Press release time!
The ABC is pleased to announce four exciting new pilots produced as part of series two of Fresh Blood will go to air on ABC COMEDY from November 20.
In addition,all four pilots will be available on ABC iview and ABC COMEDY YouTube from Tuesday 20 November.
Fresh Blood is a ground-breaking ABC and Screen Australia initiative that seeks to uncover the next generation of Australian comedy talent. First launched in 2013, there were hundreds of entries of from all over the country that culminated in the Wham Bam Thankyou Ma’am and Fancy Boy sketch series (both co-produced with NBCU’s Seeso streaming platform (U.S.). Once again in 2017, 20 up-and-coming comedy teams were given $15,000 each to produce a 3×5 minute comedy project. This year, four of those were chosen to produce a half hour comedy pilot, with one or possibly two projects to be commissioned to make a 6-part series. Those pilots are:
KOALA MAN – ABC COMEDY Tues November 20 at 9.30pm (on iview the same day) ABC’s first adult animated comedy pilot. By day, Kevin is a divorced dad, stuck in a dull IT job at the local council. By night, clad in a koala mask, he’s a superhero clearing the streets of petty crime. He won’t stop until he’s rid the town of every last loiterer, litterer, and local kid who looks dodgy at the park. Voice Cast/ Creator/ Writer/ Director – Michael Cusack, Producer Mike Cowap. Executive Producers: Paul Walton, Emma Fitzsimons (Princess Pictures);
WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS – ABC COMEDY Tues November 27 at 9.30pm (iview from Nov 20) Best friends Penny and Mia are navigating their 20s in Melbourne. Guided by their own, often deeply misguided modern day moral code they confront complex social issues in an outrage-driven world, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Creators Naomi Higgins, Humyara Mahbub, Mark Samual Bonanno, Producer Sarah Freeman, Directors Jessie Oldfield & Adam Murfet.
THE ANGUS PROJECT – ABC COMEDY Tues December 4 at 9.30pm (on iview from Nov 20) Angus, an aspiring sports journalist with cerebral palsy, employs his hopeless best friend Nina, a failing university student, to be his carer. Together they go on wild adventures and get up to no good in the regional NSW town of Bathurst. Director/Producer/Writer/Cast Nina Oyama, Cast ‘Angus’ Angus Thompson, Producer Bronte Rose Jovevski. Guest cast includes Rob Sitch (Utopia) and Veronica Milsom (Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell), and Sammy J.
BE YOUR OWN BOSS – ABC COMEDY Tues December 11 at 9.30pm (on iview from Nov 20) When the Pearl Regional Council established the “Be Your Own Boss” initiative, they offered small business owners mentorship and free rent within the Pearl Arcade. The various recipients are: husband and wife gym instructor duo Chelle and Jase; mother and son ‘uncaged’ pet shop owners Paula and Angelo; and theatre entrepreneurs Ashleigh and Ashley. Creator/Writers/Performers Cameron James and Becky Lucas, Producer Nikita Agzarian, Director Henry Stone. Guest cast includes Mel Buttle, Greta Lee Jackson.
ABC Head of Comedy Rick Kalowski said “These four outstanding pilots – as different in style as could be imagined – point to the incredible depth of new comedy talent in Australia. All four creative teams will surely enjoy great comedy careers, and ABC is thrilled to be there at their start”.
Lee Naimo, Online Investment Manager at Screen Australia said: “It’s exciting to see these teams take the next step and deliver four very strong pilot episodes that showcase the breadth of comedic talent in Australia. These projects display diversity, creativity and ambition and I hope this exposure acts as a launching pad to future opportunities in the industry for these talented teams.”
Executive Producer Nick Hayden said “The ABC has a storied history of producing risky, boundary pushing entertainment and comedy content that supports new talent. These four incredible Fresh Blood pilots continue that excellent tradition. Added bonus, they’re damn funny too!”
So, do these four pilots “point to the incredible depth of new comedy talent in Australia”? Well, yes – in that they point to the fact that the only thing incredible about the depth of comedy talent in Australia is that no-one’s broken their neck diving into it.
But don’t take our word for it… oh wait, you have to take our word for it, as nobody else watched the original pilots. So here’s our verdict on each:
Koala Man: “It’s easy to see this working as a 30-minute sitcom, so we’re okay with it getting $75,000 to make one”. Thumbs up from us there.
