Australian Tumbleweeds

Australia's most opinionated blog about comedy.

Vale Sando: Let’s go, Sando!

Well, episode 6 wrapped everything up nicely. Which means we need never watch Sando again. Let the nation rejoice!

Sando

Sure, it could come back (the resentful daughter’s taken over part of the business with her ex-fiance and current husband as lackeys and plans to take over from Sando one day, and the idiot son’s in a psych ward and wants revenge on his family, and Sando’s back with the ex- but that could soon be destroyed when the daughter’s ex-best friend/counsellor publishes her tell-all book – there’s enough for a second series in that) but this is unlikely. Let’s remind ourselves of those ratings again:

Week 1
427,000 5 City Metro / 517,000 Timeshifted (Source: TV Tonight, Mediaweek and TV Tonight)

Week 2
351,000 5 City Metro / 378,000 Timeshifted (Sources: TV Tonight, Mediaweek and TV Tonight)

Week 3
283,000 5 City Metro (Source: Mediaweek)

Week 4
254,000 5 City Metro (Source: TV Tonight)

Week 5
246,000 5 City Metro (Source: TV Tonight)

TV Tonight even described Sando as “struggling” last week. Ouch.

So, the writing is on the wall: no one likes watching Sando, Sando is over.

It’s hard to imagine anyone missing it. If there’s one thing the ABC has failed to get right over the last decade or more, it’s making shows about “regular” Australians that don’t feel sneering or condescending. Presumably this is intentional: regular Australians supposedly don’t watch the ABC, so they’re a safe target for mockery. After all, you don’t see the ABC making fun of old age pensioners and they’re hilarious.

But rather than accurately skewering the foibles of average dickheads, time and again the ABC serves up series seemingly made by people whose last trip out of the inner city was in a taxi on the way to the airport for a flight to Europe. Was there any part of Sando that seemed remotely based on fact? Was there any point where they made fun of something observed from real life? When did the last larger-than-life furniture mogul die out in the wild? 2002? Why didn’t they make a hilarious comedy series parodying Cliff Young while they were at it?

That’s all big-picture stuff, but this couldn’t even get the basics right. In case you haven’t been reading our week-by-week analysis of Sando, here’s a few more specific reasons why Australians tuned out of the show in ever-increasing numbers:

  1. The entire series had six funny bits in it: that joke about anti-vaccers in episode 1 and the lists of fake suburbs in episodes 1-5. And if you’re advertising a show as a comedy and there’s an average of one joke per show, then people are going to feel ripped-off.
  2. The characters were sitcom stereotypes from another era of comedy – idiot adult son, smart-arse kid, the horny couple who’ll shag anywhere – an era of comedy that makes no one laugh in 2018.
  3. The writing was in no way clever enough or funny enough to make the attempts at high-concept humour (Gary’s need to skinny dip in times of stress, the resentful daughter’s goblin ears) work. These plots just seemed ridiculous and embarrassing, and so, so desperate.
  4. People will give a new show a go, but if it sucks they’ll tune out. Take a look at those ratings above, that’s about 250,000 people who gave Sando a try and gave up. And another 250,000 who were probably just waiting for Insert Name Here to come on.

All of which begs the question: does no one at the ABC take a look at the shows that it’s making at the final scripting stage, or even the editing stage, and make a decision about whether it’s good enough to air? And if not, why not? Does no one care about quality anymore?

Come Sail Away

So last week we saw Yours Sincerely: Bob Franklin at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. We’re not big ones for live comedy, but we are Bob Franklin fans since way back, and word on the street suggested that this character-based comedy performance was one not to be missed for those who know a little about a well-known local comedian who shall remain namele

The monstrous alter-ego Bob Franklin presents here is a parasitic, cynically manipulative narcissist. Of course he’s based on a comedian.

But not just a generic composite… It’s giving very little away to reveal it is based on Greg Fleet, so flimsy is the disguise of a stand-up winding up in court after stealing from his housemate to fund his heroin habit, only to clean up his act and publish his story of redemption in an image-enhancing memoir.

Okay, he’s clearly playing a character based on Greg Fleet. That really doesn’t matter: Franklin is a skilled writer and a compelling performer, and this is a very funny and completely gripping watch even if you have no idea of the subtext. That said, if you’ve read this far, well, now you know. Especially if you know literally anything at all about Greg Fleet.

