Australian Tumbleweeds

Australia's most opinionated blog about comedy.

Where’s Briggs: A Mystery Solved

Remember when The Weekly constantly promoted Briggs as a core cast member but hardly ever put him to air? Remember how boring it was when we’d ask week after week “where’s Briggs?”? Mystery solved:

Which, we’d all have to agree, is something of a step up from appearing for fifteen seconds in the middle of some endless Charlie Pickering rant.

(not pictured in the “NBA of comedy”: anyone else from The Weekly)

While this is clearly awesome news for Briggs, as far as our favourite punching bag The Weekly goes… not so much. After all, they clearly had a world-class comedy writer there and couldn’t be bothered putting him to air for weeks at a time because Tom Gleeson needed that time for Hard Chat. Nobody else there is heading overseas to work with the creator of The Simpsons; the cast member they valued the least is the one the creator of the most influential comedy series in the world wants to work with.

So congratulations Briggs! Just another example of local talent needing to head overseas to get the opportunities that just aren’t available here. Like the opportunity to be funny.

Vale Here Come the Habibs season 2

Well, this was a waste of time. Australia has a strong track record of putting to air sitcoms made by people who’ve never actually seen a sitcom, and this was another one of those. Here’s an idea: when somebody in management decides to give a locally made sitcom a go, maybe go ahead and make a sitcom, not a random collection of events that fizzle out after half an hour. That way, when you go back to head office and say “nup, didn’t work”, at least you actually tried.

So why make this show? Here’s our best guess: Australian commercial networks have pretty much nailed down the only kind of local drama they’re going to make, and that’s a bland milkshake featuring a little bit of everything. You’ve seen television, you know what we mean – those shows that are basically light dramas but with characters that could almost be in a sitcom, or shows with a comedy set-up but characters with “real issues”, or… whatever. Feel-good television. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll hardly need to pay attention.

The only difference between those bland, already-forgotten dramedies and Here Come the Habibs is that Habibs ran for half an hour, and so was clearly “a comedy” despite never bothering to come up with a truly funny line or memorable situation. If it had worked it would have been cheaper than a drama (because they go for a full hour) and yet still a decent ratings grabber if they put it on against one hour dramas and filled in the back half with old episodes of The Big Bang Theory or something. Yet another genius move from the guys who brought you three weeks of a televised obstacle course.

What other explanation is there? No, seriously: what other explanation is there? Because it’s not like this was a show created and put to air by people with a love for comedy – if it was, they might have bothered to make it funny. And who out there is demanding the return of local sitcoms to our television screens? Not even we bother fighting that fight any more, and we’re the only people left who care about Australian television comedy on a regular basis.

Here Come the Habibs was ignored by pretty much everyone from the start because pretty much everyone knew from the start that this wasn’t a show based around the idea of entertaining viewers. A charitable explanation for its existence is that Nine wanted to experiment with a new (well, old) format; a plausible explanation was that they figured a sitcom built around various ethnic stereotypes would stir up enough media coverage to make it worth their while no matter what the quality of the finished product.

And what about that finished product? A sitcom where the laughs were meant to come from “oh no, two groups of people who hate each other now have to deal with each other”, only they forgot to come up with a way to keep the two groups together. Having “different” people move in next door may have worked in the UK in the 70s when houses were piled on top of each other and there was still a vague sense of community drifting around the place, but millionaires have high fences and big gardens for a reason; in 2017 who the fuck would have even known the Habibs had moved in?

That wouldn’t have mattered if the scripts had shown some spark or originality, but having a final episode based around a pair of sham weddings was a helpful reminder that the only storyline the writers seemed all that interested in was the dullest one of all: the one involving the boring-as-fuck young lovers. It’s depressingly easy to imagine the kind of cynical television executive who watched The Office and came away thinking “yeah, the romance was what people were really tuning in for”, but a decade on we’d hoped they’d all have died from cocaine-induced head explosions.

Look, despite our ranty reputations, here at Tumbleweeds HQ we’re all 100% fine with shows not being comedies. What we’re not fine with are shows that make a few casual hand-waving gestures towards being comedies and then devote most of their time and exceedingly casual effort to being something else entirely. Like shit.

Let’s Get Krack!n

So part of Team Tumbleweeds crawled out from behind their stockpile of old Ned and You Can’t Stop the Murders DVDs and went outside to see some live comedy. Well, by “live” we mean the preview at Melbourne’s ACMI of two (the first two?) episodes of the highly anticipated new show from Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney, AKA the Kates behind The Katering Show, Get Krack!n.

