a firecracker in so when he comes out he’s covered in shit – into something that actually is funny.

For example, the film opens with our two extremely attractive leads doing their synchronised ute stunt, only the guy takes it too far (using a brick and an occer strap to get his ute circling without human intervention) and it all goes HORRIBLY WRONG. By which we mean the ute starts making wider circles, the guy can’t get back inside, the brick falls off the accelerator and the ute gradually comes to a halt right before it would have crashed into her. On the one hand, it’s clearly a situation where we’re meant to think “phew, lucky that didn’t get out of hand”; on the other, having it get out of hand would have been funny and exciting.

The cast generally do a decent job so we can’t blame them, and the basic structure of the film is strong so the script works on that level at least. Part of the problem is that the film is simply too mild to get big laughs from the idea of a bunch of people getting massively drunk at a no-holds-barred party. This isn’t a film where the party gets crazier and crazier until the sheer over-the-top nature of events is the pay-off, and the one big moment towards the climax that seems like it was maybe meant to work that way – someone hooks a bunch of kegs up to a windmill to create a beer windmill, which is a windmill that sprays beer – is shit. Mark Gracie proved he’s not the guy for big visual gags with the notoriously rubbish ending of Takeaway, and things have not improved here.

Surprisingly though, this also is not a film where the characters are made fun of for cheap laughs. In fact, it bends over backwards to make sure that just about everyone is treated as a human being. The film’s occasional vomit jokes and the (only?) casual sex reference are limited to nameless supporting characters; even though this is a film featuring someone whose life seems to revolve around drinking record amounts of canned beer, a goth bouncer named Scary Mary and a trio of dropkicks who thought their girlfriends would be impressed by them joining the army, at worst they’re seen as well-meaning but silly. Even the evil city folk at the B&S Ball looking to steal our main characters away from each other aren’t really bad people. What the hell?

It doesn’t even hold up as a chance to check out a unique piece of Australian culture, as pretty much all the unique bits have been sanded off to make this as bland as possible. Of course, that’s in large part because the “uniquely Australian” elements of a ute muster / B&S Ball are the terrifying levels of alcohol consumption, the shockingly predatory behaviour from the blokes, the appallingly racist and sexist bumper stickers the ute owners display with pride, and numerous other elements that fall under “what happens in the bush stays in the bush”. That’s not a negative, mind you – this isn’t that kind of film and that’s a good thing. But if you’re going to take that stuff out, you need to put something else in.

And yet, this is a rare Australian comedy that gets pretty much everything right – or at least, doesn’t get too much wrong – apart from the comedy. You could argue with the choices the creative team have made, but they’re pretty much all legitimate choices that could have led to a decent film. All the characters have the depth and texture of a sheet of fairly expensive toilet paper; the film makes up for it by having close to a dozen featured cast members in a 90 minute film, so there’s no time to dig deep into their motivations and personal quirks. The stakes are low and the plot is predictable; again, by having so many stories taking place (and by constantly jumping between them) it at least feels like there’s a lot going on. Plus it’s a romantic comedy: predictability is what people want.

Thing is, they also want laughs. Perhaps Ferguson and Gracie set too many limits on themselves: it’s a comedy about a bunch of people at a big party, only the film doesn’t want to make fun of the people or the party. It often feels like a story told by a mate who keeps telling you what you’re hearing was hilarious at the time and then just trails off with “… I guess you had to be there”. And when the cinema next door is showing Blair Witch – or Sully, or Secret Life of Pets or Bridget Jones III –  there’s just not that much of a reason to be there.

 

(also, why was this called Spin Out instead of Burn Out? Our days of hanging out with frankly terrifying “ute boys” are well behind us and thank fuck for that because presumably things have changed over the years but back when we knew people who went to B&S balls B&S balls sounded like drunken orgies where getting driven over in your sleeping bag was a 20% chance no matter where you put it. But back then people who drove utes did things like “burn outs” or “circle work” or occasionally “doughnuts” – no-one ever did a “spin out”.)

Sketch comedy? You’re Skitting Me!

There’s an argument that mass-appeal TV comedy is dead, and that broadcasters and streaming content providers should focus their attention on niche audiences. It would probably be a good thing for comedy if that happened; people who like edgy material can enjoy it, while its makers don’t have to have to worry about offending people who don’t like edgy material. Everybody’s happy!

However, it’s pretty rare that old-school broadcasters do this kind of thing beyond well-established niches such as sport and kids. We get why – there isn’t a large enough audience to make it viable – but it’s still a shame. And an area in which streaming content providers could sneak in and outperform them, making them even less relevant.

