Australian Tumbleweeds

Australia's most opinionated blog about comedy.

The World of Tomorrow

Press release time! And it’s a doozy so we’re just going to present the highlights:

ABC Upfronts connecting all Australians in 2021 

Audiences will be right at home on the ABC in 2021, with diverse Australian dramas, comedies, documentaries, news, arts, entertainment, and children’s programs. ABC stars Rachel Griffiths, Wil Anderson, Erik Thomson, Kitty Flanagan, Leigh Sales, Nakkiah Lui, Craig Reucassel and Superwog helped announce the ABC’s 2021 content slate, showcasing the best of Australian content and creativity in the way that only the ABC can.

ABC Managing Director David Anderson said no other media organisation has the breadth and depth of trusted content for all Australians. “Support for Australian creativity has been at the heart of the ABC for the past 88 years and will continue into 2021. After a challenging year of disconnection, the ABC will bring more Australians together from more places across this wonderfully diverse country. The ABC is the creative voice of Australia and in 2021 we will bring more homegrown content to audiences than ever, across TV, online and ABC iview.”

ABC Director of Entertainment & Specialist Michael Carrington said: “The ABC in 2021 is rich, diverse and inclusive, showcasing Australia’s best and emerging talent on and off screen. ABC iview will be home to more original Australian content than ever before. Our rebranded secondary channel ABC TV Plus will celebrate Australian culture every night of the week, including live performances, premiere documentaries, stand-up comedy, and a new weekly arts show. In 2021, the ABC will deliver more Australian voices, faces and stories than any other network – that’s our point of difference. Amid so much content from overseas, Australians are right at home on ABC.”

Highlights for 2021

DRAMA

[who cares?]

FACTUAL

[as if!]

COMEDY AND ENTERTAINMENT

[here we go]

The ABC will bring together all Australians for a laugh with new episodes of Spicks and Specks, while Charlie Pickering and Annabel Crabb will think the unthinkable in a new series of Tomorrow Tonight. Sarah Kendall puts on her big hair for more Frayed, while Erik Thomson joins ABC’s comedy alumni, starring as a disgraced chef in the delightful new series Aftertaste. Nakkiah Lui leads a fresh line-up of talent in Preppers, while Kitty Flanagan brings her singular and hilarious voice to the fast-paced comedy Fisk, about a high-end lawyer who is forced to work in a shabby suburban law firm.  

ABC TV Plus (previously ABC Comedy)

Launching January 1st and airing from 7.30pm to 2am daily on channel 22 on your digital TV, channel 134 on Foxtel or channel 126 on Optus, our newly-rebranded secondary channel ABC TV Plus will celebrate Australian culture and content every night of the week. Complemented by an exciting suite of international shows, ABC TV Plus will cater for all Australians with diverse new programs, from Saturday stand-up comedians to primetime premieres of religion, science and natural history documentaries, along with the best of the arts – three nights a week.  ABC TV Plus will warm the heart, challenge the mind and tickle the funny bone, with the premiere of new comedy series Why are You Like This, which follows three 20-something friends as they hilariously navigate life’s complexities.

ARTS

[this is just celebrities – by which we mean “much-loved” actors – hosting vanity projects. Ignore] 

ABC iview

In 2021, supporting the ABC Five Year Plan,  ABC iview will offer even more to viewers through improved user features, greater personalisation and a bigger and better catalogue of original Australian content. Headlining the ABC’s streaming service will be our high-end dramas including Wakefield, comedy with Aftertaste and Fisk as well as the return of the not-so-average teenagers – Superwog and Johnny – in a new series of the #1 trending show Superwog.  Joining the boys on ABC iview will be the powerful documentary Strong Women, which follows four resilient competitors as they strive to become Australia’s strongest woman, and Chopsticks or Fork?, which explores regional Australia’s love affair with Chinese restaurants. ABC iview will also launch Indigenous comedy series All My Friends are Racist, while ABC Australia’s That Pacific Sports Show will celebrate the sporting achievements of Pacific Island athletes and nations for our viewers in the region. 