It’s not really fair to review a show so far out from airing – we were told it’ll be out soon, but we’re figuring maybe September or October? – so we’ll keep our judgement largely to ourselves for now. And also because watching a television comedy on a big screen in a cinema is kind of weird, especially a show like this one – but more on that in a moment.

The scenario is basically The Katering Show 2.0, right down to a handful of references early on to The Katering Show (yes, continuity nerds, they are playing the same characters, only we were told there’d be no cooking segments after the one in the first episode so all those classic cheese jokes are done): The Kates have moved up in the world and are now hosting a morning show (that supposedly airs at 3am here so it can be a mid-morning show in the US) in their own unique fashion. Is this a chat show parody where everything goes wrong? Yes. Yes it is.

The first episode put in some extra effort to establish the scenario, making it slightly closer to your standard bungled chat show comedy, while the second had a bit more of the usual angsty dynamic between the Kates and so felt a touch more Katering Show. But the big difference here is that, as each episode runs close to half an hour, they’ve brought in guests for various segments. There’s cameos too – Briggs and Sam Simmons make brief but memorable appearances – which also opens out the show a bit.

There was a strong positive reaction from the crowd on the night, which is as you’d expect: the show’s good. How good was a little hard for us to judge though. For one thing, it’s a show with a lot of jokes waiting for the audience to stumble across – details in the set design, the ticker across the bottom of the screen, etc – so there’s funny stuff going on that didn’t get the big laughs it deserved.

It’s also a show set on a cheesy generic talk show set which on the big screen looked, well… cheesy and generic. Fortunately, pretty much everyone is going to watch it on a TV screen or computer monitor, where we’re guessing it’ll look spot-on. Then again, some comedy pixelation was probably even more effective on the big screen – it definitely got huge laughs (including from us).

And also – and this really could be just us – a lot of the Kates’ appeal comedy-wise is that they’re very good at doing small comedy: expressions of boredom and frustration, low stakes fumbling that reveals the yawning abyss beneath modern life and so on. It’s comedy that works best one-on-one up close: watching it in a big crowd didn’t do some of the harsher lines any favours.

There was also a Q&A afterwards in which the two exhausted-seeming (we were sitting up the back so we couldn’t really tell but it sounded like they’d been working like crazy over the last few months) Kates’ talked a fair bit about stuff like how they felt they couldn’t tell any stories that weren’t theirs to tell so they brought in contributing writers for that kind of thing and how unless a character really needed to be a man they cast a woman and they had some trouble getting used to doing a three camera sitcom because their previous experiences with those kind of shows (titles mentioned: The Big Bite, Hamish & Andy, Live From Planet Earth, Let Loose Live) had left them just a little gunshy.

Also, if you’re a dude and you want to compliment them on their show, maybe compliment them on their show, not say “wow, you’re really funny” because after a while that starts to sound pretty dickish

Vale Radio Chaser

It’s not often this blog writes a vale for a Chaser show that’s largely positive, so strap yourselves in… Radio Chaser, which has been airing on Triple M Sydney for the past 12 weeks and ended on Friday, has actually been pretty good. We’re not talking “set the world on fire” – this is a show on Triple M, after all – but it’s been fun to listen to the highlights podcasts none-the-less.

Featuring a revolving door of Chaser members, associates and guests – Charles Firth, Dom Knight, Andrew Hansen, Rhys Muldoon, Mark Humphries, Chris Taylor, Chas Licciardello, Kirsten Drysdale, Wil Anderson, Kevin Rudd and many more – and impressive number of topical (and quickly written and produced) sketches, this has been a step up from the traditional Triple M fare.

Not since Get This, The Sweetest Plum, or, to go back even further into the commercial radio comedy archives, Martin/Molloy and The D-Generation, have commercial radio listeners been able to listen to a show which re-works but also sends up the conventions of the genre.

End-of-show awards given to idiots in the news? Radio Chaser did them, although in a much funnier way than your bog-standard breakfast crew. Ditto the show’s Cat’s Pyjamas or Cat’s Piss segment, which cunningly cast a Hot or Not-type eye on the day’s news and was always amusing.