The Angus Project: “This isn’t bad either… it could work”. Sounds pretty positive coming from us.
Why Are You Like This: “None of this is funny”. Oh dear.
Be Your Own Boss: Okay, we don’t seem to have reviewed this one… because it wasn’t actually an entrant in last year’s Fresh Blood program. Hmmm.
We did review True Murder, which was from the same guys and which did screen in the 2017 Fresh Blood program – we said “stick with it, it’s a pretty funny show” – but does it seem a little odd to anyone else that one team seems to have made it through to the next level with a completely different show to the one that previously aired?
Maybe Be Your Own Boss is a brilliantly funny idea – we haven’t seen it, so we don’t know – but we’re pretty sure a lot of the Fresh Blood losing contestants would have said they had another even more brilliantly funny idea they’d like to try if they were given a second chance. Which they weren’t.
And it does undercut the idea of having a pilot season if you can get through with a (hilarious) one-off idea and then say “we think we’d like to make this other show instead”. If it’s just a plain old talent quest – which it clearly is, considering it’s a “Screen Australia initiative that seeks to uncover the next generation of Australian comedy talent” – why bother with all the talk of pilots?
Put plainly, isn’t the point of having a pilot season that people are making pilots of shows that can go to series? If you had a brilliantly funny idea that could only work once, that’s not a pilot – that’s a special.
And special isn’t really a word anyone’s used to describe Fresh Blood.
Remember how Pilot Week was going to bring us Ten’s next hit comedy? How it was kind of exciting to work out which of the pilots would get a series? How we’ve been waiting for ages to hear which shows are going to series, and have heard nothing?
Well, it turns out, that Ten’s next new comedy isn’t one of the Pilot Week shows, but one they announced last November, and which is based on the first episode of the ABC’s 2013 show It’s a Date.
Cue the media release…
A First Look At How To Stay Married.
Starring Peter Helliar And Lisa McCune.
Coming Soon To The WIN Network.
Harry and Meghan. Tim and Anna. Biebs and Baldwin. It’s all champagne and roses in the beginning. But how do you keep the home fires burning 14 years down the track, when bikinis have made way for a one-piece and there’s a small child sleeping in your bed every night?
Starring Pete Helliar and Lisa McCune, How To Stay Married goes behind the closed doors of a two-point four family who are stuck in a rut. Greg (Helliar) and Em (McCune) have been married for 14 years, but their relationship is lacking any spark. Life gets complicated when Em goes back to work for the first time since the kids were born, just as Greg is made redundant.
A funny, honest, warts-and-all take on parenting, careers and partnerships in 2018, How To Stay Married tackles the big issues modern day marriages face, from managing screentime, to date night expectations and what actually constitutes hard-rubbish. The series also stars Phil Lloyd playing Greg’s man-child brother Brad, and unconventional neighbours Terry (Darren Gilshenan) and Marlo (Nikki Britton).
There’s also this preview video:
It looks…OK? The episode of It’s a Date that it’s based on had a decent premise (a couple with young kids are using date night and role play to keep their waning marriage interesting). And, to be fair, there is currently a hole in the Australian comedy market for a mass-appeal sitcom where mildly wacky things happen to relatable people. We haven’t had a show like that since Squinters, as this year’s other sitcoms have tended to focus on outlier characters and situations (Street Smart, Back in Very Small Business, Sando). And even though Squinters wasn’t particularly funny, in theory, a show in that style could work on a commercial network. We shall see.
And in the meantime, we won’t be holding our breath that any of the Pilot Week shows are getting the green light. Especially the Dave O’Neil-penned sitcom Dave, which while one of the more promising Pilot Week efforts, is somewhat similar to How To Stay Married (in that it’s also about a middle-aged couple with kids who live in the suburbs and get into mildly wacky scrapes). Ah well.
… the more we get new episodes of SeaChange. Wait, what?
The return of ABC drama SeaChange, Lego Masters, Bad Mothers, and a new Hamish and Andy series were among the content highlights at Nine’s 2019 upfronts on Wednesday evening.
Nine announced actors Sigrid Thornton and John Howard will be returning as Laura Gibson and Bob Jelly for the new series of SeaChange, more than two decades after the show first aired.
