Anyone else noticed that Australian television comedy has been close to stone dead over the last month or so? Sure, HYBPA? keeps on ticking and Soul Mates popped up there for a while but otherwise? Very quiet indeed. And when there’s no comedy there’s not much to write about, as our collection of increasingly erratic and barely on-topic posts over the period has no doubt shown.
As for why things have been so grim, well, it’s always a very minor pleasure when we’re proven right about something, but it seems like we may have been on the money when we pointed out that the ABC’s comedy output in 2015 was being bolstered by shows – 8MMM and Maximum Choppage come to mind, though Please Like Me probably counts too – that were originally scheduled for ABC2, and that when they ran out in 2016 the cupboard was going to look very bare indeed.
Without those shows, and with an understandable programming strategy of grouping their original comedy output into blocks so they’ll boost each others ratings, and without any cheap & cheerful series they can let run for three or four months – remember How Not to Behave? Dirty Laundry Live? – it seems that the ABC at current funding levels simply can’t afford to keep up a consistent comedy presence throughout the year.
Though speaking of funding models, some good news:
The first comedy from the ABC Comedy Showroom to win a full season is Ronny Chieng: International Student.
It will air on both ABC and Comedy Central in the US.
Chieng, currently a correspondent on The Daily Show, revealed the news in a podcast with the UK’s Des Bishop.
Asked about his background as an immigrant to Australia, he said, “Tune it to ABC or Comedy Central US. June 2017. My new series addresses it.”
We’re pretty excited about this, as we were big fans of the pilot:
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.
And we’re also not that surprised that it seems to be a co-production with Comedy Central, which is usually code for “the US is stumping up all the cash to actually make it”:
Comedy Showcase only went to air as a way for the ABC comedy department to get cheap programming by airing pilots: after two years of Fresh Blood – the winners of which all seem to basically be financed by the online arm of US networks, which tells you how much actual investment the ABC is putting into making new comedy – why would they run a totally separate competition to find a completely new show they’d then have to pay money to make?
(that said, if a US network decided they wanted to put money into any one of those pilots the same way they did Please Like Me or Soul Mates, then we’d see them on air in a heartbeat)
So we’re a little torn. It’s great news that the best of the Comedy Showcase pilots is actually going to series (though what happened to the audience voting side of things that was supposedly part of the deal?), but what if the best pilot had turned out to be from a comedian who wasn’t already working for a US network? Would we still have seen their show getting the thumbs up, or are we in a place where without US money the ABC simply can’t afford to greenlight new comedy series?
Because that doesn’t seem very funny at all.