If you’re a regular listener to the Ms, you’ll be aware of the network’s Music Check Up campaign, where the public’s being asked for its views on their playlist, i.e. do you like “classic” Triple M or do you want to hear newer music too? Cue a Radio Chaser phone-in where listeners are asked to identify the classic song: “Is it Mozart, Haydn or AC/DC?”. The answer was Mozart. Get it? Classic Triple M… It was much funnier when they did it. Although not quite as funny as the number of people who called in to give their answers. (Maybe Triple M should consider playing the actual classics?)

A couple of years ago, the Game Changers: Radio podcast spoke to Mick Molloy and Tony Martin (separately) and wondered why their incredibly successful 90’s radio show hasn’t been replicated. The conclusion was, roughly speaking, that to produce a daily show featuring original comedy sketches and amusing chat required too many resources. Yet, it’s a format that keeps popping up every couple of years and resulting in good shows, so shouldn’t there be more of this kind of program?

There have been suggestions that Radio Chaser will return, although not in the 11am-1pm time slot it’s occupied for the last 12 weeks. Let’s hope so, it’s been a good listen.

Utopian principles

If there’s a utopia for Australian comedy, it’s not Utopia series 3. The third series of a sitcom should build on past successes – and Utopia’s previous series were largely successful – but also give us, the audience, something new. Based on last night’s episode of Utopia, there’s nothing new for us to see here. It’s the same as it ever was.

Is not giving the audience anything new making a wider point, here? Because things never really change in government, then neither should the fundamentals of Utopia as a television series?

No. Utopia is meant to be entertainment, and audiences stop watching sitcoms if the jokes and situations are pretty much the same every week.

In last night’s episode, we saw how a project came to a halt because our friends at the NBA had to satisfy the needs of every Tom, Diane and Hassan before they could start work. Meanwhile, the team got so wrapped up in a team building scheme – an NBA’s Got Talent competition – that things got a bit out of control and the fire brigade had to be called.

The talent competition was funny, shonky cabaret acts are always funny, but we’ve seen this kind of thing on Utopia before. Speaking truth to power and gently mocking the follies of us humans? That’s every previous episode of Utopia ever.

We like Working Dog; 30+ years into their careers they’re still funny and still making good shows. And writing about what government does with our money is a good thing, but the aim of Utopia is (or should be) to make a comedy that people will watch every week, not to catalogue every possible way that governments could waste our taxes.

Utopia is a good show, but it seems there’s only so much you can say about nation building. And for this third series to work, some changes needed to be made to the show to allow new types of stories to be told and new types of laughs to be generated. But they weren’t. So, this feels like the end of the line for Utopia, which isn’t good just one episode into a new series.

State of (dis)Grace

Why is the ABC so obsessed with advice programs? There’s a reason why the commercial networks don’t make them and it’s not “duhh we forgot”: most Australians consider themselves perfectly capable of living their own lives thank you very much, and when they do need advice they turn to people who have a passing resemblance to either themselves or an expert – neither of whom tends to get a gig hosting these shows on the ABC.

And yet every year the national broadcaster serves up at least one series designed to explain the basic facts of life to an audience that just wants to be entertained. Request denied: the only possibly entertaining angle when guy-with-a-girlfriend Luke McGregor was playing sexless geek Luke McGregor in last year’s Luke Warm Sex was to laugh at his naivety and that would have been to cruel even for the ABC; as for what was supposed to be entertaining in 2015’s utterly shithouse How Not to Behave, let us know when you figure it out.

Which brings us to Growing Up Gracefully, the ABC’s latest attempt to point out that Australians are Doing Life Wrong. Despite the presence of the occasional snappy one-liner or wacky prank (“hey members of the public, blow this whistle when my skirt – which I am lifting via these pulleys – becomes too short!”), this is, once again, not really a comedy program, and so really not our problem. Jeez ABC, can you stop promoting these advice shows as comedies so we can stop watching them and go back to old episodes of Sit Down, Shut Up?

But because we did bother to watch the first episode, we might as well pass judgment because that’s the kind of jerks we are. Good news: as advice shows go, this is closer to The Checkout than Luke Warm Sex, which is no surprise because The Chaser’s Julian Morrow is one of the producers. Of course he is: with Andrew Denton gone, someone has to guide the up-and-comers down the path towards the bland yet polished mediocrity the ABC so highly prizes.

Enough snark for now: The basic premise is decent – two sisters, one exploring old-time advice for women, the other checking out the modern day variety (news flash: they’re not that different!) and as hosts, Hannah & Eliza Reilly (daughters of Hey, Dad..!‘s Garry Reilly and both seasoned media performers) are likable enough without getting in the way of what they’re trying to say. There’s half the battle won right there. Also, hosted by women! That’s a nice change from Luke McGregor and Tom Gleeson.