But if you’re heading along to this savage, at times brutal show – which is highly unlikely, as it finished up this weekend – don’t go in expecting a lot of tell-all material from the darkest depths of the top secret Fleet files. In some ways this show could almost be just a very, very very nasty review of Fleet’s recent memoir These Things Happen, as the character Franklin is playing is very close to the picture Fleet paints of himself in his book. It’s almost as if Fleet, having come clean about his sordid past and publicly moved on, has discarded the character he once played and now Franklin has taken over the role. And decided to take him carefully and clinically apart from the inside out.

The set-up is that chummy charmer “Bob Franklin” is here before us to peddle his new book – a supposedly truthful tell-all tome that, it’s gradually revealed, he may have written largely to curry favour with the court after being charged with theft (from his housemate), and which is jam-packed with “true” stories that just happened to take place with no other witnesses around. But in between the more obvious jokes – “Bob” isn’t great at remembering names, or at seeing his daughter as much more than a prop in his tale of redemption, but he is very good at getting people to pay his bills for him – what’s gradually revealed is a man with a troubled past that doesn’t seem to have troubled him as much as it has those left in his wake.

“Bob” has a habit of recounting abusive encounters with passers-by who accurately nail his flaws, and these blunt insults (one time, after “Bob” insulted Adelaide, someone else said something like “yeah, that decaying corpse of a city will always attract maggots like you”) are often shouted out, while the rest of his seemingly amicable chat is delivered in a low voice. It’s an unsettling combination, especially as it becomes increasingly clear that there’s no bottom to this guy; he does what he likes because he’s a charming and funny man, and because that’s a combination that people will always fall for he can get away with doing what he likes.

It’s a chillingly effective performance, and it’s hard not to think the goal was (at least partly) to change the narrative around its subject. Franklin hammers home time and again that people really want to believe in tales of redemption, they want to believe that people can change – and if you’re a selfish, amoral monster that’s exactly how you get people to give you a second (or third or tenth) chance.

Here’s the acknowledgements from Fleet’s 2002 book Thai Die:

After Yours Sincerely, it’s a lot more difficult to take that last line at face value.

(especially as there was almost another decade of “second chances” to come after that was published)

While a lot of this show is clearly based on fact, there’s little point in us going through trying to fact-check it. Some details have obviously changed – he’s clearly fictionalised the details for “Bob”‘s childhood, but the broad strokes of having a father who faked his own death then turned up years later remain the same – and others are not a matter of public record. But this is much more of a psychological study than a mere recounting of events, and it’s a study that refuses to give its subject the benefit of the doubt.

So where Greg Fleet’s current standpoint is, “yeah, I did all that horrible stuff, but I’m a changed man now”, we’d say this show is about “Bob” saying “yeah, I did all that horrible stuff, but I’m a changed man now… though I would say that, wouldn’t I?”

Put another way, it’s the genius of Franklin’s show that it makes this seemingly generous tweet seem totally in-character for the character of “Bob”:

Because Greg Fleet would say that, wouldn’t he?

Sando 5: The one with the goblin ears sub-plot

Like we predicted, episode 5 of Sando was where the writers laid the groundwork for whatever spectacular finale’s going to happen in episode 6 of Sando, i.e. we’ll find out whether Sando gets her business back (and also her husband?). Super exciting. Meanwhile, there was a sub-plot about how Sando’s resentful daughter was born with goblin ears.

Sando

Yeah, you read that right, goblin ears. This is an actual sub-plot in a sitcom intended for adults in 2018. Like we said a few weeks ago, Arrested Development could do something this like quite well, Sando, less so.

And it seems the Australian public agrees. Let’s take a look at the ratings for Sando over the past few weeks…

Week 1 – 21st March

A decent start for Sando with TV Tonight reporting 427,000 5 City Metro and 517,000 Timeshifted. The 5 City Metro figure was also covered by Mediaweek, who pointed out that this was a significant increase on the final week of Squinters (328,000).

Week 2 – 28th March

A marked drop for episode 2: 351,000 5 City Metro (reported on TV Tonight and Mediaweek) and 378,000 Timeshifted (TV Tonight). That big drop for Timeshifted says a lot!