What was the last time Nine announced they were reviving a much-loved ABC comedy series – that reboot of The Games they let quietly die? And that was a show people actually wanted back because there wasn’t anything else like it on our screens.
But SeaChange never really left: there isn’t a lightweight commercial drama on Australian television this century that doesn’t rip it off on one level or another. “A big city white collar professional moves to a quirky country town”? Shit, they’re going to have their work cut out persuading viewers it’s not a spin-off of Doctor Doctor.
Aside from that news – which, let’s be real here, relies entirely on every single person interested in seeing more SeaChange forgetting just how hard and fast that series went from “must-see TV” to “embarrassing train wreck” – the other big shock announcement was the return of Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation for 2019. Didn’t that fizzle out in the ratings? Presumably keeping Micallef around will make having him revive his own SeaChange character that much easier.
Otherwise, as Nine isn’t exactly known as the home of comedy these days the news out of the upfronts was of limited interest here. No new True Story with Hamish & Andy for 2019 is kind of disappointing – what, they’ve exhausted Australia’s supply of bullshit artists already? – and Hamish is off pulling host duties on the gimmicky Lego Masters (sponsored content in which people build hopefully cool stuff with Lego), but the duo will be back with this:
Hamish and Andy’s ‘Perfect’ Holiday
Next year Hamish and Andy return to what they love best, travelling. Audiences fell in love with their gap year seasons and their caravan specials. 3 Now the boys will embark on another action packed adventure, but this time with a slight twist, in Hamish and Andy’s “Perfect” Holiday. Hamish and Andy’s “Perfect” Holiday is produced by Radio Karate for Nine.
Which sounds… somewhat less interesting, but 100% on brand for a 2019 line-up that seems even more focused than usual on reviving and maintaining creatively bankrupt franchises. And Nine’s the network that’s doing reasonably well these days: if you can’t take a few risks when the books are looking good, when can you?
Guess we’ll have to wait for Ten to announce their 2019 line-up to find out,
The third series of Black Comedy feels different to previous series. Gone is the popular recurring sketch Tiddas and its catchphrase “What’s this then, slut?”, along with writer/performer Steven Oliver, and filling the gap are some new cast members, a bunch of new recurring sketches and a slightly different feel to the show.
Basically, Black Comedy feels like less of a traditional, big and bold sketch show, with over-the-top characters and stereotypes – although there are still some of those – and more of a serious, politically-minded show with an emphasis on realism. So, while an episode still might open with a boom-tish gag like… “I said a car robbery, not a corroboree!” …later in the show, there’ll be a sketch with rather more bite.
When an indigenous girl brings her white boyfriend home for dinner to meet her parents, he, seemingly, does the right thing by bringing them a gift. “I hope it’s not smallpox” quips the Dad. Actually, it’s worse than that, it’s a Monopoly set. And as the evening progresses, whitey manages to bleed the family dry of all their assets, citing laws of ownership they’re unfamiliar with, and plunging them into debt and poverty. In another similar sketch, a white couple plays Scrabble with an indigenous man, and refuse to accept his indigenous words as he “can’t prove they’re real”. These aren’t exactly hilarious sketches – more horrifying and tragic – but the message is clear.
On a lighter note, there’s this parody of a TV morning show called “Wake Up To Yourself” (the sort of parody TV show title you’d expect of Get Krack!n), where a panel earnestly discuss whether white people are cunts or not. Conclusion: they are.
And fair enough, too.*
Then there’s the more standard sketch show fare, like a parody of The Exorcist with the big reveal that it’s not a possession, just a slovenly cousin who won’t piss off. Or the traditional dance troupe performing for tourists who perform dances about such contemporary rituals as waiting for the dole cheque. Or the uber-PC gay, indigenous housemates, stressing about their cleaner.
There’s some good stuff in this show, from a mix of established and up-and-coming writer/performers. The only problem and we say this about a lot of sketch shows (because it’s true), is that it feels like there’s no shared vision for this show beyond “it’s an all-indigenous cast”. We get that the very fact of an all-indigenous sketch show is pretty visionary (not to mention long overdue), but for this to be a really great show it’s got to be more than that.
* Would it be cunty to point out that this is quite similar to Not The Nine O’Clock News’ Soccer Hooligan sketch, i.e. “Cut off their goolies”, where the basic gag is that the solution to a complex problem is a reductionist, sweary generalisation? Probably.
