Comedy Showroom 1: Asians vs Babies vs Bogans

The first episode from Comedy Showroom, the ABC’s new pilot showcase, Ronny Chieng International Student, aired last night and all six episodes of the series are now available on iView. In this blog we review the first three episodes; tomorrow, we’ll look at the final three programs.

Ronny Chieng International Student

Who’s Involved? Stand-up Ronny Chieng (The Daily Show, It’s A Date) is the star of the show, and he also co-wrote the script with Declan Fay (The Sweetest Plum, Dirty Laundry Live, Rove Live). Also in the cast are Dave Eastgate (Open Slather, The Moodys), Anthony Morgan (DentonProblems) and Felicity Ward (stand-up), and the show is directed by Jonathan Brough (brother of Alan, and director of Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane, The Family Law and the upcoming Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor sitcom Rosehaven).

What’s It About? First-year law student Ronny is just off the plane from Malaysia and has sort of accidentally fallen in with a group of other first-year Asian students and Aussie Asher. In between fending off angsty Skypes from his mother, and invitations to a skulling competition from blokey student rep Mick, he makes enemies of a group of posh students in his first lecture. In a quest to complete their first assignment, things escalate between the posh students and the Asians, and the two groups find themselves pitted against each other in Mick’s skulling competition. Can the Asians win? With Asher’s help, maybe.

Is It Funny? We laughed a lot. Ronny Chieng’s got a good eye for highlighting stupidity and pomposity, and this compliments Declan Fay’s spot-on skewering of Aussie bloke culture (always one of our favourite elements of The Sweetest Plum).

Should It Get A Series? There’s a lot of potential for a series, here, with Ronny and his gang of the fish-out-of-water international students pitted against the poshos, baffled by Aussie culture and student traditions, and running into a variety of other weird and wonderful university characters. We’d like to see more from Anthony Morgan’s wrestling-obsessed law professor, and Felicity Ward’s postgraduate student, driven so mad by her research that she doesn’t seem to have left the library for years, but mainly we like this because it’s one of the best piss-takes of university life and Aussie culture we’ve seen for a long time.

The Letdown

Who’s Involved? Alison Bell (Laid) is the star of the show and co-wrote the script with Sarah Scheller-O’Donnell (No Activity). Also in the show are Noni Hazelhurst (Play School, City Homicide, Better Homes and Gardens) and Lucy Durack (Wicked the musical, and guest roles in shows such The Moodys and Here Come the Habibs). One of the producers is Julian Morrow (The Chaser), in fact, it’s a Giant Dwarf production, and the director is Trent O’Donnell (Review with Myles Barlow, The Moodys, The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide To Knife Fighting).

What’s It About? If you imagine Alison Bell’s character from Laid changed her name to Audrey, got married, and gave birth to her first child 12 weeks ago, you’re pretty much there. Audrey’s dealing with the fact that her lovely life in a nice inner-city house in Sydney is now dominated by a 12-week old she doesn’t know how to care for. The new mother’s group she’s joined just makes it worse, her husband’s never around to help, and she just wants to attend to her friend’s birthday dinners and go clubbing like she used to.

Is It Funny? If you’re a parent it’s probably hilarious. Or, at least something you can relate to. But if you don’t have kids the flaws stand out. This is one of those semi-serious sitcoms, the kind of show that wishes it was Offspring so it could tackle more issues. Instead, it’s boxed itself into the corner marked “wry”, and you find yourself watching a scene where a new Mum hides her 12-week old under her coat in order to get into a bar with her friends and do shots.

Should It Get A Series? As much as this is a show about a subject that a great many people can relate to, we didn’t think it was terribly well executed. It could work if the joke rate was upped. Or if they’d found a way to make the mother’s group scenes a lot more hilarious. When you’ve got that many crazy female stereotypes in a circle, plus Noni Hazelhurst in seen-it-all hard woman mode, it should be a lot funnier.

The Legend of Gavin Tanner

Who’s Involved? The Legend of Gavin Tanner debuted as a short web series in 2014 and has now been made into this full-length pilot. It’s from the WA-based group Mad Kids, who are responsible for DAFUQ? Series writer Matt Lovkis plays Gavin, and also in the cast are Emily Rose Brennan (:30 Seconds, Underbelly) and Adam Zwar (Wilfred, the Agony series).

What’s It About? Mad West Coast Eagles fan and small-time outer suburbs drug dealer Gavin Tanner has a problem: he’s lost a bet to some Freemantle Dockers fans and now they want to tattoo his balls. Meanwhile, ex-Army officer and stay-at-home Dad Marshall (Adam Zwar) has just moved in next door, and Gavin wants to be his mate.

Is It Funny? There have been a lot of sitcoms about bogans and outer suburbs-dwellers in the past couple of decades – Kath & Kim, Bogan Pride, anything by Paul Fenech – and while this is slightly better than Fenech’s oeuvre, it’s nowhere near as funny as Kath & Kim. There’s a strong sense that we’re expected to laugh at the bogan characters, rather than with them and that always leaves a bitter taste in our mouths.

Should It Get A Series? No. Give the money to Ronny Chieng.

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