Australian Tumbleweeds

Australia's most opinionated blog about comedy.

Vale Wednesday Night Comedy just in General Really

So Fat Pizza: Back in Business ended on yet another knife-edge cliffhanger that’ll be desperately written out of continuity if the series ever comes back. What, you thought just because Paul Fenech has two series for 7Mate next year that he’d actually wrap this one up?

Housos: The Thong Warrior
From the suburbs to the outback, the cast of Housos are back in a brand-new comedy. Franky is on a mission to stalk and thong slap all forms of authority, with Shazza in hot pursuit (Antichocko Productions).

Local Council
The new comedy from Pauly Fenech of Housos, Fat Pizza and Bogan Hunters fame is set in a dodgy council, with dodgy council workers, a dodgy mayor, dodgy developers and dodgy council officials (Antichocko Productions).

We survived Covid for this?

Presumably all the local council stuff in this series of Fat Pizza was a lead-in to Local Councils – though who can be sure of anything these days, as Fenech’s current approach to television seems to involve filming stuff at random then clumping it together into 30 minute chunks.

When he does remember to have a story, such as the recent episode where Pauly had two dates at the same time and yes this is a television program broadcast in 2021 thanks for asking, the results can be mildly amusing. When he just repeats the same scenes over and over and over again, such as every single episode where an angry mob turned up to attack the Fat Pizza store, or every single cutaway to that evil clown in a basement somewhere, it’s shit.

Sure, it’s meant to be a live-action cartoon; we actually did laugh after one fight scene when they cut back to a vacant lot covered in unconscious losers. Yelling “Open the toilet door Hal” to a pizza making robot was… well, reading that line is about as funny as it was to watch. And a Grease-themed musical dream sequence was most definitely a thing that happened.

But without some kind of structure Fat Pizza is just a sketch show where most of the sketches involve yelling, strippers, unconvincing fight scenes and delivering pizza. Free TV shouldn’t cost this much to watch.

*

Last week saw the final episode of Australia’s Sexiest Tradie, a rare Australian sitcom that… well, it’s just rare to see an Australian sitcom these days. But it’s also relatively rare for a local sitcom to set up a dynamic between characters that involves someone being a complete prick to others: even Chris Lilley ended up making Ja’mie a good guy of sorts.

So it wasn’t really a huge surprise that there were a few rough patches throughout the series. But instead of the usual Australian comedy approach of going bland and forgettable, Tradie oversteered, made lead Frankie (Rick Donald) extremely unlikable, gave him a dad who was either borderline abusive or shitting the bed drunk, and created a situation where the only conclusion that could salvage any decent laughs out of things would have to involve at least one murder.

Episode six cranked it all up to a screaming crescendo, with a dead drunk (or possibly just dead) dad, Grub (Jason Perini) making a move on his best mates girl Hammer (Briallen Clarke), some very poor stripping, and an ending that involved Frankie yelling “you never loved me, did ya,” to his dad, which it’s safe to say was not the comedic highpoint of the series.

The big problem here was that the dramatic side of things was just too harsh too often for this series to work as a comedy. The father-son relationship was well-handled; it was also flat-out abusive and almost completely lacking in humour. Likewise Frankie’s dismissive relationship with Hammer and Grub’s constant pining for her was plausible – it just wasn’t much fun to watch.

Most of the scenes and subplots throughout the series were well handled when taken on their own. But we had the unpleasant nature of the characters and their toxic relationships hammered home over and over again when we only really needed a few brief moments to fill in the background. It’s rare we say a show needed more scenes like the classic “taking a shit in a vase”, but this could have used a lot more silly moments and a lot less earnest exploration of a bunch of fuckwit men.

*

Oh yeah, Gruen‘s back. Finally Wil Anderson’s crap jokes can roam free, safe in the knowledge that some random standup from the back blocks six months into their career won’t go one better and make him look like a flailing old man.

We’ve said it all before so really the only thing to point out this week is that one of the many things we’ve said in the past – that the whole “The Pitch” segment is just “do us a comedy sketch for free” – wasn’t exactly disproven with the appearance of The Moth Effect co-creator Jazz Twemlow in this “hilarious” winner:

Here’s our pitch: get Aunty Donna to come up with an “ad” each week and make Gruen a show worth watching.

Hey! Hey! They’re back again!

