Now more than ever, Australian comedy is built around winners and losers. No, this isn’t some convoluted lead-in to a discussion about the Logies: pretty much the only thing of interest to be said there is that The Project won stuff while The Weekly, aka the ABC’s attempt to clone The Project right down to hiring a former host and cast members, won nothing. Which is pretty much what you’d expect from a popularity contest.
Trouble is, over the last few years the ABC seem to have been going out of their way to turn their comedy department into a popularity contest. First we had two years of Fresh Blood online, now Comedy Showcase is – supposedly, because Lord amercy do we have our suspicions about this one – a contest to find a pilot the ABC can throw money at. It’s almost as if they don’t have anyone there who can make a programming decision.
But of course, at the end of the day a decision is going to be made by someone at the ABC as to which shows are going to go to series and which ones are going in the bin. And without making the voting process transparent – as in, actually collecting and tallying up votes and then letting us know the results of that tally – people (us) will always suspect that the “competition” is just a promotional device and the end result is rigged as fuck.
Which why we raised an eyebrow when the Fresh Blood winners were… well, we’re guessing they were announced at the ABC 2016 upfronts, but this seems to be the only place that actually mentioned the winners:
In the Fresh Blood initiative with Screen Australia, two pilots will proceed to a full series: one from Skit Box , the Sydney-based trio of comedians Adele Vuko, Sarah Bishop and Greta Lee Jackson, the other the Melbourne collective Fancy Boy.
This result seemed a little odd because we, and pretty much everyone we know, figured Aunty Donna was easily the funniest of the five finalists. But before we could do much more than hoist an eyebrow at this somewhat suspicious-smelling series of events, all was revealed:
Hey there Australia! We like you, and you like us… we think. So it’s with great joy to announce our first local commission! Melbourne based sketch comedy group Aunty Donna. Aunty Donna will be making an excellent web series for our Not For TV platform.
This will be the first of several original Australian projects that Comedy Central will develop as part of Not For TV. Not For TV is Comedy Central’s platform for unique and fresh comedy and has birthed shows such as Broad City. We’re looking for the next hot potato, and we think the hottest potatoes (among many hot potatoes) here in Australia land right now are Aunty Donna.
First video? Right here.
This is pretty much the best of all possible worlds. The cream of the crop – that’d be Aunty Donna – are, um, creamed off by a commercial network; the up-and-comers now have a chance to hone their skills on the national broadcaster. One of the bigger problems with Australian television comedy over the last twenty years or so has been that once an act has had a run on the ABC there’s nowhere for them to move on to. This kind of thing, especially if it takes off, could be a solution to that.
It doesn’t hurt that Aunty Donna are pretty damn funny too.