This is Littleton is a new four-part sketch show set in the municipal offices of the fictional City of Littleton. It premiered on ABC2 tonight, and treads well-worn ground in TV sketch in that it features recurring characters (Little Britain, Live from Planet Earth) and is set in the suburbs (The Comedy Company, The Wedge).
The characters are the usual mix of ethnic and gender stereotypes, sociopaths, freaks and weirdos that you get in shows like this, including a wannabe-glam trophy wife of an elderly man, a Schapelle Cordy-esque young woman trying to get out of a Balinese jail, two old Greek men who discuss incongruously youthy phenomenon (such as Snapchat), and an over-zealous IT manager. And based on the two episodes of This Is Littleton we’ve seen so far there’s not much in the way of character development or storylines. Sure, the IT manager gets a bit of plot in episode 2, but those two Greek men? Expect them to perform roughly the same sketch, week in, week out, and for it to be about as funny.
The cast that play these characters are all relative newscomers, with Triple J Breakfast’s Matt Okine and Ronny Chieng the best known performers, and generally speaking they all do quite a good job with the material. But let’s be clear, this it isn’t their material, even though many of the main players are stand-ups and sketch writer/performers. And perhaps if some or all of the sketches were written by or with the cast this show might work better, or at least feel less disjointed. Maybe it might even have some sort of point?
Good sketch shows, like Mad As Hell, are the work of an established team who have a shared vision and understanding. The is Littleton feels like yet another one of those shows where a bunch of people who (mostly) haven’t worked together before are thrown in to a room and invited to deliver someone else’s half-arsed concept. We hate to remind you of The Wedge and Live from Planet Earth again, but The Wedge and Live from Planet Earth! Jesus, when will people in Australian TV learn that this isn’t a great way to do sketch?!
Having said that, here’s an ABC press release we received last week…
FRESH BLOOD FINDS NEW COMEDIC TALENT
ABC TV and Screen Australia will commission 25 projects for Fresh Blood, an initiative to find the next generation of comedy performers and producers.
The successful 25 projects each receive a budget of $10,000 to produce three, 2-5 minute short form comedy sketches to premiere on ABC iview this year.
With a record of 20 million program plays in December, iview is Australia’s most popular catch-up service and an ideal fit for ‘social sharing’ short form sketches.
“Fresh Blood is one of the most exciting projects for us, “says Richard Finlayson, ABC Director of Television. “Not only does it continue ABC TV’s commitment to nurturing and supporting fantastic Australian comedic talent, it gives 25 aspiring comedians and comedy groups the amazing opportunity to see their ideas turned into content that will premiere on iview later this year.
“It’s the kind of leg up any young, up and coming comedy hopeful would kill for, and I can’t wait to see the results.”
“There’s a rich pool of Australian comic talent working outside the system making quality content for digital distribution,” said Graeme Mason, CEO, Screen Australia. “Through the Fresh Blood initiative, we’re thrilled to offer some the opportunity to take their careers to the next level with this injection of funds, and the relationship with a major broadcaster and Federal screen agency. Fresh Blood is a dynamic addition to Screen Australia’s suite of support for practitioners using newer technologies and platforms to reach their audience.”
ABC TV and Screen Australia have received an overwhelming 492 applications, since the call-out for “Fresh Blood” went out last October. Due to the high calibre of creative entries, 25 projects are to be commissioned, one more than the 24 projects originally sought.
“It was a difficult task to select just 24 from an amazingly talented field, so in the end we had to choose 25 because it was just too hard,” says Sophia Zachariou, Acting Head Entertainment, ABC TV.
“The 25 projects range from puppetry and animation to absurdist sketch and I have no doubt that the clever, funny people in and behind these Fresh Blood projects are going to be big names in Australian comedy in the future.”
Fresh Blood will be produced by ABC Entertainment TV and is the first digital commission for iview. It positions the catch up service as a creative platform for innovative content.
…and while this is a way for up-and-coming established groups to get their unique visions out there, don’t think we’re automatically going to like what they produce. The material has to be good too. And the thing is, if This Is Littleton were funnier we wouldn’t care that the cast didn’t have a hand in the writing because we’d be laughing too much to mind.