A lot of people still love Hey! Hey! It’s Saturday. Seven wouldn’t have broadcast an almost two-hour tribute to a program made by another network if they didn’t. But it says a lot that last night’s heavily promoted 50th-anniversary show played it extremely safe, keeping the focus on the half-remembered nostalgia of 20+ years ago rather than the reality of what Hey! Hey! was.

What Hey! Hey! was, was the Baby Boomer’s take on what was funny and entertaining. It was white male-oriented, it was often cruel and by the 1990s young people preferred The Late Show, The Big Gig, Frontline and Martin/Molloy. The audience who’d been important to Hey! Hey! when it’d moved to Saturday nights now had cooler things to watch as young adults. Nine realised this and, rightly, axed it.

The late-noughties revival series, most infamous for the Jackson Jive, just confirmed how right Nine had been ten years previously. Comedy was even more different by this point, with new acts getting their start online, so why would that generation of young people want to watch some show which still reeked of the 1980s? Indeed, why would people who’d loved it in the 1980s want to watch it? They had multi-channels and the internet by then.

Oddly enough, the revival series barely got a mention in Hey! Hey! It’s 50 Years. Even Daryl, who defended the shows at the time, knew that post-Black Lives Matter, the less said about that the better.

What we got instead was a well-packaged and reasonably entertaining reminder of the best of Hey! Hey! It’s Saturday – the big stars, the people who’d do unexpected things, the sort of capers you can only getting with a cast of regulars letting loose on live TV, and the one or two decent acts who appeared on Red Faces.

There were appearances from Kylie Minogue, Daryl Braithwaite, James Morrison, Jo Beth Taylor, Marcia Hines, Marty Fields, Trevor Marmalade, Ross Wilson, Pete Smith, Rhonda Burchmore, Brian Mannix, Elliott Goblet, Wilbur Wilde, Red Symons and Jackie McDonald. Molly Meldrum, John Blackman and the Amazing Jonathan reminded us that they’re still going, despite their various medical problems. Raymond J. Bartholomeuz did a new version of his poem. There were tributes to those who can’t be with us – Ernie Carroll and Russell Gilbert – and footage of Ricky May singing the closing theme song, which he wrote.

It was a decent tribute to a show which, in its day, provided a space for a great variety of musicians and comedians, launched a few careers and gave a lot of people a lot of joy. On the other hand, Daryl Somers kept calling anyone female a “girl”, and no one stopped him. At least we’ll, probably, never see Hey! Hey! on TV ever again.

Bazura Lives!

The Bazura Project, Australia’s longest running sketch comedy program about arthouse film, recently announced they were back after a 10 year absence – in pog(dcast) form. And now you know why we review comedy instead of writing it. Speaking of reviewing, the first episode is available now pretty much everywhere – including their own website – and as it’s free, we gave up 38-odd minutes of our lives to check it out. The verdict?

Australian sketch comedy is in a rut so deep it’s turned into a grave. The Bazura Project’s Radio Free Cinema is a reminder that it doesn’t have to be this way. There isn’t a topical political sketch to be found; there’s zero references to the environment, or relationships, or sport. Okay, maybe there’s some celebrities in there, if Russel Crowe still counts.

What you do get is movie jokes and lots of them. Obscure references, obvious references, references to films they just made up – they’re all here. The opening radio news break sets the scene: this is a world where film reigns supreme, right down to the traffic report covering the queues at local cinemas. Grumps complaining that the arts should get as much news coverage as sport, this one’s for you.

Episode one (and presumably the ones to come) is formatted like a radio show. Like all good sketch shows, the sketches are a mix of pre-recorded bits (fake trailers and the like) and live (well, “live”) segments. The longer sketches usually take the form of fake interviews (or in one case, a fake prank call) involving hosts and writers Lee Zachariah and Shannon Marinko. The pre-release publicity promised a bevvy of stars, and there are a lot of guest voices here; any sketch show with Pete Smith involved is clearly doing something right.

(probably the biggest one-off laugh in the first episode comes from a very obvious cameo we won’t spoil here)

Those used to having podcasts droning away in the background while doing the dishes may struggle here. It requires your full attention and then some; there’s a lot going on and some of the best jokes may take a second or two to sink in. A passing knowledge of the golden age of cinema wouldn’t hurt either. It’d be nice to think Casablanca jokes are still mainstream but hey, we’ve seen Fat Pizza.

