Ten’s Pilot Week started with the ensemble sketch show Skit Happens and Sam Dastiyari’s Disgrace, in which the ex-politician and a panel analyse gutter journalism. And while the latter was a Gruen-style peek behind a curtain we’ve looked behind a number of times under our own steam, thanks, and Dastiyari and panel didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, Skit Happens was…yeah, actually it was like every traditional sketch show this country’s produced for ages. So, if you were expecting innovative new ideas and exciting talent from Pilot Week’s opening salvo, er, forget it.
Yes, that was Heath Franklin as a skateboarding Matt Preston. Because it’s seemingly impossible to make a sketch show in this country without parodying a popular show or personality via the medium of a lame high concept. Which means that we not only got Skateboarding Matt Preston but also a parody of Love Island but with desperate, single women competing for the interest of a cute fluffy cat, and a look into the life of a guy who’s Waleed Aly’s stand-by*. Stand-by Waleed, in case you’re wondering, spends all of his time in a “break in case of fire”-style glass box, waiting to be needed. Presumably, the box will be broken open and he’ll have his chance to shine in the final episode of the first series that Skit Happens isn’t getting.
Speaking of which…there were recurring characters too, or, given that this was a pilot, characters clearly designed to recur whether audiences embraced them or not. Enter Juan, the hot(-ish) Spanish fridge mechanic who can fix fridges by dancing to some sexy Latin beats and whispering sweet love to the afflicted white good. Or the Aussie backpackers driving a Combi van around Europe who have no interest in actually seeing the countries they’re visiting. Sure, we’ve all met people like the backpackers, but we never want to again. So by television logic, if Skit Happens gets a series we will. Every goddam week.
(what’s the difference between a good sketch show and a shit one? The good sketch show has sketches based on funny ideas; the shit sketch show has sketches based on “funny” characters)
Oh, and why is it that every single sketch in this show (and almost every other Australian sketch show made in the past 20 years) seems to go on for ages despite it containing just one (or less) comic ideas? Has anyone in TV ever considered that if they picked up the pace and gave that one idea the runtime it deserves (30 seconds or less), these shows might not haemorrhage viewers until they’re axed at the end of series one?
There are lots of problems with Skit Happens and sketch shows like it (and we’ll go into more detail about this when we’ve fully digested the full force of Pilot Week), but the basic problem here – apart from that it’s not very funny – is that there’s no reason for it to exist, let alone for viewers to tune in. The show isn’t built around any kind of over-arching concept or hook, and the personnel don’t seem to have a rapport or have worked together much so they haven’t developed a theme or a shared vision for what this show’s about. They’ve just created some characters and written some sketches and these are the least worst of them. Enjoy! Or not. Mostly not.
As for Disgrace… yeah, we’ve been there, done that, and it was hosted by Lawrence Mooney. But Unlike Dirty Laundry Live, this… actually, what did it do that was different from Dirty Laundry Live? Well, the entire panel was markedly less funny for starters. But surprisingly, they weren’t the usual faces, which gave it a couple points for novelty. And it desperately needed them, because a panel show discussing celebrity news is roughly 40% of Australian television once you factor in breakfast and morning shows and this did absolutely nothing to separate itself from the pack.
So yeah, this one’ll probably go to series. Just don’t expect us to tune in ever again.
* Just how bad was Skit Happens? We didn’t even laugh at the joke about Charlie Pickering’s shit-eating grin.