Comedy = Tragedy + A Cheap Wig

Let’s do a little basic math. The average episode length for an Australian comedy series – on the ABC at least – is six episodes. Once or twice a year there’ll be an eight-episode series, but that’s it. So if you were making a television series, you’d want your intentions (and the level of quality) to be clear by episode two or three at the very latest, right?

Meanwhile, over at the Herald-Sun, TV writer Cameron Adams has this to say about episode eight of Angry Boys:

“Plenty of scrotal humour from Chris Lilley tonight in this divisive comedy. Offensive? Misunderstood? Shark jumper? The jury is still out.”

The show is two-thirds done. It’s already run as long as any other scripted ABC comedy series of the last five years. And the jury “is still out”? Oh, fuck off.

Here’s another cliche for you. The episode Adams is talking about features teens in a clumsily choreographed musical number performed to a comedy song Lilley wrote. It’s the same scene that’s appeared in every other one of Lilley’s series. Isn’t it possible that, by using the same material over and over, Lilley has instead “worn out his welcome”.

To be fair, when Adams goes on to say “this series has been patchy”, he’s right. When Lilley wheels out the revelation that Gran has Alzheimers – yes, really, we’re not joking, she has a degenerative brain disease oh ho ho ho – the joke-free patches look set to expand until by the tear-jerking finale there’ll be nothing left to laugh at (intentionally or not) at all.

So the hilarity of Grans’ tough-love looks set to be replaced with a more potty-mouthed version of Mother & Son.  But that still leaves five other characters yet to have horrible things happen to them for the heart-rending conclusion. Will that ball-less surfer go to jail and lose his family? Will Nathan be mangled by an oncoming car he doesn’t hear coming? Will S.mouse… just die already?

The reason why the endings of the second series of The Office (UK) and Blackadder Goes Forth (to quote the two most obvious examples of comedy series veering into drama at the last minute) worked – as much as they did, which we’d suggest wasn’t all that much – was because they came as a surprise after six solid episodes of non-stop comedy. The kind of crap Lilley is puling here, where character after character ham-fistedly hints at tragic depths more suited to a bad episode of an afterschool teen soapie, does not.

Presumably when Adams wrote about this episode that “we finally start to see some of the genuine emotion Lilley injects to balance out his genital jokes”, Gran’s illness is what he was referring to. “Genuine emotion”? By giving a cartoon character in a genital-obsessed comedy Alzheimers? Man, we’d hate to see what a “cheap hackneyed stunt” looks like…

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  • Billy c says:

    Did you see they played a two minute deleted scene after the show tonight. I assume they are trying to get people interested in the DVD which they have probably paid way too much for up front. Combined with bumping qi last week for a repeat the abc are looking desperate.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Yeah, that deleted scene was odd. I thought the episode might have run short (a la the post-story bits they’d throw in on Welcher & Welcher), but it seems to have been the usual length. If I was being cynical, I’d suggest the ABC said “this ain’t funny – squeeze in some more jokes!”

    That DVD is going to be one tough sell. Those hours and hours of deleted scenes suddenly look a lot less attractive when no-one wants to spend time with the characters.

  • Shane says:

    I couldn’t do it because that’d require watching Angry Boys, but it’d be interesting to compare Gran with Pearl from S3 of The Librarians.