Satire in this country has historically been mostly piss-poor, and neither the upcoming revamp of Good News Week, called Good News World, or upcoming sitcom At Home with Julia, which explores the personal and professional lives of Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson, look set to change that.
Let’s look at Good News World first. There aren’t many details out there but the Herald-Sun tells us that the show will be “new and improved”, and that current cast members plus “a few extras” will be on the show. Media Spy adds “It had been speculated that the programme was facing the axe after low ratings and a long absence from TV screens. There is no word on when the ‘new and improved’ Good News World will air.”
Obviously the revamp could go a number of ways. Good News Week‘s satirical elements, such as they were, could be retired to make the show more variety focused (that was already kind of happening anyway). Or perhaps the show will ditch the variety elements and return to its roots as a topical panel game. There’s also the possibility that the show could attempt to morph into an Australian version of The Daily Show (many other groups of comedians have tried crack this one, although none have succeeded).
We have no idea, and the producers of the show haven’t exactly been telling, but a not very thorough Google search did alert us to the following passage in a biography of Paul Livingston (Flacco) which appears on his agent’s website:
From 2008-2011 Paul joined the writing team for Channel Ten’s Good News Week, for which he received two AWGIE awards in 2009 and 2010. He is currently writing for Good News World, a satirical sketch comedy program for the Ten Network.
A “satirical sketch comedy program”? From the Good News Week team? A team which includes Claire Hooper, whose marked inability to analyse the claims made in dodgy current affairs programs was highlighted recently on Media Watch. Wow, this show will definitely provide incisive commentary on the week’s events! We can’t wait.
Meanwhile, the ABC have released a preview video of At Home with Julia, the new four-part series starring Amanda Bishop as Julia Gillard and Phil Lloyd as Tim Mathieson. When the show was announced many online TV reviewers compared the show to the 2001 US sitcom That’s My Bush, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s White House-based sitcom. Having seen the At Home with Julia preview video the comparison seems kind of apt; both shows are based around the lives of serving political leaders, and have a hyper-real, semi-satirical tone. Yet, That’s My Bush wasn’t really about President George W. Bush, it was mainly parodying a certain type of American sitcom, and according to the show’s Wikipedia entry the series was originally planned on the basis that Al Gore would win the 2000 US election, with the title of the show to Everyone Loves Al.
At Home with Julia doesn’t have this extra layer with which to generate laughs, all the laughs will have to come from what the characters do and the situations they find themselves in. Judging from the preview video we’ll be invited to laugh at Tim Mathieson’s supposed emasculation and Julia Gillard’s battle with various political and media figures, including her vengeful predecessor Kevin Rudd, the trio of Independents Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, and shock jock Alan Jones. But the video shows the various characterisations to be cliched and the situations to often been re-runs of past events, so searing insights into current Federal politics seem unlikely.
A quick look at the history of the creative team tells us why, their credits include shows like Double Take, Comedy Inc., Big Bite, BackBerner, and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better. Sure, Phil Lloyd (of Review with Myles Barlow fame) has a decent comedy pedigree, but he is just one of the three listed writers. This show is unlikely to have much to offer as either a political satire or a straight out comedy, which makes us wonder why the cash-strapped ABC would bother at all.