Even Bad Boy Bubby: The Musical requires you to remember Bad Boy Bubby, a film that is currently (checks IMDB), five years older than Lil Nas X. And that’s a situation we don’t expect to change any time soon. Is it right that jokes about Bad Boy Bubby are “niche” while references to Lil Nas X are “topical”? Hey, we don’t make the rules.

Comedy is where you find it. Fans of tropical references will find commercial radio DJs have that covered for at least seven minutes across each hour. Fans of jokes that are funny? The link’s in the first paragraph.

Vale Question Everything

And once again we say goodbye to a series nobody asked for. Usually when the ABC serves up yet another head-scratcher there’s some kind of demented logic behind it – and by “demented logic” we mean “external funding body”. But every now and again there’s a show like Question Everything, some utterly pointless slab of “topical” yammering that seems to exist solely to confirm all the cliches about the national broadcaster disappearing up its own arse.

“It’s like Gruen, only with the news” might sound like a reasonable idea – good work series creator Wil Anderson – until you realise that while the point of advertising (Gruen‘s natural home) is to flat out lie to people, the news is meant to tell the truth.

Everyone knows advertising is a house of lies, so getting experts on to expose their rivals’ lies is no big deal. Unfortunately, journalists will defend to the death the idea that they and their co-workers are objective even when they work for Rupert Murdoch. They’re a lot less likely to come on a show and say “yeah, that guy’s full of shit” even if that would be a really good series.

So instead Question Everything featured comedians talking about the news, which meant it was yet another “news comedy” panel show. These don’t have to suck; you just need Working Dog to produce them. You also need to have at least some idea of what “the news” actually is. That way you don’t end up with a show staggering from covering deep fakes to blood supermoons to psychics making predictions back in 2019. These weren’t even things that were on the news; why not ask “what is the deal with mobile phones?” while you’re at it.

Pretty much all news comedies involve a percentage of pre-written gags. Comedians are funny, but they’re not off-the-cuff funny about the news a dozen times in half an hour. But with a show like Question Everything, where the point is supposedly that we’re exploring the manufactured world behind the news, having clearly manufactured comments makes the whole exercise seem bogus.

It’s not quite as simple as either get in real experts to have a real discussion about fake and biased news (which would be Media Watch), or make a scripted comedy show about the news, but… yeah, actually it is. Either be honestly and interestingly informative (which Gruen occasionally is), or commit to being funny (which the Working Dog news comedies are). Choosing to be neither is just wasting everyone’s time.

Question Everything wasn’t a total car crash on a micro level, thanks to a quirky selection of guests (Aaron Chen!) entirely forced on it by Covid and complained about by Anderson.

Wil Anderson was talking to Tim Blackwell and Kate Ritchie on Nova this morning. He mentioned how difficult it has been to even get the show to air. He said they had a lot of high profile comedians lined up to as guests on the show but due to Sydney lockdowns they were unable to appear. So that’s why the replacement ones that have appeared are quite obscure.

Anderson should have been thanking the current deadly pandemic for injecting what little life there was into his show. Imagine the utterly bog-standard ABC approved “high profile comedians” they had lined up to smirk and gurn at every one of Anderson’s dad jokes. Imagine Anderson’s increasingly off-putting death wheeze laugh deflating for minutes at a time as the usual suspects rocked back and forth in their chairs at yet another shithouse ineffectual zinger about a politician. The guests may not have been the best, but they were the best thing about Question Everything.

Otherwise this was nothing more than yet another doomed attempt by the ABC to combine news coverage with comedy, only without actually covering any real news and with no real comedy. Here’s a question Question Everything left unanswered: why do they keep making shows like this, and why are they all the same?

After all, this was basically a replacement for the Covid-stifled return of Tomorrow Tonight, another news panel show with a two word title hosted by a mid-forties white male comedy host (Charlie Pickering) and a bubbly ABC news presenter (Annabel Crabb) where topical issues are given a “comedy” spin as requested by absolutely nobody.

What’s the definition of insanity again? Oh right: tuning in to watch an ABC panel show. Gruen‘s back next week!

Still Frayed

It’s rare for us to celebrate the return of a show, so hooray for the new series of Frayed! In this second outing of Sarah Kendall’s dramedy, we find Sammy (Kendall), Lenny (Frazer Hadfield) and Tess Cooper (Maggie Ireland-Jones) back in London, desperately missing Newcastle despite having flashbacks to what happened with former next-door neighbour Terry.