ABC ME and ABC Kids

[blah blah Bluey blah blah]

NEWS

[Q+A is now on at 8.30pm Thursdays! Guess it’s the new Footy Show]

RETURNING FAVOURITES

[oh god]

ABC shows that audiences know, trust and love will be back in the new year, including: Gardening Australia, Gruen, Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell, The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, Anh’s Brush with Fame, Hard Quiz , The Set, Dream Gardens, Catalyst, You Can’t Ask That and Landline in its 30th year – plus many more beloved programs. 

Add to this the ABC’s coverage of major events throughout the year, including New Year’s Eve, Anzac Day, and the Australian of the Year ceremony. These programs and events are just some of the ways the ABC will connect all Australians, keeping them entertained, informed, and engaged in 2021 and beyond.

Short version: shit, this looks grim. Usually we walk away from a press release about the ABC’s upcoming line-up thinking “hey, at least Mad as Hell is coming back”, but even that’s not the comfort it once was.

Four sitcoms across an entire year would be a new low for the main ABC channel, but after 2020 we’re guessing they’re hoping nobody will notice that comedy has been cut back – sharply – yet again. Especially as Aftertaste was due this year and was bumped back due to Coronavirus-related delays.

And what kind of line-up is this? Aftertaste is the unfunny dramedy for the ABC’s core viewers to stop them asking where Rosehaven‘s gone and Preppers is a roll of the dice on fresh faces we may never see again, which leaves Fisk and the returning Frayed as the only real hope for actual laughs. The ABC has four categories for comedy – for the oldies, fresh blood, something that worked last time, and something that might be actually good – and they’re just giving us one of each.

(also, what happened to all that overseas funding that we used to hear so much about?)

Meanwhile over on ABC Comedy ABC TV Plus, we have an entire channel devoted to… what exactly? A mish-mash of undifferentiated “content” they can’t even be bothered to name? And also Why Are You Like This, which as literally the only new show across the entire network – albeit one which was first announced last year – is going to have its work cut out for it and then some. It doesn’t matter how good the end product is if nobody knows how to find it.

At least iView has two comedy series lined up – the return of Superwog and All My Friends Are Racist – along with a vague sense that the ABC actually gives a shit about what’s happening there.

It’s difficult to work out if this is a steep decline or a gradual downhill slide in the amount of comedy being made, which is exactly how the ABC likes it. We had two series that seemed headed for 2020 held over until 2021 but we did get two extra corona-themed comedies instead, though considering they were (relatively) cheap and (relative) rush jobs it’s unlikely they “count” as two entire shows as far as costs and resources go.

Basically, without the two holdovers we’d be looking at five short run comedy series across all the ABC outlets in 2021, which is what, half an hour of scripted comedy a week for around half a year? Fun fact: HYBPA? manages more than that, and that’s just one show.

It gets worse. There’s no new panel shows this year, no new attempts at a comedy quiz show, no comedy tonight show, no “lets laugh at a bunch of clips” show, no attempt to try and win over a mainstream audience by putting on a bunch of fresh but cheap comedy in a regular timeslot and hoping it become part of the audience’s viewing habits. We know the ABC’s budget is tiny and vanishing, but comedy is cheap: they should do better.

And all this is the good news! Don’t think we missed this:

The ABC will bring together all Australians for a laugh with new episodes of Spicks and Specks, while Charlie Pickering and Annabel Crabb will think the unthinkable in a new series of Tomorrow Tonight

Hopefully Tomorrow Tonight will feature the ABC programmer who decided to bring that pointless Hypotheticals photocopy back, because clearly they’re an expert in “thinking the unthinkable”.

With Mick Molloy and Tony Martin

Three or four Prime Ministers ago, Tony Martin announced that he’d dropped off his collection of recordings of Martin / Molloy – the drive-time radio show he did with Mick Molloy in the latter half of the 90s – at the Australian National Film and Sound Archives (or NFSA).

Fans rejoiced: aside from the three best-of CD compilations and some off-air recordings, much of Martin / Molloy had been lost to fans since it first aired.

Then… not much happened. Until now!

