There’s an argument that mass-appeal TV comedy is dead, and that broadcasters and streaming content providers should focus their attention on niche audiences. It would probably be a good thing for comedy if that happened; people who like edgy material can enjoy it, while its makers don’t have to have to worry about offending people who don’t like edgy material. Everybody’s happy!
However, it’s pretty rare that old-school broadcasters do this kind of thing beyond well-established niches such as sport and kids. We get why – there isn’t a large enough audience to make it viable – but it’s still a shame. And an area in which streaming content providers could sneak in and outperform them, making them even less relevant.
Which brings us, in a roundabout way, back to one of those well-established niches: kids, and ABC ME’s* sketch show for young people You’re Skitting Me. Its third series started today and was… look, we’re not the target audience for this, but… it’s kinda lame. It’s heart’s in the right place, we suppose. There are sketches set in high schools, and which show teens at home having to deal with their annoying parents. There are even parodies of TV shows like Today Tonight and Kings Cross ER: St Vincent’s Hospital, and of YouTube-style videos, which the mostly-teenage cast perform well, but… it’s not exactly a laugh riot.
A boy unwraps some fish and chips in the style of a YouTube unboxing video, but aside from his over-enthusiasm it’s just a teen unwrapping some fish and chips. Meanwhile, a girl is telling her friends a ghost story at a sleepover, except the horror element of the story isn’t that she heard someone coming through the door, it’s that her mobile ran out of battery and she didn’t have her charger with her; she and her friends start screaming their lungs out at the thought of it.
Basically, this is Dad joke central.
Look, we get that the writers, who include many experienced and familiar names, can’t exactly be edgy when writing for a youth audience, but the lack of any subversion at all is a worry. What do kids laugh their arses off at? Their parents and their teachers. So, where are the sketches where authority figures are the butt of the joke? And if you must do Dad humour why not have a Dad character saying them and make his bad gags the joke. It works in Rad Dad on The Little Dum Dum Club.
It’s like someone at the ABC told the makers of this show to avoid anything even remotely controversial or anti-establishment, even the notion that authority figures like parents and teachers really suck sometimes. We get that the ABC’s gone back to the deferential and safe 1950’s this week with Howard on Menzies, but You’re Skitting Me feels like a show that would have been lame even in that era.
* Today, ABC3’s become ABC ME! Who knew?