Series one ended with Terry (Christopher Stollery), a violent misogynist cop who beat up his rebellious daughter Abby (Alexandra Jensen), accidentally shot by Lenny. Months later but still in shock, the Coopers are now struggling to make the best of things in one of London’s less salubrious areas. As Sammy tries to get back the mansion stolen from them by dodgy lawyer Rufus (Robert Webb), rats scurry around their mouldy rented tenement, with only Legal Aid lawyer Hannah (Gemma Whelan) offering them any kind of hope of redemption.

Sarah Kendall in Frayed

Meanwhile, back in Newcastle, Sergeant Fairbank (Hamish Michael), brought in from Melbourne to find out what happened to Terry, takes an interest in Terry’s next-door neighbours Jean (Kerry Armstrong) and Jim (Ben Mingay), Sammy’s mother and brother. Will Fairbank be able to connect the Coopers to Terry’s disappearance? Will this cause problems back in London? And what’s the deal with the disappearance of Sammy’s Dad 20 years ago?

Frayed, unusually for an Australian dramedy, has a genuinely compelling and suspenseful plot, lots of funny lines, and well-written, complex characters. Even bit parts like the dodgy man at the Legal Aid office with the pet pigeons feel like real people rather than cutaway gags or background colour. The scripts are thoughtful, witty and well-honed, and the ensemble cast, which includes of some of the best characters actors from Australia and the UK, do a brilliant job of bringing it to life.

This is a show borne of Sarah Kendall’s life lived in two countries, and in this show, she pokes fun at both nations with great love and affection. Frayed is at once a love letter to family, an exorcising of demons and pure fiction, but so well-grounded in reality, that almost anyone can relate to it.

(Bazura) Project Your Voice

Press release time!

THE BAZURA PROJECT’S RADIO FREE CINEMA

THE TV SHOW ABOUT MOVIES IS NOW A RADIO PROGRAM RELEASED AS A PODCAST

On 29 September 2011, The Bazura Project’s Guide To Sinema, a comedy series devoted to exploring cinematic sins, began its extremely limited run on the ABC. Now, exactly ten years later, the creators are back with their most exciting project yet: a press release. But it’s a press release that’s promoting their next thing, The Bazura Project’s Radio Free Cinema.

As many will doubtless recall, The Bazura Project’s Radio Free Cinema was a huge hit, broadcast on an unspecified radio station an indeterminate number of years ago. Now, the recordings that everyone had believed (and hoped) were lost forever have been uncovered, digitised, cleaned up, edited for slander, and are now ready to be released on a podcast platform where they can be heard again… for the first time.

Over six thrilling and definitely factual instalments, The Bazura Project’s Radio Free Cinema will explore every possible aspect of the film world, including:

*interviews with the film industry’s best and brightest, including: Aussie soap star-turned-Hollywood headliner, Amelia Bell-Jarman; the Oscar-winning producer of some of cinema’s least challenging mid-brow works, Catarina Rice; achingly-dull minimalist Hungarian film composer Máté Lantos; and studio janitor from Hollywood’s golden age, Jerry Schutz 

*exclusive first-listen trailers for the most exciting new high-concept thrillers, low-concept romantic comedies, poorly-conceived fantasy adventures, crowd-placating dramas, and overstimulating kids’ films

*original songs from your favourite soundtracks and never-before-heard music from your least-favourite unreleased movies

*dispatches from all around the world, including: an exclusive Sundance Film Festival premiere after-party; the world’s greatest voice coaching academy on an island in the Baltic Sea; and a glamorous and exceedingly-morbid awards ceremony in the heart of Alaska

plus much, much more

“It was always our plan to air six poorly-rated episodes on the endlessly-rebranded ABC2, disappear into obscurity for a decade, and then return with a six-episode podcast that wouldn’t make us any money,” says co-creator and co-presenter Lee Zachariah.

“The presently-oversaturated market of podcasts presented us with the perfect opportunity to release our own,” says co-creator and co-presenter Shannon Marinko. “If you manage to find it, and enjoy it, it’s probably someone else’s.”

