With the Tumblies finally put to bed, I thought I’d take just one last look at Australian comedy in 2009 before plunging headlong into 2010 (Good News Week – back tomorrow!!!!). In August last year Tony Martin (yes, him again) wrote a piece for The Scrivener’s Fancy called Just While We’re Waiting, in which he listed some rejected ideas for his weekly column, one of which was “Whatever happened to Whatever Happened to That Guy??” It was a funny question, and one I feel worth expanding on, so hopefully Tony won’t mind me stealing it.
Whatever Happened to That Guy? was a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style sitcom, co-written by and staring Peter Moon as himself, which finished airing on The Comedy Channel in July. Like most Foxtel sitcoms it looks set never to be released on DVD, which is a pity because from what I’ve seen of it, it was one of the best Australian comedies of recent years. And if you’re surprised by that last statement, then I don’t blame you, because who on earth would have imagined that Fast Forward and Let Loose Live alumni Peter Moon could co-write and star in a Curb Your Enthusiasm rip-off – and be funny? But he did, and here’s why: unlike many recent Australian sitcoms (and indeed, many Curb Your Enthusiasm rip-offs) Moon and fellow writers Brendan Luno and Marilyn Tofler, didn’t make a realistic, semi-improvised, and largely joke-free wank, but a fairly traditional sitcom, with lots of straight-up funny lines and situations, and the odd bit of slapstick.
Like many traditional sitcoms (and, let’s face, almost all of the “realistic” ones), the characters were broad and cliched. Moon’s character was a lazy, fat slob, and self-obsessed C-list celebrity, who missed the spotlight, had trouble getting acting work, couldn’t get his film script made and got angry whenever someone asked him about Fast Forward (because the question was usually “What was it like working with Magda?”). The first episode opened with him watching Fast Forward in bed, dressed only in his underpants. His wife Andrea (played by Andrea Powell), who was being kept awake by his laughing, said “It was 15 years ago – get over it!”, and then spent the remainder of the series delivering a series of sarcastic put-downs, which made the self-inflicted, difficult situations that Peter found himself in even more funny. And there were plenty more clichéd characters and situations to enjoy, like Peter and Andrea’s cynical university-age kids, who Peter foolishly tried to relate to; and Joshua, the young boy next door, who Peter accidentally managed to corrupt, much to the annoyance of his pushy South African Jewish parents.
Moon took full advantage of his ugly, fat, hairy, ageing body, fading celebrity status, and reputation for playing over-the-top, sleazy and occasionally borderline-racist comedy characters (such as Soviet newsreader Victor, Persian rug salesman Abdul, advertising executive Barry, The Guru and the Kung Fu master) and took the piss out of all of them. And as if that wasn’t enough for the train-spotter, there were numerous references to Australian television in the 80′s and 90′s, and cameos from some of its stars, such as Alyce Platt, and the “has beens” – Michael Veitch, Wilbur Wilde, Red Symons, Pete Smith and John Blackman – who along with Moon appeared at a series of auditions for advertisements requiring ageing male celebrities to endorse the sort of products that no one else would touch.
Then there’s the film script Peter was working on with writing partner Bruno, a slapstick comedy set in a funeral home, which eventually got made judging by this clip on YouTube – I don’t know for sure, I haven’t been able to track down to the last two episodes (if you can help please get in touch).
Whatever Happened to That Guy? wasn’t subtle, original or ground-breaking, but it was the funniest Australian sitcom of 2009, beating the lacklustre second series of The Librarians and Chandon Pictures, and the débuts of :30 Seconds and The Jesters into a cocked hat. Here’s hoping someone will give it a DVD release and a second series. Or, on a personal note, that someone will send me the final two episodes. If you can help please do, for one thing I’ve got a theory about this series that I can only confirm if I’ve seen all of the episodes – and aren’t my crap theories what you come to this blog for? What do you mean “No!”?