As the NFSA press release said:

The Martin/Molloy program, named for its star comedians, Tony Martin and Mick Molloy, ran on Australian radio from 1995-98.

Produced at Austereo‘s Fox FM in Melbourne, it was broadcast live on up to 54 radio stations across Australia during this time.

The fast-paced, sketch-based format had previously been restricted to breakfast radio; the idea of such a show working in late afternoons (4pm-6pm weekdays) seemed far-fetched to some radio insiders, however, Martin/Molloy was a ratings success, and quickly grew from being broadcast on just Austereo’s metropolitan stations to airing around Australia.

An entire generation of drivetime radio comedy-talk shows followed and this format remains the backbone of the major commercial FM networks in Australia to this day.

Tony Martin gifted the original recordings of Martin/Molloy to the NFSA in 2013, and he says, “Not only have the NFSA finally completed the mammoth task of digitising the Martin/Molloy archives, now they’ve gone and inducted us into their Sounds of Australia. As fans of our show would recall, some of those sounds were rather rude, but as a massive radio nerd – and a New Zealander – this is a huge honour.”

As part of this honour, the NFSA have put up a collection of clips on their website – we found a bunch by searching for “Australian comedy” but “Martin / Molloy” might work even better – and they’re well worth a listen, both for being actually funny and as a window to a long-forgotten time when actual scripted sketches were still a thing on Australian radio.

As a bonus, each clip comes with a paragraph or two of scene-setting info (ie “[this sketch] also features some of Mick Molloy’s trademark yelling”) putting the piss-farting about into context, which is probably useful considering the show is well over twenty years old now.

Not that John Howard jokes will be going out of style any time soon, more’s the pity.

Welcome to the House of Fun

Aunty Donna's Big Ol' House of Fun

It’s not until you’ve watched, oh, let’s say ninety seconds of Aunty Donna’s new Netflix series Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun that you realise that comedy on Australian television is doomed. Not because of anything Aunty Donna are up to here: the first episode opens with a very funny little ditty about how everything can be used as a drum (but maybe not everything?). But it’s a certain kind of wacky surreal high-energy comedy that’s a) pretty popular at the moment and b) not something Australian television is ever going to show outside of graveyards and ghettos.

And realising that what little there is left of a comedy infrastructure in this country is directly opposed to what seems to be the current fashion in comedy is a bit of a downer really. Good thing we were watching a decent comedy series when it happened, hey?

Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun‘s a bit tricky to recommend in general, though, because while we’ve already established that it’s very good, it’s also the kind of in-your-face zany comedy that can be very, very annoying if you’re not exactly on its wavelength. Fortunately, it’s so good that even if you’re not, there are going to be a couple of worthwhile comedy moments here anyway, because this is absolutely packed with jokes of many different shapes and stripes.

If you’ve seen or heard some of Aunty Donna’s previous work (on stage, YouTube or podcast) some of these jokes may seem sort of familiar, in that Aunty Donna regularly reuses tried-and-tested comedy formats in their shows. But happily, they don’t overuse these formats here. And when they do, it’s funny.

One such format, beloved by fans of the trio, is their “list sketches”; basically, a quickfire cycle-through a number of increasingly ridiculous one-dimensional characters, each of whom gets one line, then we move on. And it’s in this (the only “list sketch” in the entire series, as it happens) that we encounter Randy Feltface, the first of a number of Australian references that may confuse international viewers.

Usually, comedians from other countries making shows in the US take great care not to confuse American viewers with regional references. But in this case, Aunty Donna just gets on with making the kind of comedy show they always do. A sense of common understanding isn’t the point here.

Neither is a sense of place. Their Big Ol’ House of Fun is clearly located in the suburbs of Los Angeles but most of their comedy is totally Australian, with almost no concessions made with regards to the way characters speak to each other or some of the things they discuss. And this feels exciting, like Australian comedy is finally allowed to be itself outside of Australia.

Or maybe giving a damn about where this show is set just distracts from making comedy? Why bother to make sure the audience understands everything you’re doing or where the show is set when you’re just casually killing off characters and dumping their corpses in the wheelie bin? Or when you’re having the Queen over to dinner? Or when you can just cut to something on TV? Or have the camera pan down to an electrical socket where a tiny man lives? Or dance around singing a silly song? Or cut over to the studio audience who exists at one end of your house?

Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun isn’t trying to make sense, or to be a pioneer, or to make a big statement, or to do anything really, other than make us laugh. And for all the talk in Australian TV comedy world about how this or that show is “authentic” or “real”, nothing feels as authentic and real in the world of television and streaming comedy as watching a unique and hilarious show make it to our screens, untouched by meddling producers who think they know better.

So, yes, this show is a massive challenge to the people who run what remains of Australian TV comedy. Mainly – and because – it’s just about having heaps of fun.

Irreverent Comedy Series Goes Into Production

Press release time!

Superwog series 2 starts production

Image

Off the back of their smash hit #1 trending first season, ABC and Screen Australia are delighted to announce that a second series of the irreverent comedy series Superwog  is going into production this week in Melbourne. 

Created by and starring brothers Theodore and Nathan Saidden, the new episodes will dive further into Superwog’s volatile family as he and his Dad chase their passions, test their friendships, fight with relatives and butt heads with authorities.

Produced by Superwog and Princess Pictures, the six-part series follows a highly dysfunctional family as they struggle to navigate life in Australian suburbia. Superwog (Theodore Saidden) and Johnny (Nathan Saidden) are not your average teenagers. They are best friends and newly minted adults who still fight with their parents and watch too much TV.  As they try to make a go of it in their inimitable way, highly influenced by their families and constantly clashing with the rules and expectations of ‘Aussie’ society around them, mayhem follows.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Theo and Nathan,” said Mike Cowap, Senior Producer, Princess Pictures. “Season One saw the talented brothers make the successful leap from short-form episodes to half hours, and huge audiences flocked to their energetic, fast-paced, culturally rich comedy. The fans have been demanding another season and we’re thrilled and honoured to reveal it’s happening!”

ABC Head of Comedy Todd Abbott says “Superwog is a phenomenon. It has struck a chord with an enormous audience by showing a version of the Australian experience that is rarely seen on screens.” 

Screen Australia’s Senior Online Investment Manager Lee Naimo says, “We were impressed by Theo and Nathan Saidden’s well-crafted scripts which, centering on the relationship between Superwog and Johnny, go right to the heart of what’s great about Superwog. I’m confident Season Two will engage fans and newcomers alike, and we’re excited to see it head into production in Melbourne.”

Well, at least they outlasted ABC Comedy. Will this now get to air on the ABC channel people actually watch (that isn’t ABC Kids), or is its audience made up entirely of people who never look up from their phones? And how are they going to handwave away the zombie apocalypse that ended season one?

One things for sure: just because you’re “a phenomenon” that “has struck a chord with an enormous audience” doesn’t mean you’ll be getting the Vera timeslot.

A Nasty Reputation as a Cruel Dude

This week on Reputation Rehab: “Reputations exist in the minds of real people”. Could have fooled us. Here’s something else that exists in the minds of real people: what exactly is this show about?

We didn’t review Reputation Rehab after last week’s episode because being built around a big “celebrity” interview left us feeling it might not be a good representation of what the show was actually going to be about. So we waited until this week, which was about how being on reality television can be bad for your reputation: that’s right, it’s 2020 and the ABC is running a show explaining how reality TV works.

It wasn’t a bad guide to reality television by any means, but the news that reality television destroys reputations hasn’t been news for a long time now. Then again, the news that Nazis are bad hasn’t exactly been news for a long time either and that doesn’t seem to have sunk in. Advantage, ABC.

So for a show that lifted the lid on something that hasn’t had a lid since the second season of Big Brother, how was it? Perfectly watchable, actually, which isn’t something we’ve been able to say with a straight face about The Weekly for years. The ABC (by which we mean their stable of producers) have a very good idea how to do these takedowns of the media, mostly because they are the media. Chalk up another point to the ABC there.