The show will feature an overstuffed cast that includes Tom Ballard, Rusty Berther, Kristy Best, Robyn Butler, Rhonda Burchmore, Santo Cilauro, Marc Fennell, Tim Ferguson, Abe Forsythe, Bob Franklin, Francis Greenslade, Tosh Greenslade, Roz Hammond, Stephen Hall, Andrew Hansen, Peter Helliar, Tegan Higginbotham, Ming-Zhu Hii, Adam Hills, Claire Hooper, Wayne Hope, Dan Ilic, Laura Hughes, Mark Humphries, Nazeem Hussain, Ed Kavalee, Christopher Kirby, Colin Lane, Tommy Little, Cassandra Magrath, Tony Martin, Shaun Micallef, Rhys Muldoon, Brian Nankervis, Celia Pacquola, Geraldine Quinn, Ben Russell, John Safran, Kat Stewart, Emily Taheny, Chris Taylor, Dave Thornton, Toby Truslove, Michael Veitch, Cal Wilson, and many, many more.

The six-part series begins on October 5 on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Radio Public, or directly via our website: bazuraproject.com/radiofreecinema

The trailer is available to hear now via this link.

We’ve been trying to remember if any other Australian television comedy shows have directly turned into podcasts, and we’ve been unable to think of any – ground-breaking work here, Bazura. Also this sounds pretty funny and that all-star line up is definitely impressive, so consider us sold!

So long as we don’t have to actually pay money for it, which currently seems to be the case.

Too sexist for this shirt

Australia’s Sexiest Tradie took a bit of a turn last week, ditching The Office-esque comedy of awkwardness, and the toilet humour, to delve a bit further into the toxic masculinity of lead character Franky Wood.

Previous episodes have firmly established that Franky is a massive tool – selfish, disrespectful, a misogynist – and generally the sort of bloke who shouldn’t have friends or a family who cares about him…yet somehow does. But in episode four things changed. What had been yet another comedy about a dickhead who people react to with shock and distaste, became a semi-drama about awful men. And not one that ended with the awful man in question getting his comeuppance.

Episode four opened with the announcement that Franky and long-time girlfriend Leanne (“Hammer”), who’d broken up in a previous episode, were suddenly back together – and engaged. Then we discover that thanks to one of his videos going viral, Franky was in the lead to win Australia’s Sexiest Tradie. Cue the arrival of Summer, a fellow Australia’s Sexiest Tradie contestant, who Franky fancies, manipulating Franky into helping her stay in the competition by Instagramming his support for her. Franky, who thought he might finally be in with a chance with the good-looking Summer, let her take over his social media.

Summer and Franky in Australia’s Sexiest Tradie

Later, Summer joins the Wood family for a special dinner to celebrate Franky’s engagement and his success in the competition. But things get awkward when Leanne gives a speech about how happy she is to be engaged and Franky, with one eye on Summer, denies their relationship entirely. Mum Barbara, quite rightly, asks Franky why he’s messing Leanne around.

We’re used to Australia’s Sexiest Tradie being uncomfortable viewing, but mainly in the sense of the awkward comedy it generates. Franky Wood is an awful man but in earlier episodes, we could laugh at his awfulness and thus tolerate him. In episode four, the dynamic changed, and the show became uncomfortable in the sense that it was traumatic to watch the way Franky treated Leanne. And near impossible not to want to turn off the TV and never watch this again.

This is bad news for a show that’s meant to be a comedy. It’s also a testament to how hard it is to take a big, complex and difficult topic like toxic masculinity and use it as the basis for a sitcom. There probably is a way to do this well but Australia’s Sexiest Tradie hasn’t managed it. It was too ambitious an idea for this show, which has only really succeeded at toilet humour and cringe comedy. It’s also easily misinterpreted by the audience as condoning toxic and abusive behaviours.

It doesn’t matter that Franky kinda got what he deserved when Summer left him the second after she made it into the final of the competition. The fact that Franky was able to hurt his vulnerable fiancé in the meantime, and still be the hero of the show, makes it look as if his behaviour was okay. When it absolutely was not.

Vale Rosehaven Rest in Power edition

Rosehaven is over. It takes with it yet another era in Australian comedy. Not a particularly funny era mind you, or even an especially memorable one; remember that episode where they had the banter then a shot of the Tasmanian countryside then we got some more banter? Good times.

