Vale Laid

Yes, Laid finished up a few days ago, but it seemed like a good idea to wait just in case the Fairfax papers – specifically The Age – tried to slip in some more good words for a show they love so much they should just bloody well marry it. During its final week it somehow scored not one but two glowing reviews in The Green Guide – and this for a show that, thanks to being based around a storyline that developed and continued week after week, was impossible to follow if you hadn’t already been watching. What’s next, glowing reviews of the final ten minutes of Chinatown?

No minor reviews these either. Lorelei Vashti devoted her entire 10/3/2011 column to Laid, kicking things off with the comedy highlight of 2011: “Being a friend of [Laid creator Marieke] Hardy’s it is tricky to write about this show but as it has been one of the most anticipated local comedies this year, it would be remiss not to cover it.” That’s right: Laid was more anticipated than John Clarke’s return to The Games. It was more anticipated than Chris Lilley’s new series Angry Boys. It was more anticipated than the return of 2/3rds of Get This to television, more anticipated than Adam Hills getting his own talk show, more anticipated than Ben Elton making an Australian series, more anticipated than Hamish & Andy moving to television, more anticipated than any show made by anyone with any kind of established reputation in Australian comedy. Oh wait, maybe the “being a friend of Hardy’s” line is the one to focus on here.

In one sense it’s nice to actually have confirmed the fact that the best way to get blanket coverage of your television show – let’s say it again, two separate reviews in the Green Guide during the show’s final week – isn’t to actually make a good show, but to be mates with the people writing the reviews. It means that the reviews can safely be ignored by those readers looking for a guide to a show’s actual entertainment value or quality, while keenly read by those wanting to know what Vashti’s pals are up to this week. This kind of favouritism isn’t exactly news, of course, but it’s rare to see it so insistently, offensively, disgustingly blatant.

[It does, on the other hand, go some way towards explaining why The Age seems to have been running a “the internet is full of mindless haters” campaign over the last month or so. We’ve covered most of it in the various Live From Planet Earth threads (though there was yet another story on the hurt anonymous internet posters can cause to media personalities on six figure salaries in the most recent Sunday Age), but where The Age’s stories have focused on the supposedly mindless hate of decent shows / people that the internet fosters, their blanket love of Laid is a display of how they plan to use the power they heap scorn on the internet for displaying. It’s a bit rich to claim that old media is a better source of information than blogs and twitter when your staff seem largely interested in uncritically talking up a former workmate’s projects.]

Without full access to the ratings it’s hard to know how well Laid did. The few figures we have seen suggest that it held steady at around half a million viewers nationwide, at least for the first few weeks. Which, based on wild guesswork, is good but not amazingly great for that timeslot – it’s safe to assume Summer Heights High did a lot better, for example. Still, turns out all this good press has paid off: the night of the final episode Hardy tweeted:

“The ABC are keen on another series and we have begun writing. See you in 2012.”

“We are currently writing a second series and the ABC are keen. If all goes well we will shoot in July/August.”

Here’s a question: Huh? Forgive us for being a little tardy, but didn’t the show end with the mystery of the dead boyfriends being solved? What is a second series going to be about, apart from letting us all know that the ABC wants to be in the Marieke Hardy business so badly they’ll throw cash at pretty much anything?

Personally, we say put money on a spin-off called YEAR ZERO about a woman who meets her dream guy then goes about exterminating all her previous lovers so she can erase her dodgy past and be The Perfect Woman for him, but that’s mostly because, well, that’s kind of the vibe that came off the show itself after a while. Actually, the one single solitary interesting thing that came out of The Age’s blanket Laid coverage was the way no-one seemed fully sure whether we were actually supposed to like Roo or not.

[this is the point where a crasser blog would mention the review that said Alison Bell as Roo was pretty much channelling Hardy. Yes, this is that blog]

“Frequently unlikable” and “shifting between various states of bewilderment, awkwardness and straight-out obnoxiousness” were a couple of the terms used to describe Roo in this final run of reviews. Which is a bit of a shift from “resourceful, smart and sometimes sure of her opinions, but also uncertain and a little daffy”, which is how she was described in Debi Enker’s initial review in the Green Guide’s 3/2/2011 issue. At least the all-over-the-shop nature of Roo’s personality remained a constant; whether this is down to inconsistent scripting is up to the viewer to decide.

While it’s possible that the general souring of opinion towards Roo may have been a result of the show’s dramatic progression, it’s only six episodes long: how much dramatic progression do you expect (sources say the ABC sent the first two episodes out to reviewers, so Enker was writing having seen a third of the show)? Considering the mate’s rates reviews Laid has been getting, it seems equally as likely that the shift in response to Roo’s character only came about when the reviewers saw the final episode and realised the whole story only really makes any kind of sense if Roo has been a bit of a bitch in her dating history. Which we guessed a few weeks back – not because we have the slightest idea what we’re talking about, but because it was screamingly obvious that there was no other way for the story to end.

Laid was an inconsistently scripted, frequently poorly acted, rarely funny sitcom designed to pander to a middle class audience that prides itself on its sophisticated sense of humour – one that involves plenty of saying “that’s hilarious” and very little actual laughing. All that’s fine: those people need television too, and tweeting about Q&A can’t fill up their entire week. But when it’s given a second series (despite the idea of a second series making about as much sense as a sequel to Titanic) seemingly on the back of glowing reviews almost entirely written by Marieke Hardy’s mates, then something has to be done. And thus, a snarky blog post is born.

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  • billy c says:

    Final episode: 25 Laid ABC1 441,000 109,000 166,000 67,000 48,000 50,000
    First episode: 22 Laid ABC1 608,000 148,000 233,000 102,000 60,000 65,000

    You’re pretty spot on, I tuned out after week 2. It’s a dramedy rather than a comedy and only slightly better than irock. I thought some of the cast did a pretty good job given what they had to work with. Under 500,000 is pretty bad but they may have done well with younger audiences or had a massive iview viewership.

  • Felix says:

    Great stuff. I’ve siad it before on here, but I’ll say it again- Why are you guys the only people pointing out the cronyistic behaviour of the age and the green guide towards a former employee? Keep up the good work- I don’t read better comedy analysis and reviews anywhere else in the Austrlian media.