A Plea for Preservation (pt 1)

If you’re anything like us, you’re constantly in awe at the vast collection of Australian television comedy that’s been released on DVD.  Seriously, there’s a best-of collection of Graham Kennedy’s Coast to Coast: who ever expected that? But in this golden age of plenty, let’s not kid ourselves: there’s a heck of a lot of stuff out there that hasn’t been released on DVD yet, and a lot of it might never get there.

Which is why we figured now was as good a time as any to make a start on our list of shows / specials / whatever that we’d like to see get an official release. This list is only the beginning, so feel free to send us any suggestions you might have. We’re actually going to try and be reasonable about this rather than just making it a blatant wish list: sure, we’d all love to see a proper release – or even a dodgy bootleg – of Tony’ Martin’s Boytown Confidential mockumentary, but there are plenty of good reasons why that ain’t going to be happening (that said, if you’ve got a copy lying around the house, give us a call).

So for the most part we’re going to try and provide at least one decent reason why we think a particular request is reasonable. Of course, we live in a world where Let the Blood Run Free and Bogan Pride are out on DVD, so pretty much anything is possible. And if you’re thinking this is just a fishing expedition to see if anyone out there has copies of any of the following they’d like to share… well, you’re not exactly wrong.  But some of these series are readily available through various back channels already: we just think that they deserve, for whatever reason, to be officially preserved for the ages. Or just for a boozey Friday night with some mates and a pizza.

1): Welcher & Welcher. Shaun Micallef’s to date only sitcom didn’t exactly set the world on fire on its’ first screening, but that’s not its’ fault. Some odd timing issues aside (it’s one of the few shows that would have been improved by a laugh track), it’s basically Micallef doing what he does best: being piss-funny. A solid collection of co-stars (Robyn Butler, Santo Cilauro, Francis Greenslade) don’t exactly hurt either. So where’s the DVD release? Don’t ask us, though we hear there’s a bit of a rights issue holding it back. But with Micallef currently riding high, surely this is the kind of release that would make someone some money.

2): Series Four of Full Frontal . The fine folks at Shock released series one, two and three – and then stopped. Why? Lack of interest – on their part, not the general public’s, as series Four is the one with all the really first-rate Micallef material and yes, we know there’s a separate all-Micallef DVD that collects a lot of that stuff. But there’s no harm in asking for the world, especially as they’ve already brought out the first three series. It’s not like we’re talking Totally Full Frontal here.

3): BackBerner. This Peter Berner-hosted slice of strident satire was The Chaser’s War on Everything of its’ day – only without the pranks, which is probably why not a trace of it is available on DVD. And okay, much of it was very topical, and most of it wasn’t exactly funny, which is often the case when you’re more interested in point-scoring than making people laugh. But that approach didn’t stop the ABC from releasing a “Best of The GlassHouse” DVD a few years back, and unlike that show, BackBerner contained actual scripted sketches instead of just Hughsie trying on hats.

4): The Jesters / Whatever Happened to That Guy. Neither of these Pay TV shows were classic comedy, but they were, in their own clumsy ways, at least as funny as fellow Pay TV series :30 Seconds and Stupid Stupid Man – both of which shot to DVD almost before the final credits had rolled. It’s not like either series was a massive flop – The Jesters is even getting a second series – so if Chandon Pictures can get a DVD release what’s the hold-up here?

5): TwentySomething. This Channel 31 comedy series might have been a little rough around the edges, but so was A Hot Dog with the Lot and The Shambles and both of them made it to DVD. And with TwentySomething getting script development funding from the ABC, what better time to raise the show’s profile? It’d be really interesting to know exactly why Shock (who released both Hot Dog and both Shambles DVDs) pulled out of the Australian comedy business a year or two back: without them, there’s clearly a big segment of the Australian comedy market left out to dry.

6): The Gillies Report. This is a slightly different puzzle to the others, in that a best-of was released back in the day on VHS. So presumably all the ABC would need to do is dust off the tape and run it through the converter. Fingers crossed they get around to it – or better still, release the complete series. Hey, if Aunty Jack can get the full treatment, why can’t this? Especially as, with John Clarke on board doing his legendary Farnarkling sports reports, this was easily the best of  Max Gillies’ various political series.

7): The Money or the Gun. In a parallel world much like ours, this DVD is sitting on the shelves of ABC stores everywhere.  It’s been announced and postponed twice now, for reasons that remain unexplained. Supposedly it’s to be a best-of, but whether that means a collection of segments or complete episodes is also a mystery.  Still, why announce such a thing (twice) and then not follow through?

8): The early work of Bob Franklin. When The Comedy Channel first started up in Australia it was basically run by Artist Services, and Bob Franklin took advantage of his in with them to get two separate series up: Small Tales & True (a series of mockumentaries) and Introducing Gary Petty. And who doesn’t love Bob Franklin? He was hilarious (and very popular) on Thank God You’re Here, he’s always turning up in old-timey movies (watch out for him in the upcoming World War One film Beneath Hill 60), he’s even got a collection of his excellent creepy short stories out (Beneath Stones). And with a supporting cast that includes the Librarians trio of Wayne Hope, Roz Hammond and Robyn Butler, not to mention guest appearances from pretty much everyone in Australian comedy (including Shaun Micallef), if they could ever get the rights sorted out this would be the comedy DVD release of the year.

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1 Comment

  • sflyons says:

    I can answer the question re the Jesters. The first ep was on the Tropfest DVD, which came free with the Age two saturdays ago, and it ends with an ad for the whole of series 1 on Itunes. So presumably they’ll wait to see how it sells there, without the production and distribution costs, before considering DVD.

    Way of the future, etc.