That said, there’s a fine line between “we’re not taking this too seriously” and “we’re just taking the piss”, and this is often on the wrong side of things. What kind of clothes would you wear to hide your personal issues (like the fact you’re a murderer) is not a hilarious comedy sketch the way it plays out here, and the predictable slide into the traditional ABC awkwardness arrives right on time with the “sexy dress” reveal. Things get a bit more weighty later on with guides to both old-fashioned etiquette and taking bikini selfies, but…

Look, the trick with these shows is to be actually informative while coating the information in just enough comedy (though never enough for us, which is why we generally avoid these shows) to keep things entertaining. In its first episode, Growing Up Gracefully struggles to get the balance right: too often it’s neither informative enough to be useful or funny enough to stand as comedy.

Hopefully they’ll figure this out in later episodes, because what we’ve seen so far has potential. Though that’s mostly potential to be one of those shows where it feels like everything else has been washed out to make sure our focus remains on the hosts. Because that’s what’s important, isn’t it? Each media appearance a stepping stone to the next as part of a nebulous yet driven quest for fame for its own sake. Growing Up Gracefully is never going to be a successful brand – but it just might help launch Hannah & Eliza as brands on their own.

(this is probably why The Checkout has worked where almost every other attempt has failed: because it’s produced by The Chaser – who clearly want to shift their attentions more to the production side of things – using various hired guns as presenters, the show has focused on what viewers care about rather than what the on-air hosts want. Viewers want to be educated and entertained; hosts want to be loved)

Of course, we’ve avoided all mention of whatever we actually need a show about how to find your way through life as a woman in the 21st century because a): it mostly seems to involve making references to “the patriarchy” and b): what is the point of any of these shows anyway?

Semi-practical life advice can be useful and entertaining: The Checkout and two-thirds of A Current Affair each night proves that can work. And shows featuring an entertaining comedian or host exploring a specific, focused topic can also work: countless overseas documentaries and the local work of John Safran and Judith Lucy are all the evidence you need.

But over and over again the ABC picks topics that are simply too diffuse – manners! sex! more manners! – and then brings in hosts who may be likable enough but lack the well-defined point-of-view required to shape the material. The result ends up feeling unpleasantly close to a kind of advertorial for the hosts as media personalities, where they wander around smiling and (dis-)approving mildly of everything they encounter, treating everything as merely a colourful backdrop for their own presence.

Hey, remember Lawrence Leung? Remember how The Chaser fixed him up with that series where he tried to figure out life and stuff by going around asking experts to help him with stuff? Then he made Maximum Choppage and now turns up semi-regularly on Offspring? Come on guys, who can blame hosts for wanting to go down the same path when you can score that kind of result?


The Line Gets Blurry

Press release time!

Sideliners spin a different take on sport

ABC’s new sports entertainment show Sideliners premieres on Friday, 21 July at 6pm on ABC and ABC iview

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 — Olympic champion and media all-rounder Nicole Livingstone and comedian Tegan Higginbotham have joined forces on this new one-hour live sport entertainment panel show. Broadcasting from ABC’s Southbank studios in Melbourne, the show will be filmed live in front of a studio audience.

Nicole and Tegan will be joined by a regular team of athletes and comedians including comedian Dave Thornton, Paralympic champion Dylan Alcott and former ABC ME star Amberley Lobo to look at the world of sport from all angles.

Each show will feature guest interviews, field stories, comedy sketches and panel discussion. The show will be focused on bringing viewers a fresh approach to the genre – reporting it through the eyes of sports fans with a fresh, fun and sometimes irreverent feel.

It’s the perfect show to enjoy with family or friends ahead of a weekend of sport. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you are guaranteed to be entertained.

Sounds great! It also sounds a lot like the previously announced then quickly buried after a string of blunders Fever Pitch. As in, it’s basically the same press release for what is basically the same show:

Nicole Livingstone and Tegan Higginbotham to host new live comedy sport show on ABC

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 — Olympic champion and media all-rounder Nicole Livingstone and comedian Tegan Higginbotham have joined forces on Fever Pitch, a new one-hour live comedy sport panel show which will premiere on Friday, June 30 at 6pm (AEST) on ABC and ABC iview.