Australian sitcoms are rarely story-driven. Sure, they have stories, but the laughs usually come from the characters and the dialogue. Kath & Kim was a classic, but what sticks in the mind: the plots, or Kel’s butt-wiggling walk? Whether it’s due to financial limitations or simply playing to their strengths, even the most ambitious Australian sitcoms rarely get much past a group of people in a handful of settings bantering with each other.
So it was something of a surprise to have two comedies based on telling funny stories airing at the same time: Street Smart and True Story with Hamish & Andy. Okay, True Story wasn’t really a surprise – it had been on last year, after all, and this year was basically more of the same only with a slightly less star-studded cast. But whereas last year it seemed like a quirky one-off from the much-loved comedy duo (who’d probably been watching an episode or two of US series Drunk History), having it appear alongside (well, kind of) Street Smart put a new spin on things.
Not that much of anyone saw Street Smart, which was dumped from an early evening Sunday night slot after its first episode. But if you kept the television on after Have You Been Paying Attention? ended each week you would have seen it still plugging away well past its intended audiences of twelve year-olds’ bedtimes doing what it did best… which wasn’t really all that much, because it wasn’t great.
At the other end of the scale, True Story with Hamish & Andy was a class act all the way, even when the episode was about guys dressed as jockeys making a dick of themselves at the Melbourne Cup. Thanks to the hosts skill and charm when it came to teasing the stories out of their civilian guests, plus a halfway decent budget for cast and filming (guess not having official writers pays off… for everyone but the writers), the end result was a comedy highlight.
What they both had in common was the idea of comedy as someone telling you a silly story where things keep on getting out of control. On Street Smart – oh yeah, it was a sitcom about a gang of suburban numbnuts who each week tried (and failed) at a pathetic get-rich-quick crime like stealing money out of shopping trolleys – the stories weren’t “true” (and the characters were cliches, and the dialogue was childish, and you get the idea), but that didn’t stop them being funny: that shopping trolley episode featured a sword fight (involving a toilet brush) between two guys atop a chain of trolleys rolling downhill, which is the kind of comedy visual “quality” most Australian comedy can only dream of.
This idea – that a funny sitcom might want to start with a funny story and go from there – seems obvious until you actually watch Australian comedy. We’re definitely enjoying Back in Very Small Business but it’s a show where the plot is largely there to give the characters a chance to be funny, not something that’s funny in itself. And with most Australian comedy traditionally built around characters or situations, it’s an approach that makes sense.
But occasionally it’s nice to see a comedy that tries something a little different. After all, when someone tells you a funny story there’s usually a decent chance it’ll be funny: when someone is introduced to you as “a bit of a character”, that’s the internationally recognised signal to run.
Signing wildly popular YouTube stars Superwog (AKA Theodore and Nathan Saidden) to make a sitcom for ABC Comedy is possibly the smartest move the channel and the ABC have made in years. Last year’s pilot episode has been viewed by almost 4 million people, and episode 1 (released on YouTube last night) has had more than 300,000 views already. It’s probably even more since we wrote that sentence.
Meanwhile, and here’s something you can’t often say about a show that’s less about subtlety and more about shouty, over-the-top ethnic stereotypes, Superwog is funny.
Partly it’s because it taps into something everyone can understand, whether they’re from an ethnic minority or not: the tension between teenagers and their parents. And partly it’s because every type of character in the show, from the permanently-angry Wog Dad to the super nice Anglo-Australian family, are the butt of some decent jokes.
In episode 1, Breaking Dad, Wog Dad (Nathan Saidden) and son Superwog (Theodore Saidden) argue about whether Superwog has to go to school and do swimming, resulting in Wog Dad beating him up. Annoyed about having to swim, Superwog reports his Dad’s behaviour to a teacher at school and is immediately placed in the care of an Anglo-Australian foster family, while Wog Dad and Wog Mum (Theodore Saidden again) go off for psychiatric evaluation.
While Wog Dad proves himself to be the sort of violent psycho who literally bounces off walls with anger (locking him up in a glass-walled room and strapping him to a lie-detector are nice touches), Superwog tries to settle in with his new family, a nice well-off couple, with a nice son, who live in a nice house in a nice suburb. But, inevitably, it doesn’t quite work out for Superwog, and the gradual reveal over the episode that the nice Foster Dad (Andrew Blackman) is every bit as not-quite-right as Wog Dad (in rather different, more creepy ways) is well done.
