The return of All Aussie Adventures last night comes at a time in TV history when broadcasters seem to be increasingly looking to the popular favourites of the past to draw in an audience (Roseanne, that proposed re-boot of Hypotheticals, that proposed re-boot of Frasier). Which is all well and good if it’s entertaining and funny, but maybe less so if you have no idea of the context of the show.
The first series of All Aussie Adventures, starring Glenn Robbins as Russell Coight, was broadcast so long ago that it pre-dates 9/11 (by two days). Even then, it was parodying a genre of television which had largely faded from our screens – The Leyland Brothers, Malcolm Douglas, Steve Irwin, and Les Hiddens in The Bush Tucker Man – in which one or more wizened blokes did it rough in the outback, drawing on the knowledge of the first Australians and their own wits to survive.
Anyone under 35 probably remembers Steve Irwin but most likely not Malcolm Douglas, Les Hiddens, or Mike and Mal Leyland. Not for them a childhood of watching in awe as Les discovers food and water in a seemingly barren landscape, or the Leylands find themselves stranded in the desert with little in the way of supplies and no way of getting help.
But this probably doesn’t matter when it comes to All Aussie Adventures. The main gag is that Coight, for all his soliloquies to camera about good bushcraft, actually has very little knowledge of outback survival at all – which makes watching him stuff it up all the more hilarious.
Most people love a good “hit in the nuts” gag, and there are at least three good ones in the first episode of All Aussie Adventures. There are also plenty of other gags of a similar nature, in which Coight falls, stumbles or generally makes life worse for himself and anyone who happens to be passing.
Working Dog, the makers of this show (and also of Have You Been Paying Attention?), are well-known for their high gag rate, and All Aussie Adventures doesn’t disappoint. Even if you think you know where the gag is going – and the set-up isn’t always subtle – it’s always either brilliantly performed by Robbins or goes somewhere slightly different to your expectations, so almost all of the gags land perfectly. Not something you can say of the show which followed it, Street Smart. But more on that some other time…