Week 3 – 4th April

Sando falls out of the Top 20 and therefore ratings for it do not appear on TV Tonight. Mediaweek reports:

Mad As Hell then did 472,000 followed by Sando on 283,000.

Week 4 – 11th April

Things must be really bad, now. We know the Commonwealth Games is dominating, but all Mediaweek has is:

ABC

Hard Quiz on 570,000 and then Mad As Hell on 544,000 were the channel’s best and both in the top 10.

Assuming a consistent ratings slide for Sando, that would mean it was watched by 200,000 people, if that. Ouch!

Week 5 – 18th April

This week’s fake suburbs include:

Shaftwood

Browntown

Which seems apt given how it must have rated and what a disaster it is for the ABC’s Wednesday line-up.

It’s a Buyer’s Market

If you’re one of the handful of people still watching the ABC’s main free-to-air channel, you might have noticed something a bit unusual over the last few days.

So the ABC is promoting an upcoming line up; so what?

For those of you without a calendar handy, here’s what’s puzzling: this new line-up is two and a half weeks away. If you watch this ad with the usual attention most of us give ads, you’re going to come away thinking “oh, new shows this week”, only to discover that it’s the same old same old until the start of next month. Which is somewhat unusual for free-to-air television, where networks usually refuse to let anyone know anything about what they have planned more than a week in advance.

It’s also not as if this is a brilliant new line-up of shows everyone’s been clamouring to have back. Yes, Gruen rates well, but both Home Delivery and The Weekly are firmly average Wednesday night performers for the ABC – in fact, you’d have to think that both Mad as Hell and Hard Quiz (which are part of the current Wednesday night line-up) would rate just as well, even if the ABC has given up on promoting them.

So what’s the rush? Promoting a line up that’s over a fortnight away seems a great way to shaft both the shows you’re currently putting to air and any audience who might be interested in the new shows, so presumably they have a good reason for throwing the current bunch of shows under the bus.

Maybe it’s because all three of the upcoming shows are fronted by the kind of loyal ABC celebrities the ABC love to promote while Mad as Hell host Shaun Micallef is set to betray the nation by hosting Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation on Nine? Oh wait, Julia Zemiro’s lined up to host a game show on Seven, that can’t be it.

Could it be that the current Wednesday night line-up is doing so badly the ABC are desperately trying to keep people on board by promising them that things are going to get better? But that doesn’t make sense either – Hard Quiz is rating solidly, and Mad as Hell is doing even better by maintaining its lead in later in the evening.

What could the ABC possibly be showing on a Wednesday night that the audience is turning away from? What show could they be putting to air that’s doing so badly they’ve started promoting a whole new line-up over two weeks in advance in the hope of dissipating some of the stench?

Sando

Beats us.

Sando 4: If this series was a week we’d be past hump day by now

Only two episodes left of Sando, which means we are past the worst of it…in theory.

Episode 4 in an Australian sitcom is typically the one that’s a bit weaker than the rest of the episodes, with episode 5 being the one where the writers lay the groundwork for whatever spectacular finale is planned for episode 6. Except this is Sando, so it’s going to be all plot no laughs every damn time.

Sando

In episode 4 we got to see the live-in therapist/best friend of the daughter hypnotise Sando to make her a better person. Except, the live-in therapist/best friend of the daughter doesn’t really know anything about hypnosis and Sando’s smarter than everyone so she decides to pretend she’s been hypnotised to prove a point that she’s a worse person when she’s a better person. There was even a scene towards the end of the episode where Sando explained this to the family, pointing out that her role is to be a focal point around which they can all be united in…hate/resentment/whatever.

Whoever wrote this has presumably read too many “how to write a sitcom” books. Ones which leave out the chapter which explains that all sitcoms should include some laughs because as usual there were bugger all in this episode.

SIDEBAR: What was your favourite fake suburb this week? There’s something obviously funny about Mt Buggabongalong, but then there’s the dick-referencing hilarity of Wangford. We’re torn.

