Why doesn’t Australia have any ensemble comedies? As in, why don’t we make sitcoms where we get together a bunch of actors people have actually heard of? Okay, sure, we don’t make sitcoms full stop these days, but on the rare occasions when we do make them – Lowdown, Laid *shudder*, Outland, The Jesters, Twentysomething, and so on – they’re either built around a main character played by someone no-one’s interested in or they feature an ensemble made up of people no-one’s ever heard of. Is this the way to go about luring people into watching a show?
Some context: if you’ve been watching Australian drama – or worse, dramedy – over the last few thousand years, you’re well aware that when producers are putting together those shows they cram them as full as they possibly can with name-brand cast members. Why wouldn’t they? In Australia actors are cheap and plentiful, and the more names you have in your show the more likely it is people might tune in to check them out. Even Rake, a show built entirely around the supposed lure of getting to see Richard Roxburgh act like a tool yet still lure in the ladies, kicked off this year with an appearance from Toni Collette.
Yet no-one seems to have had the idea of putting together a sitcom featuring a bunch of A-list actors. Even though our last great sitcom success Kath & Kim featured three equally well-known comedy personalities and then piled on the guest stars like nobody’s business. Sure, you could argue that well known actors might not be able to handle the subtleties of comedy. Sadly for you, it’s not like the gun comedy performers we’ve been using are working out as far as getting anyone along to check out their often excellent work.
Our point is this: much of what makes a television show a success is getting people to watch it in the first place. Television shows need to do everything they can to get people to watch them, and that includes sometimes staring name actors that audiences want to see. Yet in this country time and again comedies go to air with casts that no-one has ever heard of, let alone expressed any interest in wanting to see. It’s great that comedy is the place where unknowns can get their big break and it’s good news that comedies often (actually, in these days of tight budgets, make that “almost always”) feature writer-performers. But would it kill the networks to occasionally try a laugh-out-loud sitcom (no, House Husbands doesn’t count) where performers who can bring in a crowd are the ones piss-farting about on-camera?