Unfortunately, they also know how to do these takedowns in such a way that nothing is actually taken down – see also: every episode of Gruen. Even though this was a show where a reality show contestant played an actual death threat she received via voicemail, the end verdict on reality TV seemed to be “wow, you can do almost anything with editing, huh?” When you get a reality show contestant to provide a DVD commentary on her big moment on reality TV, you’re not rehabilitating anyone’s reputation – you’re just hitching a ride on reality TV’s popularity.

The frustrating thing about this kind of show for us* is that it comes right up to the line as far as comedy is concerned and then pulls up sharply like it just smelt something awful. Reputation Rehab had a bunch of promising information and insights into how reality television is made, but it did nothing with them. There was no wider point to any of it, no sense that the hosts or producers had any real opinion on reality television beyond “it’s part of life”. And without a point of view, you can’t make comedy.

Not that the ABC wants to make comedy: reality television (and last week, sport) has too many fans to risk pissing any of them off by making a joke about what they love. It’s a gutless quest for popularity that’s increasingly common, where if something’s popular it’s too risky to make fun of and if it’s not popular then nobody’s going to get the joke.

Thank fuck for politics, and even then we’re probably only months away from someone in ABC management deciding that laughing at the Coalition is simply too risky in the current climate. Repeats of Rosehaven all round!

.

*Others disagree: the real point here is that wishy-washy programming that’s neither solid comedy nor in-depth informative ends up satisfying no-one

Satire is What Closes on Saturday Night

Press release time!

Chaser Digital Presents:

WAR ON 2020

Chaser Digital is proud to announce an all new sketch comedy series to premiere on The Chaser’s digital platforms this December in conjunction with Australia’s other satirical juggernaut The Shovel (yes it’s a satirical cartel, yes the ACCC have been notified).

Dubbed The War on 2020, it features an all-stars line up of the best satirical comedians in the country, directed by Jenna Owen and Victoria Zerbst (SBS The Feed), and written and performed by Mark Humphries (ABC 7:30), Nina Oyama (Utopia), Sami Shah (ABC Radio), Steph Tisdell (Deadly Funny), Nat Damena (SBS The Feed) and James Schloeffel (The Shovel). The series will also utilise the writing talents of Evan Williams and Rebecca Shaw.

It will be produced by Charles Firth (The Chaser) and DOPed by Chloe Angelo (At Home Alone Together).

Executive Producer Charles Firth said, “Everyone knows 2020 was the worst year ever, and so what better way to send it off than with a withering takedown by Australia’s top scientists and medical professionals. Unfortunately, none of them were available, so instead we’ve hired a whole lot of satirists to dress up as scientists and doctors, which is good because they’re much cheaper.”

War on 2020 is a series of 13 sketches about the year that will be distributed online. Firth said, “The demand for content that pours shit on 2020 is so immense that I’m pretty sure the NBN will collapse the moment we release the first video. We got Josh Frydenberg to help us work out our download numbers and he reckons 60 billion Australians will watch each video.”

War on 2020 started life as a live stage show, which Jenna, Vic, Mark, James and Charles have been touring nationally since 2017. “This year, we moved it online because of the coronavirus,” said Charles Firth. “And in the process, we expanded the writer/performers even though it’s been a really boring year and nothing much has happened.”

The Shovel’s James Schloeffel said there were two big stories for 2020: “In 2020 we lived through two of the most traumatic events in living memory: the shocking bushfires in Australia and the release of Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina-scented candle. Thank God the year is almost over”.

“The low point of the year was the launch of COVIDSafe – definitely the least effective dating app of 2020,” said co-director Victoria Zerbst

“War on 2020 will be a great way for people to relive the year they’d rather forget,” said co-director Jenna Owen.

“It’s a great way to remember all the things about 2020 that you’d only just managed to repress,” said Mark Humphries.

War on 2020 has received principal production funding from Screen Australia and will be released online through social media and on the Chaser and Shovel sites throughout December. There will also be two ticketed live Zoom performances of the show on 11th & 12th December.

We were wondering when someone would get around to reviving the kind of newspaper editorial cartoon-style political satire the ABC specialised in until they decided to give up on the “undergraduate” audience. Wonder no more!