We’re also amazed that no one seems to care that there are so few attempts to be funny in a show billed as a comedy. Fake suburbs aside, where are the funny lines, the funny situations, the funny anything? It’s like the ABC figured we’d had enough solid laughs from the preceding program, Mad As Hell, and that if we wanted more we could just switch over to ABC Comedy and watch Tonightly. Which you should seriously do because almost five months into its run it’s still a consistently funny show. And Sando? Well, it’ll always be Sando.

Any Questions For Ben

If you like comedy quiz shows, good news: doctors are reportedly close to finding a cure. Oh wait, we read that wrong: we meant to say Australian television is currently flooding the air waves with your favourite kind of show, and with the looming (seriously Nine, just announce the air date already) return of Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation things are only going to get more quizzy. So what better time to take a quick look at the four shows (count ’em) that make up our current boom? Don’t bother answering, we’ve already watched them.

Hughesy We Have a Problem (Ten). This should be garbage, but thanks to a tried and tested formula – it’s Beauty and the Beast only without the gender cliches – this delivers the goods more often than you’d expect. It’s basically just piss-farting around, which is our favourite kind of comedy, and while the standard of piss-farting around isn’t great it largely manages to avoid the usual panel problem of having everyone shouting over each other… unless it’s an episode featuring Hughesy’s long-time partner in crime, Kate Langbroek. There’s always a couple of dud segments too (they haven’t figured out how to incorporate the celebrity guests well) and at a full hour it outstays its welcome by at least ten minutes, but it’s easily the most entertaining program Hughesy’s been involved with since his “I’m angriiiiiii” days.

Hard Quiz (ABC). This is never going to be our favourite quiz show, because we hate quiz shows. But this at least seems to have finally figured out how to make its hook – that host Tom Gleeson is a prick – work. Strangely, the secret seems to be “just let him act like a prick”, as the most recent episode we saw had him acting somewhat nastier than we remembered. It didn’t really improve the show, which is just your basic ABC quiz show where people a little too convinced of their own smarts answer questions about their chosen field in a way designed to remind us of just how boring they must be at parties. But his bitchy comments did at least make it feel like a show with a reason for existing, which is nice.

Show Me The Movie (Ten). Part of the appeal of quiz shows is that they’re meant to educate as well as entertain. When you’re choosing a topic for your quiz show, you want an area that people are interested in but don’t already know everything about – music is perfect, as almost everyone knows something about it but there’s so much going on that there’s always going to be interesting facts on offer. You’d think movies would be the same, but no: music is made by individuals while films are huge industrial projects, so there are less colourful characters and wacky on-tour tales available to balance out the dry facts. Also, this show is rubbish.

Think Tank (ABC). Paul McDermott’s return to the ABC as some kind of frock-coat wearing bovva boy – seriously, this show is worth checking out entirely for his outfit, which is as follows:

(not pictured: his skinny jeans with rolled up cuffs)

– is about as traditional a quiz show as you can get these days. The only twist is that you can ask for help from the “think tank”, a bunch of average people who provide a range of answers that are moderately helpful in answering questions that could have come from just about any quiz show of the last decade. McDermott adds a little sparkle, but the days when a nation was shocked to see such a wild and crazy guy hosting a ballroom dancing contest are long gone and now his well-polished hosting act is barely a notch above Rove’s. A comedy this is not and we shan’t be mentioning it again.

Of course, if there was a halfway decent sketch show around we’d never have watched any of these shows in the first place.

Now is the Winter of our Dissing-Content

Press release time!

The ABC declares an unrivalled commitment to comedy

With even more world-class content to come in 2018!

The ABC tonight celebrated the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, declaring an unrivalled commitment to comedy content across television, online, radio and podcasting. This multiplatform approach gives fans the ABC’s comedy offering wherever they are, whenever they want a laugh. Whether on TV, iview, ABC listen, or ABC’s social media, the ABC continues to widen the ways audiences can find and engage with ABC content.

David Anderson, ABC Director Entertainment & Specialist, said: “The ABC has a long history of investing in world class Australian comedy for our audiences.  Our audiences’ behaviours continue to change, and as content makers our job is to deliver them experiences when and where they want them.

“The ABC COMEDY launch was a great opportunity for the ABC to reinvent the way we traditionally think about our ABC audiences. This rebrand saw our iview numbers jump 70%, in no small part due to our ABC iview summer comedy binge, with over two million plays for that content alone. So we know that there is an appetite for on-demand comedy viewing.