It’s the kind of subtlety of plot and character you don’t see so much in shows like Here Come the Habibs, Street Smart and Black Comedy, where the focus seems more on the comedy of difference rather than the sameness. It also feels like more time went into producing a good script and getting the performances as funny as possible in this show than in some others in this genre. Either way, it certainly paid off.
What’s with all the edits? That was our first thought watching Mark Humphries’ first ever comedy segment on 7.30. They were jumping from camera to camera to camera like every comma in his monologue signaled a cut, which was distracting in a way you probably don’t want to be distracted when you’re hoping to get a laugh there somewhere.
This was kind of a weird comedy bit overall really. Obviously there was a point to it: politicians are saps who use sport as a way to connect to regular folk they have nothing in common with. And fake sporting team names and awards are kind of funny.
But the sketch was about people who use sport to connect with their audience, only all the jokes required you to know about sport to get them so… the sketch was actually doing the exact thing it was making fun of? It was a sketch about a smarmy guy trying to win over an audience by being all chummy about sport, only it actually did feature a smarmy guy trying to win over an audience by being all chummy about sport?
We might just go lie down for a minute here.
Okay, we’re back.
Much as we’re almost always scathing about the ABC’s endless attempts to “pick winners” by trying to artificially create popular personalities, this kind of segment really does expose the fact that their underlying logic is sound. By which we mean, John Clarke and Bryan Dawe were amazingly popular and well-loved far, far, beyond the reach of their weekly three minute segment and the ABC would be foolish not to want to replicate that kind of return on investment.
Unfortunately, this isn’t it. John Clarke wasn’t just extremely funny, he was amazingly charismatic and pretty much the most likable man alive, and Bryan Dawe was no slouch either. They had one core brilliant joke that enabled them to do pretty much whatever they liked and still be funny, and if one week it wasn’t exactly thigh-slapping stuff nobody cared because they were fun simply to spend time with. There’s a reason they survived the shift from the high profile 7.30 slot in 2013: their YouTube channel did great numbers, the ABC repeated them a bunch of times in a bunch of places over the week, and when Clarke died everyone was shattered because he was a national institution in two countries.
Mark Humphries, on the other hand… well, he’s no Sammy J, aka the guy who actually did replace Clarke & Dawe in their 6.55pm Thursday timeslot. But with no promotion, no obvious hooks for promotion, and the kind of high concept gags that make it hard to promote Sammy J as “your new satirical fave”, he’s had no impact in 2017 whatsoever.
So here’s Humphries, a man with a satirical brand. Unfortunately he’s “smarmy TV” charismatic, which is his joke in much the same way as Tom Gleeson’s “I’m a prick” is his joke, and in Gleeson’s case that particular joke stopped being a joke a long time ago.
In Humphries case, there’s never going to be a shortage of smarmy pricks to mock so his core strength initially seems like a winner. But it’s hard to avoid the sense that he has to make a joke of how he comes across on screen because how he comes across on screen would otherwise work against his comedy; all his comedy pricks are constantly trying to win people over because his fake attempts at charm are the only things that make him funny.
That’s not really a problem John Clarke ever had.
So Mad as Hell is good; no news there. But what makes it so good? Being funny doesn’t hurt, but there are a whole lot of pathways to “being funny” and it’s not just the ones that feature Charlie Pickering that lead to dead ends. And while skewering the news doesn’t hurt either, Australia has a long and rich tradition of shithouse satire that set out to skewer the news and ended up giving half the show over to Tom Gleeson insulting people. So what’s the deal?
It’s smart, it’s insightful, it’s silly, it’s packed with pop culture references (and references in general – Dr Caligari, anyone?), Micallef now has a beard, it’s – look, for today at least we’re going to say it’s all down to pace.
We happened to re-watch an early episode of Newstopia recently – ah Inspektor Herring, we hardly knew ye – and boy howdy did it take its time between what were fairly traditional news gags. We dimly remember that, with the early episodes at least, part of the remit was to actually provide some kind of news coverage (as in, you may not have watched these stories on SBS news but maybe a few jokes will get you interested), but by comparison with Mad as Hell it was a show frozen in carbonite.