Which brings us, in a roundabout way, back to one of those well-established niches: kids, and ABC ME’s* sketch show for young people You’re Skitting Me. Its third series started today and was… look, we’re not the target audience for this, but… it’s kinda lame. It’s heart’s in the right place, we suppose. There are sketches set in high schools, and which show teens at home having to deal with their annoying parents. There are even parodies of TV shows like Today Tonight and Kings Cross ER: St Vincent’s Hospital, and of YouTube-style videos, which the mostly-teenage cast perform well, but… it’s not exactly a laugh riot.

A boy unwraps some fish and chips in the style of a YouTube unboxing video, but aside from his over-enthusiasm it’s just a teen unwrapping some fish and chips. Meanwhile, a girl is telling her friends a ghost story at a sleepover, except the horror element of the story isn’t that she heard someone coming through the door, it’s that her mobile ran out of battery and she didn’t have her charger with her; she and her friends start screaming their lungs out at the thought of it.

Basically, this is Dad joke central.

Look, we get that the writers, who include many experienced and familiar names, can’t exactly be edgy when writing for a youth audience, but the lack of any subversion at all is a worry. What do kids laugh their arses off at? Their parents and their teachers. So, where are the sketches where authority figures are the butt of the joke? And if you must do Dad humour why not have a Dad character saying them and make his bad gags the joke. It works in Rad Dad on The Little Dum Dum Club.

It’s like someone at the ABC told the makers of this show to avoid anything even remotely controversial or anti-establishment, even the notion that authority figures like parents and teachers really suck sometimes. We get that the ABC’s gone back to the deferential and safe 1950’s this week with Howard on Menzies, but You’re Skitting Me feels like a show that would have been lame even in that era.

 

* Today, ABC3’s become ABC ME! Who knew?

Greg Fleet has something to say

We’re pretty sure this is a public Facebook post from Mr Greg Fleet, so if you’re a member may we direct your attention there for a saga that begins with:

Last night I did a couple of gigs. I did well at each of them, people laughed, I made up a few new things etc.I felt confident and very good at what I do. It was great to hang out talking with the other comics and to make the audiences happy for a time. During the gigs I had about 5 or 6 drinks (mostly shots of whisky that Sammy from the Rochester kindly gave me). After the second gig I ‘started’ drinking and had about 5 more shots and a couple of beers before I got a taxi home. In the cab I realised I was a bit drunk.

Stops off at

At home I woke my partner and stumbled around thinking I was being hilarious before I tripped and fell over. I was not physically hurt but I did feel a tad degraded. My partner said I was scaring her (a vile and shameful thing to do to anyone, ever). My way of dealing with this was to become rude and defensive to my her before storming out to the lounge room where I became convinced that I was being persecuted by just about everyone, just about all of the time. (This suggests that I feel I SHOULD be persecuted, that somehow I deserve punishment. And I’m not even Catholic…)

Passes through

What I’m more interested in is the booze itself. Obviously the best way to avoid a hangover is to not drink at all, but for most of us that is simply not going to happen. I have known many alcoholics and I do not think I am one. I rarely crave booze. I can go days without any alcohol, but I can also drink like a lunatic. I have at times sat at the computer writing and blitzed an entire bottle of single malt or good Polish vodka. Drinking a couple of bottles of wine in an evening is not beyond me. So while occasionally I drink alcoholically, I do not think I am an alcoholic and I am not in denial about it either

And takes a tight turn around

I don’t NEED booze. I just like it.

I just want it.

And why not? It’s legal, for the most part it’s socially acceptable and its everywhere. Im not a violent drunk. Im not usually abusive. Im quite fun when I drink. But WHY drink when I can end up feeling like I do this morning? I think I have a Mt Everest approach to booze;

INTERVIEWER; “Why did you drink that bottle of gin?”

ME; “Because it was there”.

Before ending with

Writing with a hangover? That says ‘journalist’ to me

He’s looking to have the whole thing published professionally somewhere, so if you’re an editor drop him a line.

After reading the whole thing, well… Look, there’s very little doubt that Fleet is a very talented comedian. But there can be times where his somewhat… romantic view of the world and his place in it seems to get between him and the kind of insight into behaviour that people turn to the truly great comedians for.

Put another way, being Greg Fleet is perhaps not as interesting as Greg Fleet sometimes thinks it is, which is a shame as Greg Fleet often has some very funny and insightful things to say when he looks out beyond Greg Fleet. And the insights when he looks back at Greg Fleet sometimes don’t seem quite as sharp as they should be.