Filmed in front of a live studio audience in Melbourne, Nicole and Tegan will be joined by a regular team of athletes and comedians including former ABC ME star Amberley Lobo, comedian Dave Thornton and Paralympic champion Dylan Alcott to look at the world of sport from all angles.

Each show will feature guest interviews, field stories, comedy sketches and studio games.

Fever Pitch will air live on Friday nights at 6pm (AEST) on ABC and iview from Friday, June 30th.

To be fair, there are some differences – one is a “new one-hour live sport entertainment panel show” that features “guest interviews, field stories, comedy sketches and panel discussion”, while the other was a “new one-hour live comedy sport panel show” that featured “guest interviews, field stories, comedy sketches and studio games”, but otherwise… yeah.

Guess there’s no new ideas in television, hey?

How to Solve a Problem like Chris Lilley

So there’s been a bit of attention over the last few weeks drawn to the fact that Jonah from Tonga is, as the French say, racist as fuck. First this:

New Zealand’s Maori Television has dropped Jonah from Tonga from broadcasting

Which led to this:

The narrative never really shifts in Australia: to admit that Lilley is guilty of a deeply racist act of cultural violence would be to admit that the nation itself is a constantly unraveling act of actual violence.

That admission will never come. White Australia may confess Lilley is “offensive”, but hey, he’s also pretty funny, right?

Which gathered more mainstream support here:

Yet for all of the one-liners and audience acclaim, Jonah and Ja’mie also represent Lilley’s satire at its worst. The problem for Lilley is that his methods – brownface and cross-dressing – obscure his message. No matter how worthy the satire, Jonah’s brownface is never neutral. No matter how funny Ja’mie can be, it is still a white bloke acting out problems he’s never had. Is it really necessary to dress in brownface to make the point that “the Island boys”, to quote one of Jonah’s teachers, have a hard time at school?

While our learned opinion falls somewhere in between these articles – we’re not exactly convinced that the entirety of post-war American comedy was based on minstrelsy (Bob Newhart?) and that Guardian piece wastes way too much time trying to pretend Lilley is “capable of brilliant satire” – this realisation that Lilley is a bit shit is basically good news. There’s only one problem: it doesn’t go far enough.

If you’re going to give Chris Lilley a well-deserved kicking for his blackface cliches, what about his even more crude yellowface work? Remember Ricky Wong from We Can Be Heroes – a Chinese physics student who embodies pretty much every Asian cliche there is (passive, hard-working, great at science) only there’s a twist: he wants to turn his back on his heritage – oh wait, his parents are cliches too as they demand he be an over-achiever – and put on a stage musical. In which he’ll appear in blackface.

Yes, this is as dodgy as it sounds. The thing is, there’s also a number of actual indigenous people involved (like Lionel Rose and Cathy Freeman) and the end point of his storyline is that while he should follow his dream, this particular dream is – going by the reactions of the indigenous people watching it – not a great idea. It’s a show that says “hey Chinese guy – blackface is a bad idea, don’t do it”

And then in Summer Heights High white guy Chris Lilley does it to rapturous applause. O-kay.

But if you thought Ricky Wong was a collection of offensive stereotypes, then the less said about Angry BoysJen Okazaki the better. Remember when she was marketing her (hetrosexual) teen son as gay with a gay dog called Gay Dog? What exactly were we meant to be laughing at there?

While we’re at it, it’s not like Lilley’s portrayal of women in general was anything to be proud of. Gran was a massive racist, Jen was a nightmare, Pat Mullins was a drip who rolled around on the ground for laughs and Ja’mie was a license to insult teenagers sustained over three separate series. As we said at the time, Chris Lilley’s acting style consists of creating a comedy character, putting on a comedy accent, dressing up in a comedy costume and then not being funny at all. But instead of making him “not funny”, this somehow makes him a brilliant mimic and subtle, insightful performer.


Chris Lilley only ever created nasty, unpleasant characters, and Australia loved him for it – Summer Heights High was based around a bitchy parody of a teenage girl, a music teacher who placed shit on the floor of a classroom and blamed a Down Syndrome student for it, and a high school bully who got laughs for tormenting “rangas”. If you found this stuff funny, maybe you might want to consider what exactly it was you were laughing at.

His defenders claim his comedy is sharp edged satire. But what was he satirising? When did he take a swing at anyone with real power in our society? A more accurate description of his comedy would be schoolyard mockery –  remember how Gran insulted the teens she watched over? Remember how Ja’mie insulted “povvo bogans”? Remember how s.mouse insulted the intelligence of everyone watching?  – that he “redeemed” at the last minute by having his hateful characters break down in tears as they suddenly realised that being a total shit was not a great way to behave.