The Fart of Storytelling

The decision by Seven – well, 7Mate to be exact – to show Housos vs Virus and Regular Old Bogan back to back has provided us with an exciting opportunity to examine how storytelling works in the Australian sitcom. Because they sure as shit didn’t give us anything to examine as far as comedy goes.

Both of these series have been on the shelf for a while, largely thanks to Seven suddenly having more footy to screen in 2020 than they knew what to do with. The delay hurts Housos a little, as it’s possible it might have originally aired at a time when jokes about toilet paper shortages were still funny. Even for a Paul Fenech production it feels shoddy and rushed – which again, might not have been a drawback if it had aired in April when the extended slow-motion shot of a woman flashing her chest might have served to raise national spirits or something.

Bogan, on the other hand, suffers from an extremely basic animation style that’s not so much ugly as just half-arsed. Knowing absolutely nothing about animation, there’s presumably a good reason why they didn’t put in a bit of effort / money to come up with some decent character designs, especially as they don’t move much so having to come up with a wide range of easily drawn poses and expressions is not an issue. There was not a single joke in the first episode that the animation made funnier, which feels like a major drawback for an animated show.

That said, being animated means Bogan can do things unimaginable by Australian sitcom standards – you know, like car chases and using multiple locations. We’re not talking Rick & Morty here: this is an animated sitcom where things largely stay within the boundaries of live-action comedy but with a severed dick or two thrown in (and about). On that level, it works.

There’s an well structured A and B plot, the episode’s events are over the top but flow relatively logically, and the whole thing wraps up with a callback that makes sense and provides a decent character moment. It’s the kind of show that you can imagine an impressed teen telling his mates about and having those mates say “yeah, that sounds pretty good”.

Unfortunately, for a sitcom to really work, it needs jokes. Bogan occasionally gestures in the vague direction of them – the pre-teen daughter wants her clit pierced! the dad is a fuckwit! check out this severed dick! – but that’s about it. Saying “Spoof Creek” over and over again doesn’t make it funny; having the dad refer to his son by name at least once every sentence is just plain bad writing.

But while Bogan has the structure in place but nothing to fill it – it’s really just a wacky drama – Housos doesn’t even have that. After establishing the new status quo – after the previous Housos series half the regulars are in prison or old folks homes, and the remainder plus a few new “next generation” characters are all in coronavirus lockdown in a single house – everyone yells about how they don’t have enough toilet paper, booze, food and sex toys, so Frankie (Fenech) repeatedly sneaks out to steal them, flash his arse, and hit people with his thong. That’s it.

Fenech’s recent Fat Pizza reboot worked because Fat Pizza is a halfway decent idea for a show. Housos has never been anything but a bunch of screechy-voiced characters yelling over the top of each other (fan favourite phrase “fucked in the face” is back, everyone!), which doesn’t exactly make it the ideal comedy for people stressed out about the local impacts of a global pandemic. Even for Fenech, Housos vs Virus is a new low; here’s hoping the virus wins.

Probably Not a Reference to the Kingpin of Crime

Press release time!

Cameras roll in Melbourne on Kitty Flanagan comedy series Fisk

The ABC and Screen Australia are delighted to announce filming has commenced in Melbourne on the new six-part comedy series Fisk (previous working title, Entitled) by one of Australia’s most popular comedians, Kitty Flanagan.

Produced by Vincent Sheehan (Operation Buffalo, The Kettering Incident) written and co-directed by Kitty Flanagan, Fisk also stars television favourite Julia Zemiro (Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery, RocKwiz) and celebrated comedians Marty Sheargold, Aaron Chen and Glenn Butcher as well as award winning actor John Gaden.

Starring Flanagan as Helen Tudor-Fisk, a contract lawyer who is forced to take a job at a shabby suburban law firm specialising in wills and probate, Fisk is a fast-paced workplace sitcom that taps into the everyday world of inheritances and squabbling relatives.

Kitty Flanagan says “This is the dream. My own show with all my favourite people both in front of the camera and behind it too. I’m thrilled to be making this in Melbourne for the ABC. We have such amazing, creative people in Australia, the more local content we can turn out, the better.”