“The ABC is a place where content makers and comedians can take more risks. We continue to look for exciting ways to work with our existing, highly talented comedians, continuing the ABC’s long tradition of fostering new talent. Programs like Tonightly with Tom Ballard are a great example of this. We sometimes take significant risks, but we reach more people by creating shareable social media content and influencing conversations.

“The ABC will continue our push into these areas of growth, by experimenting with short form video content like Fresh Blood, rolling out further offerings across our audio platforms and continuing to invest in ABC fans’ favourites, such as Rosehaven.”

ABC’s Head of Comedy, Rick Kalowski, discussed highlights from the upcoming year.

“It’s an exciting time for the ABC as we continue to lead the way with world class comedy programming. From new series of ABC favourites, to kick starting the careers of up-and-coming talent, our commitment to comedy in all its forms is stronger than ever.”

Don’t touch that remote! Wednesday night entertainment delivers the laughs from May 2 with the return of three ABC favourites – one after the other. Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery, Gruen and The Weekly with Charlie Pickering get together from 8pm to create an unmissable line up on Wednesday nights.

Following on from this stellar line up, Corey White’s Roadmap to Paradise is a brand-new series like no other, which will see comedian Corey White try to solve the biggest problems facing everyday Australians. Premiering at 9.40pm, the series will set Corey on a collision course with conventional wisdom as he takes on not one, but two, urgent issues in each of the series’ ten episodes.

At the end of this series, Corey will have had a shot at fixing democracy, Australia Day, environmentalism, capitalism, gambling, domestic violence, the war on drugs, foster care, terrorism and housing.

Further announcements tonight included a sidesplitting audio feast from ABC listen. In the smash hit Santo, Sam and Ed’s Total Football podcast, listeners can join Santo Cilauro, Sam Pang and Ed Kavalee as they tackle the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia – and on iview, filmed episodes of the podcast will also be available.

The laughs continue as Alice Fraser, Cal Wilson and Sami Shah attempt to turn the manure of the internet into flowers of joy as they debate online trolling, during the Troll Play podcast. Plus, Nazeem Hussain returns with season three of the hit ‘anti-travel’ podcast, Burn Your Passport.

Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola are back in production on series three of one of the ABC’s comedy jewels, Rosehaven. Aaron Fa’Aoso, Nakkiah Lui and Wayne Blair are on track to deliver another ground-breaking series of Black Comedy; plus, the long-awaited reboot sees Wayne Hope reprise his role as trumped-up businessman Don Angell in Back In Very Small Business (from Hope and Robyn Butler, makers of Upper Middle Bogan).

Emerging talent also remains a focus, with four half-hour pilots for Fresh Blood currently in development. In this series, the ABC and Screen Australia kick-start the careers of young comedy writers, directors and performers, with Be Your Own Boss, Koala Man, The Angus Project and Why Are You Like This?

Oh shit, where to even start with all this?  This quote alone is funnier than the entire 2018 ABC comedy line-up:

“The ABC is a place where content makers and comedians can take more risks. We continue to look for exciting ways to work with our existing, highly talented comedians, continuing the ABC’s long tradition of fostering new talent. Programs like Tonightly with Tom Ballard are a great example of this. We sometimes take significant risks, but we reach more people by creating shareable social media content and influencing conversations.”

The only conversation ABC comedy’s been influencing lately is “why is almost all ABC comedy utterly shithouse?” And if you’re going to constantly boast about all the “risks” you’re taking with your “sharable social media content”, maybe you shouldn’t have hired the advertising agency behind Here Come the Habibs to make the first two sitcoms you aired in 2018.

But really, this entire press release is a comedy gold mine the likes of which actual ABC comedy “content” could only dream of. “Corey White’s Roadmap to Paradise is a brand-new series like no other, which will see comedian Corey White try to solve the biggest problems facing everyday Australians” – like no other aside from Hughsie, We Have a Problem, then?

This is a breathless press release boasting of the awesome year ahead in brand new and exciting ABC comedy where season three of mild cup of tea in visual form Rosehaven gets mentioned not once but twice; to be fair, going on to call it a “fan favourite” is a pretty solid punchline.