 

The Vagaries of ABC Scheduling (vale Soul Mates series 2)

So who knew Soul Mates series 2 wrapped last week? Not us, clearly – we bought the DVD when it came out last week and finished up the series by watching that rather than stuffing around with all that old-fashioned television bizzo. Yes, basic maths would have pointed out that a six part series was going to run for six weeks, how observant of you, why don’t you bugger off back to the CSIRO and let regular people get back to counting on their fingers.

To be fair to us – oh right, better wrap up Soul Mates first: does anyone else get the feeling that the Bondi Hipsters (aka Connor Van Vuuren, Christiaan Van Vuuren and Nicholas Boshier), like a lot of other comedy teams of recent vintage, are not really all that great when it comes to coming up with actual stories? Not that they really need to, obviously, but of the four stories this season the two that largely worked for us were the ones making fun of specific things – hipsters with the Bondi Hipsters, and various 80s cultural guff / New Zealand-Australia rivalry with the Kiwi Assassins.

The other two stories – the Egyptian stuff and the cave dudes – held together roughly as well but didn’t really have a strong comedy hook to disguise the fact that they weren’t really holding together all that well. Plus we’re not really talking about subtle and nuanced characters across the board here; when you’re making a six part series built on characters that are basically one-joke characters – and three times out of four you told the joke last season – you better have a joke with multiple angles to it.

The reason why sketch shows of the 80s and 90s had large writing staff is because characters like the ones in Soul Mates just aren’t strong enough to take up seven minutes a week for six weeks. They’re sketch characters, not sitcom characters (ok, the Bondi Hipsters could maybe handle their own sitcom). They’re decent sketch characters – give them half as much air time and they’d be twice as funny – but Soul Mates still ends up spinning its wheels a lot because it really needs something else (more characters, one-off comedy bits, just five minutes of something different scattered throughout to break things up) to really make it a decently funny half hour.

Anyway, the real blame for us failing to notice Soul Mates had finished is not us falling asleep each week trying to make it through Gruen, but the recent wave of ABC comedy (and “comedy“) program announcements. Say what? How could we possibly blame a press release for our forgetful ways?

It’s simple: we looked at the dates for all these releases, saw they were in early October, and figured the ABC would continue its commitment to first-run Australian comedy from now until then. Okay yes fine sure, it’s only mid-September, obviously Soul Mates wasn’t going to pull another three or four episodes out of its arse. But what’s so special about October that the ABC is throwing all their quality comedy releases on at roughly the same time?

The best we can come up with is that there’s some cross-promotion angle they’re trying to work. Why throw away their good programming in dribs and drabs when they can release it all in a rush so for a few weeks it looks like they’ve got more to offer than old episodes of QI? Oh right, because they’re a public broadcaster and their job is to provide programming for the public across the whole entire year, not hoard it for a few weeks to try and make a big splash. How silly of us to have forgotten that.

Next thing you know we’ll be forgetting how many weeks a six-part series runs.

Blurred Lines

You know that feeling when someone makes a joke and it’s completely obvious that it’s a joke and yet even though it’s a joke it’s also kind of revealing of their thought processes in a way that they maybe didn’t realise when they were making the joke? Yeah, that:

Television, for me, is an aspirational medium. At its best, it should make the viewer think, “one day, that could be ME up there on the flat screen.”

Yeah, it was so hard to get into The Wire because we were too busy wondering how we could get a job slinging dope on the streets of Baltimore to actually pay attention to anything taking place on the screen.

Originally we had around 900 words here explaining that a): we understood Pobjie was joking, b): we had no problem with him writing comedy articles based on a persona exaggerated for effect, c): we didn’t really have any problem with him writing serious criticism either, d): our problem was that he’s currently trying to do both in such a way that it’s unclear which views he holds for comedy purposes and which ones are serious, e): especially because he’s got a history of publicly begging for work from television producers in such a way that it seems fairly obvious to all that what Pobjie really wants is a career on television, in which case f): wait, is this meant to be a comedy article?

But then we gave up.

Ben Pobjie’s latest book, Error Australis, is on sale now. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, it’s “mean and derisive”.

Happy Days Are Here Again

Press release time!

STAN RAMPS UP INVESTMENT

IN ORIGINAL PRODUCTIONS

Stan is ramping up its investment in original productions, announcing today that four new TV series are now in development, with more to follow in the coming months. 

The upcoming development slate for Stan Originals showcases a diverse range of local creative talent. It includes Merchants of Misery, a satirical drama set in the world of celebrity agents and gossip magazines, from the team behind No Activity; The Other Guy, a semi-autobiographical comedy from stand-up comedian and radio personality Matt Okine; All Thumbs, created by and starring Damon Herriman (Justified), about three social outcasts looking for love; and Chaperones, created by and starring the popular comedy trio Aunty Donna, who will play deadbeats entrusted with the care of a child star.

