Tony Martin and Sarina Rowell spent three years trying to sell Childproof, their sitcom about a childfree couple, but were told it was too niche an idea, and that only those without children could possibly relate to it.
That sounds ridiculous, right? There are heaps of people out there who’ve chosen not to have kids, and even those with kids remember what life was like before they became parents. What’s not to relate to?
Also, why do you need to be able to “relate to” a show? It’s a sitcom, you only need to find it funny.
Now that Martin and Rowell have turned the unproduced scripts of Childproof into an audio sitcom, and released them as podcasts, whatever the reasons that no one wanted to make the show were, one thing’s for sure: they look ridiculous. Within days of release, Childproof went to #2 in the Australian podcast charts, so clearly quite a few people can relate to it. Also, it’s a really funny show.
The cast, which includes Martin as Ian, Geraldine Quinn as his wife Jennifer, and Roz Hammond, Andrew McClelland, Damian Cowell, Lachy Hulme and others in a variety of roles, do a great job of bringing what is a TV script to life in audio only. And with production by Matt “The Pots and Pans” Dower (Get This) and Jay Mueller (producer of The TEAM Effort and Triple M Melbourne’s The Hot Breakfast), plus Pete Smith reading out the opening and closing credits, Childproof sounds as good as a podcast sitcom can.
So, great cast, great production, great script. What’s not to like?
Okay, some of the gags, having been written for TV, are never going to be as hilarious in audio only. For example, there’s a running joke about how whenever Ian arrives at the commercial radio station he works at, the poster advertising the breakfast team is being removed and replaced by a poster for a new but strikingly similar breakfast team. It’d be hilarious on TV, as a recurring background gag, but it works less well when Mueller is reading it out in the form of stage directions.
Happily, though, most of the laughs in the script are in the dialogue, and they work very well here. Ian’s description of a Scandinavian murder mystery that he and Jennifer are watching doesn’t need visuals to be hilarious, nor does the horrific party scene where Ian and Jennifer have to deal with the smug parents of small children telling them they’re unfulfilled or “must hate kids”.
So, we come back to the question of why this never got made for TV in the first place. Here’s our theory: Australian TV, right now, really hates anything that has a strong point of view. So, anything that might alienate the sort of people who watch TV is out. Right out. And, unfortunately for Childproof, that includes any program featuring characters who are proudly different from the norm.
That scene where Ian and Jennifer have to justify their childfree life? There’s one of them at every party attended by middle-aged couples. On one side, there’s the childfree couple, happily talking about how they enjoy late nights in front of DVD boxsets. On the other side, there’s everyone else: the sleep-deprived parents of young kids with no time for hobbies of their own and no energy left to tolerate their friends who still drink and enjoy life.
And, weirdly, when those parents sit down in front of the TV, what they want to watch isn’t a comedy they’re going to find challenging to watch.
Perhaps that explains The Letdown: no one would ever commission it because it’s funny, but they might because it’s “relatable” to enough people.