Todd Abbott, ABC Head of Comedy says “Kitty Flanagan is, quite simply, one of the funniest humans alive, and a show created by and starring her is long overdue. Every page of these scripts is laugh-out-loud funny, and the cast and crew that she’s pulled together guarantee this series is going to be a ripper. What a treat for all of us.”

Fisk will air on ABC TV and iview in 2021.

Now this is more like it: finally a forthcoming series from the ABC aimed at people who like to laugh, only not laugh at tired parodies of smug millennials or at shows that clearly really want to be dramas but the ABC doesn’t have the budget to make them any more unless they’re high stakes thrillers set in the outback.

Seriously, even the press release doesn’t have any obvious clangers we can make fun of! 2021 is looking better already.

A Long Time Coming

Not a press release because we didn’t get one but close enough!

It takes a lot for a talking dishwashing machine to exist as the least absurd element of a sketch comedy series. But if any comedy group can manage that feat, it’s Australian trio Mark Samual Bonanno, Broden Kelly, and Zachary Ruane, better known within the comedy circuit as Aunty Donna. Since forming in 2011, the group has built a following that began in the comedy festival circuit and parlayed their popularity into an album, a podcast, and multiple web series. Now, they’re packing everything they own and moving into a Big Ol’ House Of Fun. Fortunately for them, Netflix is footing the bill.

Aunty Donna will star in a new sketch comedy show for the streaming giant. In the six-part series Mark, Broden, and Zachary are roommates who are perfectly willing to share their living space with the viewing audience, for better or worse. According to Netflix’s official synopsis, Aunty Donna will “take viewers along for an absurdist adventure through their everyday lives. Come on inside if you’re prepared to handle satire, parody, clever wordplay, breakout musical numbers, and much more.” In this case, “much more” can include just about anything from a hunt for buried treasure to “Weird Al” Yankovic.

On the one hand, hurrah! We’ve been fans of Aunty Donna for years, and the trio getting their own series is long overdue. This’ll be one of the Australian comedy highlights of the year, sign up to Netflix if you haven’t already, finally a reason to go on with our lives, and so on.

On the other hand, Netflix? What exactly does it say about the state of Australian comedy that Aunty Donna – easily the most consistently impressive Australian comedy team of the last few years and probably even before that – has to go overseas to get a show? Not that they shouldn’t strut the world stage, or that they’re not clearly world-class, but Australian networks should have been queuing up to throw cash / timeslots at them long before it ever came to this.

Faux shock aside, we know exactly – well, we can at least make a good guess – why and how it’s come to this. For one thing, Aunty Donna are funny, which rules out a surprisingly large amount of Australian comedy options. For another, they’re not ABC funny, which is to say they’re kind of weird but the ABC hasn’t been in that market since Sam Simmons. Throw in the fact that nobody has any money for local comedy and the funniest people currently working on TV all have careers that date back to the previous century and…

Hey, let’s focus on the upside here: a new Aunty Donna TV series! It’s about damn time.

I Don’t Give A Damn ‘Bout My Bad Reputation

Somewhat delayed because we seriously did a double take at this one press release time!

Sensational new ABC series

Reputation Rehab to air next month

     Premieres Wednesday 28 October 9.05pm

                     on ABC and iview.

 

 We’re officially living in an outrage culture. It seems that barely a week goes by without someone getting publicly crucified in a torrent of angry tweets and media headlines, for real or imagined mistakes. Launching on October 28th at 9.05pm, ABC’s new series, Reputation Rehab will tackle public shaming head-on and break through the outrage cycle with comedy and empathy.

Hosted by The Checkout’s Kirsten Drysdale and Zoe Norton Lodge, Reputation Rehab will find tarnished reputations and lovingly bring back their shine. Each week, the episode will begin with a deep-dive into an outrage story, or a person who has endured a public shaming.

The first episode will focus on the “Bad Boy” of tennis: Nick Kyrgios, with Nick agreeing to a rare in-depth interview with Zoe and Kirsten for the show. Other episodes will delve deep into the stories of Reality TV “villain” Abbie Chatfield, headline grabber Todd Carney, tabloid target Osher Günsberg as well as Covid shaming, Boomer trashing and the reputational crisis facing anyone named Karen.