The announcement follows the success of the first two Stan Original Series: No Activity, which received three Logie nominations and returns for a second season next month, and Wolf Creek, which recently launched on Fox UK and premieres in October on Pop TV in the US.

Stan’s Chief Content Officer, Nick Forward, said: “This slate demonstrates Stan’s rapidly growing investment in original programming, confirming our standing as a vital, exciting new player in the Australian production landscape.”

“We are working with the best creatives in the country to develop world-class content, with an eye on the international market.”

Merchants of Misery

A young talent agent is left to navigate the world of gossip magazines after she inherits her father’s celebrity management company and a roster of high-profile, hard-luck stories.

 From Trent O’Donnell, the creator of Stan Original series No Activity, and journalist Bryce Corbett, Merchants of Misery will also be directed by O’Donnell and produced by Chloe Rickard for Jungle. Development is being financed with the assistance of Screen NSW.

The Other Guy

This hilarious and heartbreaking series follows the story of a successful radio host who finds himself single for the first time in 10 years after discovering his long-term girlfriend has been having an affair with his best friend – and to make things even more complicated, it looks like she’s pregnant.

Created by and starring Matt Okine, the series is being written by Okine, Becky Lucas and Greg Waters. The Other Guy will be produced by Angie Fielder, Polly Staniford and Cecilia Ritchie for Aquarius Films and Executive Produced by Jude Troy for eOne and development is being financed with the assistance of Screen NSW.

All Thumbs

The lives of three social outcasts intersect as they attempt to overcome their various shortcomings and find love.

All Thumbs is created by and stars Damon Herriman (Justified, Flesh & Bone) and will be produced by Jungle, the team behind Stan Original series No Activity.

Chaperones

Three deadbeat nobodies are entrusted with the day-to-day care of a child star.

Created by and starring comedy group Aunty Donna, Chaperones will be produced by Nel Minchin for In Films, with development financing from Screen Australia.

No snark here: this is good news any way you slice it. Okay, it’s mostly good news from the “dear sweet Jesus Australia needs all the commercial comedy programming it can get because the ABC largely seems interested in men’s mental health and Luke McGregor” angle, but that’s still a pretty big angle. And anyone smart enough to give Aunty Donna their own sitcom is definitely doing something right by us.

It’s also interesting that of the four programs announced here, all four are pretty much straight-up comedies. Yes, okay, we know they’re Australian comedies so we’re not going to come right out and say they’ll be funny. But let’s compare this list to the one out of the ABC last week, where out of the seven titles listed three were merely hosted by or featuring comedians and another two were either a quiz show (Hard Quiz) or a lightweight drama (Please Like Me). From this we can deduce two things:

Stan, a streaming service that has to try and bring in viewers otherwise it’ll go out of business, is going ahead with four scripted comedies out of a total of four shows announced.

The ABC, a multimedia enterprise that supposedly is also interested in bringing in viewers, is presenting audiences with a mish-mash of concepts only considered “comedy” because some allegedly funny person is hosting.

Much as we’re big fans of the ABC, the fact that Stan, AKA the organisation that actually has to bring in viewers, is going all-out on comedy suggests to us that they think comedy is something people want to see. And that the ABC thinks “comedy’ is something they can add to whatever old crap they want to put to air to try and make it palatable.

Virtual Reality Comedy

We often ponder the future of Australian comedy on this blog, especially screen-based comedy, so it was interesting to read on TV Tonight last week that Screen NSW and the ABC will fund a small number of VR projects, including two new comedies:

Aussie Cops
Genre: Narrative Comedy
Company: Hardy White Pictures
VR Company: Paper Moose
Creatives:
· Writer/cast: Seaton Kay-Smith
· Director/cast: Nick Hunter
· Producer: Michelle Hardy
Synopsis: Aussie Cops is an Ozploitation comedy series about two very fair-dinkum cops investigating a grisly murder. A locked door murder of sorts experienced in 360 degrees from the point of view of an inquisitive new recruit.

The Hold Up
Genre: Narrative Comedy
Company: Jungle FTV Pty Ltd
VR Companies: Cutting Edge, Nylon Studios, Panavision Australia
Creatives:
· Executive Producer: Chloe Rickard
· Producer: Sarah Nichols
· Director: Scott Pickett
· Writer: Charlie Garber
Synopsis: A young man’s preference for the ‘real’ over the ‘virtual’ is put to the test when his life is threatened by two ethically conflicted bank robbers.

