The Tumbleweed awards might be right around the corner (we’re still aiming to have the results up Jan 26th, but don’t be worried if they’re a little late: 2010 was a big year in comedy and Hey Hey-hating, and it’s taking us longer than expected to tidy up the mess), but don’t think we’ve taken our eyes off the future of Australian comedy here at Tumbelweeds central – and, according to the Life magazine found in this Sunday’s Age and Sydney Morning Herald, the future of Australian comedy (until mid-March at least) is Marieke Hardy and her new dramedy Laid.
If you’ve ever wondered why we bother writing a blog like this, this three page cover story on Hardy and her work pretty much ticks all the boxes. And not just because for a mere two pages of text we get four photos of Hardy looking “sexy” (the cover, contents page, two page spread at the article’s start, one more pic on the second page – oh, forgot the Age’s cover where we learn Hardy’s “passion is drunk men”). Wow, if they’re focusing that much on her looks, her writing must be awesome!
For those not in the know, the premise of Laid is that a 20-something gal discovers that all the men she’s slept with are now mysteriously dying off. Let’s quote the article itself: it’s “a six part TV series whose central character, 29 year-old market researcher Roo McVie, might be somewhat unremarkable if she didn’t apparently have the power to inadvertently kill men by sleeping with them”. This premise, according to article author Alyssa McDonald, is “intrinsically funny”.
No it’s not.
Let’s go over that premise one more time: a young woman learns that all the men she’s ever slept with are dying off one by one. Maybe if you’re an emotionless psychopath this is hilarious. Perhaps if you’re a sex-hating ball-buster that set-up might bring the kaks. Could be the idea of sending a young woman into a spiral of self-doubt and loathing over the murderous intentions of her genitals makes you split your sides. But in the real world pretty much everyone actually feels at the very least a slight twinge of sadness and loss over the demise of a former lover; having this happen over and over and over again to someone is intrinsically shattering – the comedy is something you’re going to have to work at.
Yeah yeah, we know about “dark comedy”. We’re also fully aware that in the hands of a skilled practitioner just about anything can be spun into comedy gold. Which is where this article’s real problems begin. See, by assuming that Hardy and her once-mentioned writing partner Kate “Fisho” (that’s not us – the article actually calls her that) Fisher have come up with an “intrinsically hilarious” concept, McDonald feels no need or desire to actually explain to the reader why Hardy is a name they can trust in comedy. As pointed out above though, this concept is actually not spun comedy gold. In fact, it’s kind of a tricky one to make work (for one, what can Roo do about it? It’s not an idea that lends itself to action unless her ex’s are being killed by someone, and then it’s just a shit episode of Murder She Wrote). So where are the reassurances that Hardy is a writer of sufficient talent to bring it off?
Well, we’re told that Hardy “has worked, on and off, as a TV scriptwriter” since her teens. Oddly for an article about a television writer, no actual TV shows she’s worked on are listed (don’t worry, there’s two fat paragraphs about her quirky character-defining adoration for Bob Ellis), so let’s fill in that gap: Packed to the Rafters, anyone? Got yourself some cutting-edge comedy there. She did also quit her job writing for The Age –
[what’s that? You didn’t know she was a former Age TV columnist, because this article in The Age about how awesome this former Age writer is doesn’t mention that she worked for The Age’s Green Guide for years? How odd that they didn’t mention that in The Age…]
-to go work on the second series of :30 Seconds, only that never actually happened. And let’s not forget her real main achievement in Australian television: Last Man Standing, a justly forgotten Secret Life of Us knock-off for Seven notable largely for not being very notable at all. Though that episode that had the same plot as that episode of Andy Richter Controls the Universe where Andy dated a hot racist was pretty funny.
Slightly more interesting than the way this article glosses over her somewhat chequered TV writing career is the way that her teenage scriptwriting career is in no way linked to the revelation (carefully distanced over on the next page) that both her parents are writers and television producers. Ah. Okay.
So what this article really should have been about is how a skilled self-promoter (sexy photos? Don’t see Judith Lucy posing for a lot of those) and general media dogsbody (12 years on radio, you say? Columnist for the Age and ABC? Panellist on the ABC’s First Tuesday Book Club too?) overcame a limited resume, no actual comedy experience (she’s not a stand-up and she hasn’t worked on any of Australia’s purpose-built comedy shows) and a high-profile flop to get a six-part comedy series on the ABC.
That’s not even a negative story: surely overcoming the fizzle of Last Man Standing is a triumph? Especially when it involves working your way up through the ranks again on commercial television and making loads of important contacts all over the ABC (did we mention her big paid radio gig was on ABC youth station Triple J? No? Oddly, neither did this article).
Problem there is, then you might get the idea that Ms Hardy is someone who actually works for a living, getting ahead in the Australian media the way lots of people do: through contacts and networking. She worked for The Age: now she’s getting a profile in The Age. She worked for the ABC on radio, as a TV panelist and an internet columnist: now she’s got her own show on the ABC. Mystery solved.
And it’s hardly like this article paints a picture of her as a big league television talent anyway – as pointed out, it only mentions her previous efforts in the vaguest of terms. Her blog is named; none of the television shows she worked on are. But don’t worry: she’s still a vegan. Like anyone gives a shit.
In a perfect world, there’d only be two reasons for this kind of pointless puff piece: either Hardy is so amazing an individual she’s worth reading about simply because of who she is, or she’s a writer so excellent and exciting we need to know more about the person behind such fascinating work.
In the real world, where quirky hipster chicks aren’t exactly thin on the ground, skilled soapie writers have entire careers without a single name-check in the press and columnists who ignore the “thought” side of “thought-provoking” clog the internet, the only reason to read this article is to see how utterly irrelevant hard work and talent are when it comes to getting media attention in this country.
In Laid’s case, whether they’re equally as irrelevant when it comes to making television comedy remains to be seen.