If only their creator could realise it too.


Others Gonna Work It Out

Press release time!

JULY 13, 2017 – Australia’s leading local streaming service Stan announced today that its latest Stan Original series, The Other Guy, will premiere exclusively on August 17.

Created by and starring leading Australian comedy talent, Matt Okine, THE OTHER GUY is a funny, raw and poignant look at break-ups in the modern age and at the harsh reality of recovering from heartbreak.

THE OTHER GUY co-stars Valene Kane (The Fall, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), Harriet Dyer (No Activity, Love Child), Marg Downey (Fast Forward, Kath & Kim), Christiaan van Vuuren (Soul Mates, Bondi Hipsters), Adam Briggs (Cleverman, Black Comedy) along with composer, performer and rising star Amali Golden (Australian Idol).

The 6 x half hour comedy drama series follows a successful radio host, AJ Amon, who finds himself unexpectedly back in the dating pool for the first time in a decade, after discovering his long-term girlfriend has been having an affair with his best friend.

Filmed on location across Sydney earlier this year, THE OTHER GUY is written by Okine and Becky Lucas (Please Like Me) and script produced by Greg Waters (Soul Mates, Dance Academy). Directed by Kacie Anning (Fragments of Friday), the series is produced by Aquarius Films (six-time Academy Award nominated film Lion and Berlin Syndrome) and global studio Entertainment One/eOne (Designated Survivor, Sharp Objects) who will also distribute the series internationally. THE OTHER GUY has received production investment funding from Screen Australia in association with Create NSW.

 The Other Guy will premiere exclusively on Stan on August 17

Well, at least they’re investing in local comedy.

… yes, okay, we mean local dramedy – advertising yourself as “a funny, raw and poignant look at break-ups in the modern age and at the harsh reality of recovering from heartbreak” suggests a show that leans more towards sad montages rather than, you know, bust-a-gut laffs.

Also: co-written by someone from Please Like Me.

We go on about this way more than is healthy, but when it comes to Australian television it’s a sad fact: adding literally any other word to “comedy” when describing a show means it contains zero comedy. Comedy is that rare thing that people want to see, which is why, when someone makes a show that they’re not quite sure has an audience – hey, remember The Warriors? – they go out of their way to add “comedy” to the description.

So this? This sounds like a mild drama about a guy trying to find love with the occasional funny moment thrown in – a more dating obsessed The Wrong Girl, perhaps. It’ll probably be a well-made show because they all are, but a comedy?

Well, Okine is a funny guy, so obviously a story based on the time he got cheated on for real will be hilarious, right?

Vale Ronny Chieng International Student

Ronny Chieng International Student has been that rare thing in Australian sitcom: a show you want to see more of. If it was released on Netflix, you’d sit down to watch one and then realise two hours later that you’d just watched four of them.

Why does it work so well? Partly it’s the familiarity of the situation; even if you haven’t been to uni you’ve probably formed similar relationships with people at school or work who you might not normally befriend. And everyone knows a super uptight anal retentive and a way-too-relaxed idiot. To use a cliché, it’s funny because it’s true.

Not that we’re saying this show is cliched. No way. Can you name another sitcom in this country that’s managed to take comedy tropes like the super uptight anal retentive and the way-too-relaxed idiot and render them quite as well as in this show? There’s so much sharply observed detail in these characters’ lines…is this really an Australian sitcom?

We’re going to give Declan Fay a lot of the credit for this. Anyone who’s heard The Sweetest Plum knows how good he is at analysing everyday idiocy and distilling it into ridiculous and hilarious characters. Add to that Chieng’s stylings and tried-and-tested material from his stand-up, and you have a top-notch comedy ranter of a central character surrounded by mostly lovable but also very funny fools.

If you watch no other episode of this series, make it episode 5, where Ronny reluctantly ends up in the cast of the Law Revue. Student comedy is easy to take this piss out of, but there’s a very particular type of theatrical wankery and poorly-written earnest satire that’s parodied in this episode. (Satire that is, let’s face it, only a few steps below some of the satire that makes it to TV in this country. Terrifying.)

Next week Chieng and friends are being replaced by the new series of Utopia, but we have a feeling that International Student will be back. The ABC doesn’t always commission good comedies, but when they do they usually bring them back.