And you really can’t under-estimate the importance of pace – which is different from mere speed, which would make Family Guy the funniest show ever and not a largely incoherent firehose, but more on that later – in comedy. The faster you go the more jokes you can cram in which increases the chance that one of the jokes is going to work and once someone starts laughing it’s a whole lot easier to keep them laughing. The Willy Wonka sketch on this week’s Mad as Hell was maybe not the most original comedy idea ever (when there’s news about a chocolate factory, where else are you going to turn?), but once the “world of pure automation” line got a laugh at Tumbleweeds HQ the rest of the sketch was a slam dunk.
Which brings up another important factor: performance. Mad as Hell features a range of performers giving a variety of performances, and often the performances themselves aren’t really designed to get laughs on their own – the cast are playing characters that work in context. But when the Wonka sketch came back from the musical number and Francis Greenslade was giving his version of Gene Wilder’s twinkle in the eye, it was comedy gold – and Micallef knew it, struggling to stay silent while returning the stare. This wasn’t the kind of self-indulgent corpsing where the performers laughter is there to sell a weak joke; game recognises game, as nobody we know says.
But performance is part of the pacing. Once you can layer a good performance over a joke you have two things working for you comedy-wise, much like having Micallef say one thing while the caption on screen says another. And Mad as Hell has a lot of things working for it at once, which means that even when a joke might start with an observation that’s not the freshest – as in when Micallef wondered whether we’d get a colour chart if we brought the White Australia policy back, which sounded like it might be going the same place as this famous Family Guy joke:
But then Mad as Hell cut to the interpretive dancers and we’re off in a whole new direction yet again.
Pace also means you can cover more ground, which is… look, it’s no secret that as far as what remains of ABC management is concerned, “balance” in comedy means attacking both sides of politics relatively equally, even though one side has literally zero power over our daily lives. So there’s something of a requirement to put in material that maybe might not be prime comedy gold simply because you can’t just keep on hammering at one side all the time.
Most of the time on Mad as Hell this isn’t a problem, in part because Bill Shorten can’t help dropping the zingers – and we suspect the popularity of that particular swipe has earned Mad as Hell some minor goodwill in the Liberal corridors of power; it’s not like any gag has defined a Liberal leader anywhere near as much. But also because Mad as Hell can bring on characters from various sides of politics and have them make decent points (that line about why aren’t they complaining that a woman was sacked from running the ABC when Mad as Hell is constantly going on about the lack of women in the Liberal side of politics was a deep burn) without them dominating any one episode of the show because again, pace.
Simply put, and if we’d simply put this at the start of this post we could have all gotten on with our lives by now, pace gives you the ability to do more comedy and more with your comedy. Where a slower show is weighed down by the lame jokes required to give balance, a faster show can run through them quickly then get back to the good stuff, or have the room to try a few different angles on material from one side without having the show turn into a partisan rant. And the more things that are going on, the less likely it is that the audience’s attention is going to wander, which is important when a show is dropping in jokes that occasionally require the viewer to be paying attention.
Of course, pace means nothing if all you’re doing is firing shit jokes faster. But if we were going to start praising Mad as Hell‘s writing, we’d be here all week.
Press release time!
7.30 are delighted to announce that satirist Mark Humphries will be joining the program with a fortnightly satirical segment starting Thursday October 4.
Mark and his co-writer Evan Williams are excited to join the 7.30 team.
Mark and Evan said: “We had many offers but the prospect of bringing the ABC’s flagship current affairs program down to the level of third-rate undergraduate humour was too tempting to resist.
“We just love the job stability that can only be found at the ABC.”
This is not the first time 7.30 has had satire, with the much loved Clarke and Dawe segments gracing 7.30’s screens for many years.
Mark and Evan said: “We will never be able to fill John Clarke’s shoes, because his family refuses to give them to us.”
Leigh Sales said “I’m a huge fan of quality political satire so you can only imagine my disappointment that we couldn’t land Shaun Micallef.”
The fortnightly segment begins Thursday October 4.
Guess the Pointless gig isn’t quite the dream job it was promoted as.
This is the kind of decision that makes sense on just about every level until you sit down to think about it. Humphries’ satire on The Feed grabbed a lot of attention towards the end, his shift to Ten boosted his profile significantly, and John Clarke remains dead: who better to take his place?