Seriously though, when even articles praising Rosehaven are calling it “a soothing balm for anxious times” and “a fresh air-filled world where the pace is slow and the stakes are low”, you have to wonder: is there anything this show did that couldn’t be done faster, cheaper and more efficiently by simply closing your eyes? Here’s a headline for you: AUSTRALIA’S FAVOURITE SCREENSAVER ENDS AFTER FIVE SEASONS.

(to be fair, that article does also call Rosehaven‘s humour “safe” and says that it was a show with an “aversion to making a statement about anything”, so it’s not like anyone’s confusing it with Wonder Showzen)

Toxic levels of snark aside, the demise of Rosehaven really is the end of an era, in that it was a sitcom that started out as a showcase for its two leads and just kept on going down that path until it ended up as basically The Celia and Luke Show. Apart from “sarcastic white man with big hair and a laugh like a deflating balloon geez Question Everything is hard to watch”, the ABC doesn’t really deal in comedy types any more: Fisk was the last sitcom where the lead – as a performer – was any kind of selling point, and even there Kitty Flanagan was largely playing against type.

The good news was, Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor were a charming and fun duo to spend half an hour with. The bad news was, the rest of the show was so lightweight it might as well have not been there. We’ve said it before, but here we go again: why weren’t they solving murders? It could have been the exact same show only someone is found dead in the first 90 seconds and at the end of the half hour we weren’t left with a hollow, empty feeling and a clock showing us that every single person on the planet was thirty minutes closer to death.

Sure, a show that combined a couple of nice comedians and a sack of cash from the Tasmanian tourism board was never going to be anything but nice. But you can be nice and still have things happen! You can even be nice and have jokes! At least one recent interview with the stars had them seeming a little perplexed that Rosehaven never took off overseas and with the rise of “sitcoms” based on nothing but “hey, this nice guy seems really nice, let’s hang out”, who can blame them.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with television where having your audience fall asleep before the twenty minute mark counts as mission accomplished, but Australia just doesn’t make enough decent comedy that we can afford to have forty episodes of a sleeping pill end up “beloved by critics around the world“. There have been more episodes of Rosehaven than every laugh-out-loud Australian sitcom of the 21st century put together: that ain’t right.

So aside from Anthony Morgan, who was a constant comedic delight across all five seasons and deserves his own spin-off (or a prominent role in every single series filmed in Tasmania from here on out), is there anything we’ll miss now that Rosehaven‘s gone? It’s hard to say, considering we hardly noticed it when it was on a television right in front of our eyes.

Let’s put it this way: do they still sell calendars with pictures of the Tasmanian countryside? We’ll stick a photo of Pacquola and McGregor in front of the landscape for August and it’ll be like Rosehaven never left.

Australia’s latest mockumentary

You could be forgiven for thinking that Australia’s Sexiest Tradie (which airs on 7Mate after Fat Pizza: Back In Business) is the real deal: an actual tradie being followed by an actual documentary crew. But in fact, the show is the creation of actor Rick Donald (Home & Away, Wentworth), who also plays the lead character Frankie Wood.

Frankie is a plumber who lives with his parents and girlfriend but wants to become an actor. The best route to fame, he thinks, is entering a local radio competition to find Australia’s Sexist Tradie. Somewhere along the way, a documentary crew start to follow him and voila, he’s on his way to superstardom.

Frankie Wood (second left) with (left to right) girlfriend ‘Hammer’, Mum Barbara, Dad Terry and best mate ‘Grub’

Or is he? Because he’s clearly a misogynist, homophobic tool with no discernible talent other than stupidity and insensitiveness and that doesn’t play so well in 2021. Out on a job at the house of a pregnant woman with a sleeping baby, he refuses to turn down his radio so as not to wake up her child and makes insensitive, sexist comments about her breasts. Later, when forced to apologise to her by his boss (Peter Phelps), he finds it almost impossible.

At the radio station, when he meets the other contestants, he finds himself torn between a desperation to win and a strong desire for hot female contestant Summer (Annabelle Stephenson), who gives him an erection every time he sees her. This leads to some painful manscaping and his attention-seeking appearance at a competition photo shoot wearing only Speedos…quickly followed by the inevitable erection when he watches Summer’s sexy photo session.

Frankie, you might say, isn’t the type of man capable of forming a mature relationship or behaving in any way like an adult. Within hours of setting eyes on Summer, he’s dumped long-time girlfriend Leanne (Briallen Clarke), a sweet-natured doormat who’s endured his idiocy and his sexist nickname for her, Hammer, for years. Meanwhile, Frankie starts ordering about his best mate Grub (Jason Perini) and making him film his social media videos. One such video, in which Frankie adds about half a jar of Nescafe to a bottle of iced coffee, then skulls the lot, leads to a funny, albeit pretty gross, sequence at a customer’s house.

