The more eagle-eyed amongst you have probably noticed that we’ve put off reviewing Balls of Steel Australia for five weeks. But never fear, we haven’t come over all “rule of three” (or indeed five) round these parts. We just figured that as the original Balls of Steel (made in the UK) started off with someone placing hundreds of turds on the pavement of a heavily-congested London bridge just before rush hour and filming the hee-larious results, the Australian version would, at best, be equally bad.
So why even bother to cover it all? It’s on Foxtel, lots of people can’t watch it. Well, because we think it’s time somebody came out and said it: pranks aren’t funny. Whether it’s Matt Tilley making his infamous “Gotcha Calls” (these can now be heard on at least two Austereo stations around the country – another reason not to tune in!), Julian Morrow as the Citizen’s Infringement Officer handing out tickets to parents who’ve given their children “bogan names”, or Chris Lilley’s new character Gran telling a teenage inmate in her care that he’s about to be released and should pack his things and, oh wait, just as he’s saying goodbye to his cell mates…”Gotcha!”…well, there’s a reason why in real life this sort of thing would have you up in front of a judge. These pranks may be many things, but funny isn’t anywhere near the top of the list.
What pranks actually are is a barely acceptable form of bullying or harassment, where we the audience are supposed to cack ourselves sideways as an unwitting victim gets put through some entirely unnecessary pain or embarrassment that doesn’t turn out to be that funny anyway. In many ways it’s the equivalent of bogan or ranga jokes, a cheap, easy style of humour that has the moral equivalence of racist jokes, but without the potential to get Twitter in a tiz.
There should be more to comedy than such patronising button-pressing, and audiences shouldn’t get to a point about a quarter of the way through the first episode where they realise they could make something equally good on their mobile phones – or find something better on YouTube. Comedy on TV should be a quality product, which should knock you sideways with surprise, and provide you with one serious belly laugh after another. If broadcast TV wants to have a profitable future making comedy that provokes audiences to do little more than emit the odd shallow “ha” as some dickhead chucks chips on sunbathers isn’t the way to go.
Indeed, there’s a reason why there are hardly any comedians in the cast of Balls of Steel Australia: this isn’t a real comedy. A real comedy would at least try for a bit of light and shade, not broadcast roughly the same thing for half a hour. Even Craig Reucassel and chums worked that one out, sandwiching their lame pranks between studio segments and spoof ads. They also tried to give their pranks some sort of point, a notion which has so far not been explored by Balls of Steel Australia. And that’s probably just as well.
Oh, and while we’re here, is it just us or like on The Chaser’s War on Everything did some of the pranks on Balls of Steel Australia look just a little bit staged? There have been rumours. And if they’re true they only make the show even more pointless, because if the goal of a prank is to make the victim react in an over-the-top manner, then an actor with no emotional stake in the scenario (apart from their pay cheque) is probably not going to get that hilariously upset. Which would explain why most of the victims just look at the likes of The Annoying Devil and Nude Girl as if someone’s presented them with a turd on a platter. Oh wait, they just have. Isn’t it hilarious?