Thing is, Sammy J – remember him? – has been taking Clarke & Dawe’s place Thursdays at 6.55 for most of this year, and Clarke & Dawe’s place was nowhere near 7.30 for the last few years of their run. After a few amazingly bungled attempts to replace C&D – who reportedly were extremely happy to no longer be involved with 7.30 – the ABC current affairs show gave up on comedy entirely and we were all the better for it. So what’s the real deal here?
Our eyebrow remains stubbornly raised at the “fortnightly” schedule too, which may have come from Humphries and Williams (who we guess is either back from his relocation to the US or phoning it in) but seems like the kind of half-arsed compromise that comes from somebody having a great idea that not everybody is convinced by. Having them on once a fortnight is a great way to build up no viewer interest whatsoever (“is this the week the funny people are on?”) – unless the real point is for them to create clips that can “go viral” online and they’re just being dumped on 7.30 to show the ABC is serious about the whole thing.
And then there’s “satirist” Mark Humphries. We’ll get back to you on that.
You might say there’s been a bit of a mixed reaction to the new series of Rake. Not all fans of the series have warmed to Cleaver Greene’s move to Canberra, and the show’s writer Peter Duncan appeared to apologise to viewers in an interview with the Daily Telegraph last week. He later clarified what he meant to TV Tonight:
“No apologies”: Rake creator stands firm behind latest season
EXCLUSIVE: Rake co-creator Peter Duncan is standing firm behind the fifth and final season of the ABC drama amid media reports he had apologised to viewers.
Yesterday the Daily Telegraph suggested Duncan had apologised to viewers who had not warmed to Cleaver Greene’s (Richard Roxburgh) shift from Sydney lawyer to Canberra independent senator.
“I can see why people might be disappointed but we’re having fun with it, so I’m sorry,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
But yesterday Duncan clarified to TV Tonight that remark was no more, no less than a ‘throwaway’ line.
“I don’t want anybody to be disappointed… that’s what that remark was about,” he said. “But I’m certainly not apologising for the show, and I have no regrets about any of the decision that we’ve made.”
As fans of the show ourselves, we can understand why audiences may have been a bit reticent about the new series. The opening double episode (about the visit to Canberra of US Defence Secretary Linus Potemkin) was a bit…messy? But since then, it’s been very much business as usual: Cleaver gets himself into a complicated situation, potentially facing bankruptcy or jail, and then gets himself out of it via clever, if slightly dodgy, means.
So, what’s not to like? Maybe it’s the fact that we’ll clearly be seeing more of Defence Secretary Potemkin (Anthony La Paglia) in the series but, so far, he’s been a weird character at the centre of weird storyline.
We can buy that a US politician was mates with Cleaver 20 years ago and that any mate of Cleaver’s would prefer to skip out on his bodyguards and the political summit he’s attending and go party, but the bit where Potemkin spent a few nights living in a cheap motel seemed more like the move a character in a serious drama would make. A serious drama about a guy having a breakdown, we mean, not Rake, which has always skewed more towards satire and comedy than serious storylines about realistically-drawn characters in crisis.
That, and the gag about how Potemkin’s bodyguards have “female” names (such as Beverly), didn’t quite sit right. It felt like a gag from a previous era that had been shoehorned-in to the script to lighten things up. Either way it didn’t work, although the return of Potemkin could still be interesting; there are hints that the government he’s part of is quite warmongering, and it’s easy to imagine he and Cleaver mixed-up in a sort of Doctor Strangelove-type scenario, with Cleaver Green having to save the world for US aggression. Or something like.
But where Rake’s really been firing this series is its parodies of independent senators, notably Jane Turner as Penny Evans, a sort of Julie Bishop meets Michaelia Cash meets Pauline Hanson figure, who quickly became a foil for Cleaver. Add to the mix fellow new politicians David Potter (Matt Day) and Cal McGregor (Damien Garvey), and the move to Canberra by Cleaver’s long-time assistant Nicole (Kate Box), his former mistress Missy (Adrienne Pickering) and his ex-wife Wendy (Caroline Brazier), and it really, really is Rake business as usual. Business that could easily carry on for a few more series.
We’re going to keep watching, anyway. If only to find out what the deal is with the Polish Comcar driver and his shady mates.