Generally speaking, the gross-out comedy is the funniest stuff in Australia’s Sexiest Tradie. Most of the other laughs come from scenes in which Frankie says something idiotic and everyone around him pauses and looks shocked and uncomfortable. And while this can be funny, after 20 years of mockumentaries and sitcoms chock-full of roughly these kinds of jokes and situations, the fart gags and gross-out material are welcome.

One way in which Australia’s Sexiest Tradie is a bit different to the likes of The Office and the work of Chris Lilley though, is that it digs deeper into why the main character is like he is. Frankie’s Dad Terry (Steve Le Marquand) is equally insensitive, sexist and incapable of basic decency to others. This gives us both an insight into the line of toxic males that gave us Frankie Wood but also gives the makers of this show a slightly different way of taking the piss out of this type of bloke. Although, this also means that Terry’s treatment of wife Barbara (Pippa Grandison) is every bit as upsetting as Frankie’s treatment of Leanne.

The female characters, we hope, will leave these idiots, and go off to lead independent, more fulfilling lives (although for the comedy to work they’ll have to stay put). Meanwhile, there are three more episodes to go before we see whether Frankie will become Australia’s Sexiest Tradie or remain just another tool in the toolbox.

Might as well Question Everything

It’s not a good sign when the ABC starts promoting your replacement when you’ve still got weeks to go. And what’s this?

Okay, it’s shit news, but it’s no surprise – this is sizzle for a return next year though, right?

Wait, so they’re advertising it now even though it’s not going to air for a full month? The ABC only ever does that when they’ve put a dud in a vital timeslot and want viewers to keep tuning in thinking they’re going to be getting a better show. Which they will be… in a month.

Though “better” isn’t quite the right word, as Question Everything has gone from being vaguely Gruen shaped to straight-up Gruen News, the show nobody asked for. This week’s episode featured a story on how technology is being used to create fake ads; that’s a Gruen segment. When you have Wil Anderson saying to a panelist “Aaron, you’ve got something to sell us?”, you have an episode of Gruen.

The downside of all this – aside from having more Gruen – is that the excuses are already falling into place. Anderson’s already spoken publicly about the series’ difficulty when it comes to getting panelists. Obviously the show would have been a hit if they’d been able to get the same old smarmy ABC hacks in, right?

Here’s the problem with that version of events. The panelists, while a bit rough around the edges, have pretty much been the only part of Question Everything that’s made it worthwhile. All that other stuff left over from Gruen? Not so flash hot.

Gruen works (yeah yeah “works”) because it features a group of experts talking about an area they’re seemingly knowledgeable about. Question Everything was always going to feature comedians talking about the news, an area they’re not particularly knowledgeable about unless they’re Chaz Licciardello and he already has his own show that does exactly what this is supposedly doing only better because literally every other show on Australian television doing news is doing it better because IT’S NEWS AND EVERY NETWORK HAS AN ENTIRE NEWS DEPARTMENT THAT HANDLES NEWS.

(well, maybe not 7Mate)

The only time Question Everything gets it right is a): by accident and b): in spite of, not because of, the format. The guests – again, best thing about the show – are just there to reply to Anderson’s tired joke prompts; the moment this week where one guest spoke directly to another was about as surprising as things get. And when “conversation” is the best thing your show has to offer an audience, fuck off.

Question Everything was a bad idea from the beginning and trying to pretend the only good thing about it is why it failed is the kind of bullshit hack self-serving political move you get from entrenched company men looking to save their own backsides. Here’s a serious suggestion: why didn’t they go down the QI route with this and get a serious(-ish) news person to host (not Annabel Crabb, but in that direction) and let the comedy guests provide the comedy?

Oh right, because then we wouldn’t have Wil Anderson looking pissed off as the kids make jokes and he’s left frozen-faced like a school teacher trying not to bark “I was cool before you were born”… not realising that the sad thing is that he’s right.

The moral of this story is simple: the ABC should make more new comedy showcases, less “what if Gruen but about ____?” and maybe consider leaving news coverage to the entire channel of news coverage they’re already paying for.