Ow, that (Street) Smarts

Australian comedy isn’t exactly known for exceeding expectations. But with Street Smart – the new sitcom from the makers of Here Come the Habibs, with a fair spray of Fat Pizza and Housos DNA in there – it’s not like they could really do worse. These are shows where even the fans are laughing at them at least as much as with them, and even those laughs are becoming harder to find.

So here’s the good news: this time around, Tahir Bilgic and his crime crew are focusing on what they do best – not telling jokes. Or at least, not making a show that’s built entirely around telling jokes, and we can all be somewhat grateful for that.

The set-up of Street Smart is that four idiots want to commit crimes. But where most Australian sitcoms would then dig down into a bunch of barely amusing character stuff about each of them, recycling the same situations over and over again each week, Street Smart tries something different: the focus is on the caper.

Upon discovering that the local cop shop has a room full of confiscated items, the gang come up with a scheme to get inside, and… look, the whole thing ends with them stripping, then getting robbed in their underwear so don’t get your hopes up. And yes – *heavy sigh* – there is also a bunch of character stuff as well and it’s about as funny as you’d expect: men are stupid, women are pushy and also stupid. At least everyone’s a cartoon so no-one can get too offended.

But by putting at least some of the focus on their criminal scheme, there’s an element of “how’s this going to play out?” that makes this just that little bit more interesting to watch than you might think. It’s been a while since Australia made a sitcom with this much story; usually we’re happy with an ironic ending that makes it feel like everything we just saw was somehow linked. And while it’s not a great story, it does feature a string of events that flow semi-logically one after another to end with a character trapped in a prison cell talking to the toilet.

Look, let’s not get too excited here: almost all of these jokes are bad, the plotting isn’t exactly Ocean’s 11 level and the one big twist was just recently done in the now-showing New Zealand comedy movie The Breaker Upperers (which is well worth your time). But the combination of a halfway decent story and a whole lot of jokes – some of which do work: the fake cop outfits were funny, and “Trans Phats” is a halfway decent pun – means this is slightly less painful to watch than 80% of Here Comes the Habibs.

Then again, it seems Ten have decided that “Crappy Shows Don’t Work Anymore“, so this probably won’t be back next week.

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