The real news here is that there is no news, especially when it comes to television comedy: Rosehaven and Back in Very Small Business have been announced at least three times before this, Black Comedy‘s been announced twice, and Gruen and Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery aren’t even comedies. Maybe if they announced the next series of Get Krack!n – you know, a show people were actually excited about – this press release would be taken seriously by, well, us, but as it stands this is just the ABC announcing that they think comedy is good. Wonderful. So do we.

Considering a decade ago the ABC demanded they not make a second series despite the contracts already having been signed, calling Back in Very Small Business a “long-awaited reboot” was funny though.

Sando 3: Sando continues to be broadcast

This week, Sando introduced a new dimension to the previously fairly-generic supportive-husband-of-the-daughter character Gary. Gary, due to issues in his childhood with his own parents, is addicted to skinny dipping. If he feels stressed, he whips off his clothes, jumps into the pool and everything’s fine. He’s safe, naked in the water. Aaaahhh…

Being addicted to skinny dipping is the kind of potentially-hilarious character quirk that if done well, say on Arrested Development, could be really funny. But this is Sando, so it just seems bizarre and ridiculous. Thanks for trying (no thanks).

But hey, we’re all still enjoying that list of fake suburbs at the start of the show, aren’t we? And the fact that they went with an “everything’s fucked at this branch of Sando’s Warehouse, so let’s have an insurance fire” plot.

Sigh.

Sando

Meanwhile, we’ve been watching the first two episodes of the new series of Roseanne, a show which has had all sorts of criticism, partly because of the bizarre and illogical pro-Trump tweets from its star, but, when you get down to watching it, is actually a pretty good show that seems to have captured the mood of the white working class in Trump’s America – in all its contradictions.

Imagine if an Australian family sitcom could do something like that. Really nail, in a funny way, those arguments we had with our older relatives last year about the gay marriage vote, or a few years earlier about Tony Abbott. Or about Bill Shorten, or Malcolm Turnbull, or Pauline Hanson, or loads of other things. Or not be about politics at all and just be a funny show where the various characters find themselves in amusing situations or having funny things to say to each other.

Why is Sando, a show which is basically a soap opera fully of bad sitcom characters, the best Australian comedy can do right now in terms of making a family sitcom?

Why is Australian Comedy So Shit – An Official Investigation

For years now we’ve argued that we need more Australian comedy in general if we’re ever going to get more of the good stuff. Guess what? We were wrong. Our theory was that Australian television needed to make a lot of bad television before anything good would come along as the bottom 90% of anything is always shithouse. Let’s say it again: WRONG.

Going by our theory, once we had a Mad as Hell, everyone would be working hard to make a show that was even better. Why try to make a show worse than a show that already exists and is doing well? Obviously the current show would become the new benchmark and the only things that would get on the air would be shows that were even better.

Oh look, The Weekly‘s back for 2018. There goes that theory.

Meanwhile over at Channel Ten, they’ve been airing the best comedy panel show made in this country this century in the form of Have You Been Paying Attention? So again, going by our theory, Ten’s post-HYBPA? comedy output should be striving to be even better. And again, our theory is wrong: our apologies for reminding you of Cram! and Show Me the Movie. They’re shit.

Obviously not everyone in Australian comedy can be as funny as Shaun Micallef or Working Dog. And maybe in the past this lack of talent might have been enough to explain some of the clearly substandard “comedy” shows being put to air. But increasingly it’s clear that those who control what we get to see on television are actively encouraging this downward trend. It’s not an accident that standards are falling: rubbish is what the networks want to put to air.

Don’t believe us? Explain Peter Helliar. Not only is he a regular on The Project and host of Cram!, but he has a ten part sitcom coming up on Ten later in the year. Remind us again: what’s he done to make him a commercial network’s top comedy property? We’ll wait.

And then there’s The Weekly. We, uh, haven’t been big fans and going by its recent run of average ratings and zero media presence we’re not alone. So after four years of failure, maybe it’s time to try something new? It sure is – that’s why the ABC have not only brought it back but are now running it after Gruen, the strongest possible lead-in they could give it.