Kirsten and Zoe will consult a group of real people to find out how closely the heightened coverage aligns with their views. Through interviews, media analysis and stunts, Kirsten and Zoe will seek to rehabilitate the guest’s damaged reputation and provide a unique opportunity for transformation.

Reputation Rehab is a show that believes people don’t deserve to be consigned to the cultural scrapheap, most people are more than a punchline, and everyone deserves a second chance.

Where to begin with this? It’s nice that a couple of the hosts from The Checkout have new TV work, but didn’t anyone stop to think that it might be a bad look to directly link the axed Checkout – you know, a show that sided with the little people against the rich and famous – with a show that seems to be based around the idea that the rich and famous need protecting from the little people?

Oh wait, they’re going to consult with “real people”. Crisis averted.

Sure, there have been a number of Australians in recent years who have been publicly shamed on social media. You’ll notice none of the ones you’re thinking of rate a mention here, because many of them brought defamation cases against the media outlets that reported on the public shaming and, thanks to Australia’s extremely tough libel laws, they won.

That should make them the perfect material for this show, as their situation – shamed on social media, only to have their side of things vindicated by the courts – is exactly the kind of thing this show seems to be about, And yet, we’re not going to hold our breath waiting for anyone like Geoffrey Rush to be rescued from the “cultural scrapheap”. Guess they doesn’t deserve a “second chance”?

The reason why Australia never had a decent #metoo movement is because Australian libel law protects against comments designed to harm someone’s reputation. This isn’t America: public shaming isn’t protected by law. If you’ve heard of someone who is being “publicly shamed” on social media, there’s a very good chance they’re famous enough to have a reputation they can go to court to protect. So what’s left for this show to cover? People you’ve never heard of who had their lives trashed but are willing to go on television to have the trashing re-enacted?

The other big problem with the basic premise of this show – and it’s a doozy – is the idea that being publicly shamed by “outrage culture” is something that only happens to people who haven’t done anything. They’re just minding their own business on social media when suddenly out of nowhere a frenzied mob attacks them, destroying their good name and livelihood. This, you’ll know if you’ve spent any time at all on social media over the last few years, is rarely the case.

Even twitter mobs are jaded and cynical now: they require actual demonstrated shitty behaviour (AKA “receipts”) to get stirred up these days. And while the popular media’s image of public shaming is lefties getting riled up over pronouns*, it’s more likely to be right wing hate mobs targeting women and minorities, which is less about someone’s reputation being damaged and more about them being in legitimate fear for their life.

Which raises the question: who’s really stirring up that level of shit? You don’t have to be a big Media Watch fan to know that the real threat to someone’s reputation in Australia isn’t from twitter, it’s from the Murdoch press putting you in their sights. Strangely, from this press release Reputation Rehab doesn’t look like it’s going after Andrew Bolt and company for their relentless pursuit of just about anyone with a public profile and vaguely left-wing views.

(here’s a thought: maybe this won’t be about social media at all? After all, when you’re a “tabloid target” by definition you’re being written about in the tabloids. The “bad boy” of tennis got his reputation because of things he did that were reported on by the mainstream news, not conjured up out of nowhere by a twitter mob.)

We haven’t seen any of this show; for all we know it could be brilliant. But everything that’s been said about it so far makes it look like the “public shaming” angle is just an excuse for yet another snarky series about the media a la Gruen. God knows it’s about time the ABC stood up for Boomers and white women named Karen; fingers crossed this isn’t just six weeks of high profile types complaining that social media is being mean to them.

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*for example, US actor Chris Pratt is currently being dragged on twitter for being a public member of a notoriously anti-LGBTQIA+ church. There’s definitely a story here (“why is this happening to him?”), but his “reputation” doesn’t need “rehab” – he’s simply done something that some people are opposed to and they’re expressing their displeasure. Oh wait, we mean it’s “outrage culture” “publicly crucifying” him.