If some of the names involved in these projects sound familiar, it’s because they are. Aussie Cops’ producer Michelle Hardy has previously worked on Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am and #7Days Later, while writer/cast member Seaton Kay-Smith was also a writer and performer on Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am and The Roast. The Hold Up’s production team are equally experienced; Chloe Rickard’s credits include Soul Mates, Here Come The Habibs! and The Moodys, Scott Pickett was in Review with Myles Barlow, and Charlie Garber was a writer for Miles Holbeck: The Member, Here Come the Habibs! and No Activity.

But even with all that experience of making TV comedy amongst its makers, will Aussie Cops and The Hold Up be any good? VR as a medium for narrative comedy is pretty much uncharted territory and one where the makers will have to think very differently about how they’ll construct the story and set up the gags. In a recent episode of Radio National’s Download This Show, which discussed VR filmmaking, tech journalist Peter Marks raised one fundamental problem with the medium for narrative storytellers:

…it’s a hard way to make a film, because normally when a director makes a movie they get your eye to go somewhere, they can do it by using focus, by using light, by the composition of the frame. In a virtual reality movie, I don’t know how you do it. They [the audience] may not be looking anywhere.

The best-known example of a VR comedy is Interrogation, a 360-degree sketch made by Funny or Die. It puts the viewer in the role of a suspect “getting grilled by the worst detectives in the business”. The website Upload VR reviews it in some detail, but it seems the potential for the audience to look around the room is exploited by the makers…

Without actually giving away the reason for the interrogation, the Funny or Die sketch makes great use of the 360-degree space. Everywhere you look, there are hidden jokes all around… Nearby is a blood splatter with a label that says “Oops!” There is even a moment when another officer comes into the room and in the background a clown can be seen getting arrested. It all flows well together, which is still rare to see in these quickly developing times.

As fans of background gags, this all sounds pretty promising (or at least it will be once we get ourselves some VR headsets). But it’s also clear that there’s potential for the viewer to miss gags delivered by the characters if they spend too long looking at that kind of thing. Either way, we look forward to seeing the results of these experiments…somehow.

Put On A Happy Face

And the press releases keep on coming:

Man Up premieres Tuesday 11 October at 8:30pm (3×60’)

Gus Worland is on a mission to break the silence.

In Australia, men are traditionally seen as strong, stoic and tough as nails. They laugh in the face of fear. They excel at everything. And when life gets them down, they drink a cup of concrete and harden the f**k up. Or so the saying goes. But hardening up doesn’t seem to be working out too well for our blokes. Research shows Aussie men are lonelier and more disconnected than ever. Common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety go untreated. And suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged 15 to 44 years. So why are men killing themselves? And why isn’t anyone talking about it?

Enter Gus Worland: professional talker. As the star of a Triple M’s radio team in Sydney, Gus has his finger on the pulse of real Aussie blokes. Deeply impacted by the suicide of a dear friend ten years ago, and with a teenage son of his own about to become a man, Gus sets out on a mission to save Aussie men from their biggest killer. Themselves.

THE SOCIAL CAMPAIGN:

ManUp.org.au

Following the airing of the series, the social awareness campaign will continue. We want to start the conversation but we want you to help keep it going. Jump onto the website to check all the facts, extra clips and to join the conversation. It could save a life. #ABCManUp

Man Up was principally financed by the Movember Foundation in association with the University of Melbourne. Produced in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. An Heiress Films Production.

So wait, this is basically an infomercial promoting mens’ mental health checks? Why are we even mentioning it? Oh right, our seemingly endless mission to point out just how reliant the ABC is on outside funding these days. What’s next – Dave Hughes fronting a show on the importance of avoiding stress sponsored by a mattress company?

We know this kind of thing does well for the ABC – remember that mental health week they did a while back? This looks roughly as funny, which is to say not very funny at all. In fact, we’re going to go out on a limb and say the biggest laugh across the three big nights is this line from the press release:

As the star of a Triple M’s radio team in Sydney, Gus has his finger on the pulse of real Aussie blokes

a): Triple M announcers and “real Aussie blokes” have about as much in common as every other form of highly-paid media professional and “real Aussie blokes”. Which is to say, with rare exceptions the only pulse your average Triple M announcer has got their finger on is the one in their dick.

b): “As the star of a Triple M’s radio team in Sydney”? Ooh, you can just see the PR team realising at the last minute that “As the star of Triple M’s radio team in Sydney” was just that little bit too specific to get away with.

Sorry Gus. We know you mean well.