So while Mad as Hell – you know, the show that does everything The Weekly tries to do, only funnier – airs at 8.30 when viewers have a natural point to turn over to another network (but they don’t, because it’s a show worth watching) good luck finding a show on a rival network to turn over to if you don’t want to watch The Weekly when Gruen finishes at 9.10pm. With a popular lead-in and no alternative viewing up against it, The Weekly is in the best possible position to rate well… unless it turns out people would rather turn their televisions off than watch Charlie Pickering. Lets see how that pans out.

All of which begs the question: what’s going on here? It’s not like the decent comedies are rating flops or anything – they’re actually doing really well. And the shit shows are generally doing badly – if The Weekly was a ratings powerhouse the ABC wouldn’t be using actual ratings powerhouse Gruen to prop it up. So logically then, our television networks should be looking to succeed by… doing the opposite of what they’re actually doing?

It’s not even like the way to make good comedy is a mystery. Hughsie We Have a Problem isn’t exactly our cup of tea, but by giving a proven comedy talent – we can’t stress enough that Hughsie definitely isn’t our idea of a rockin’ good time, but he’s good at what he does – a show where he can dick around doing what he thinks is funny, the end result is a good use of his skills and abilities.

Likewise with Tonightly, which is proving to be a nice little earner comedy-wise. Again, that’s largely down to a format that lets those involved focus on doing whatever it takes to be funny; Tom Ballard is not our favourite Australian comedian but given a format that plays to his strengths he’s able to create a pretty decent comedy program.

What unites these two very different shows is that they work because they let the funny people be funny. And these aren’t even Australia’s funniest people! Time and time and time again the path to decent comedy is shown to be “let the experts handle it”. This isn’t a sure-fire recipe for success – hello Randling – but it definitely beats the alternatives. When you hire funny people and let them make a funny show, usually you get a show that’s funny; how hard is this to understand?

“That’s easy for you to say,” we hear an imaginary voice say, “but now more than ever television is a cutthroat business – what you’re describing is the kind of risk-taking that gets executives fired”. And that’s a bad thing? Isn’t the risk of being fired why they’re paid hefty six-figure salaries? And how is continuing down our current path good for them? With Australian audiences flooded with viewing choices, choosing to make bland forgettable crap is pretty risky in itself.

We’re not saying these executives are incompetent. Their decisions are made based on a huge range of variables, many of which actively work against the creation of quality television. But every time they decide to greenlight a show that isn’t fit for purpose – seriously, is Cram! even a television show – it gets just that little bit harder to get excited about Australian comedy.

And if we don’t give a shit, who will?

Sando 2: More Sando

Remember how last week, Sando only had two jokes? This week it had one. Which was also one of the jokes from last week: the list of fake suburbs at the end of the Sando’s Warehouse ad. And while we quite enjoy a comedy list of fake suburb names as much as the next person, by episode 4 this won’t be funny anymore. Not funny at all. In fact, we’re seriously concerned about how funny it’ll be next week.

Sando

Other than that, Sando just kept being Sando. The idiot son was still an idiot, the resentful daughter was still resentful, Sando’s ex- and the counsellor were still trying to get it on without the daughter finding out and…wait…there was a new character. The excitement. Enter Vic Jr, the product of the affair between Sando and the resentful daughter’s one-time fiancee.

On the surface, Vic Jr. seems like exactly the sort of character Sando needs: a smart-arse, older-than-his-years nine-year-old kid played by the brilliant-for-his-age child actor Zane Ciarma. Problem is, Vic Jr, like every other character in this show, has no funny dialogue whatsoever. So even though Ciarma’s acting his heart out, there’s no laughs here at all.

One other thing occurred to us: it took Hey Dad..! four years to bring in Arthur McArthur, the smart-arse, older-than-his-years kid played by Matthew “the little fat kid” Krok (also a child actor who was brilliant-for-his-age). It took Sando one episode before it played the “hilarious kid” card. What next, a robot character? A whacky next door neighbour? This really is a desperate program.

Here’s an idea: make some of the dialogue funny. Don’t just rely on mildly whacky situations and parodies of cheap TV ads from the 90s for laughs. Write a decent, funny script. And maybe don’t rip off character ideas from Hey Dad..! because funny kid characters can start to grate very quickly.