This week sees stage two of ABC2’s attempt to rebrand itself as the place where all the cool kids go to hang out and laugh with the arrival of The Bazura Project. Like the persistantly impressive Twentysomething, it’s another comedy series that started out as a DIY project on community station Channel 31… and that’s pretty much where the comparison ends.
The best way to describe Bazura is that it’s one of the seemingly endless ABC series where a comedian or team of comedians provides a wacky look at some kind of general interest subject. In this case it’s the history of cinema, divided into six parts focusing on the good stuff – sex, violence, and so on. Only this time, because you haven’t actually heard of hosts / writers / stars Lee Zachariah (has a beard) and Shannon Marinko (has a hat), they’ve had to put lots and lots of jokes in to keep you watching.
It’s actually a difficult show to describe in some ways. The c31 version also had reviews of current releases so it was (in one way) a review show with a bunch of sketches thrown in. The ABC2 version does lose a little by not having reviews (presumably Margaret & David have the reviewing turf all sown up, though David does make regular appearances here), but the quality of the sketches more than makes up for it. And did we mention lots and lots of jokes?
It’s easy to forget how rare scripted smart one-liners are on Australian television – unless you’re able to keep up with the ever-shifting timeslot for Talkin’ ‘bout Your Generation – so to see a steady stream of sharp lines and well-thought-out visual gags makes this show not so much a delight as a simple reminder that hey, jokes can be funny. Not all of them and not all the time, but more than enough to get a tick in our book.
Part of what makes this show so much fun to watch – oh, did we mention the star-studded support cast (well, there’s Kat Stewart, the voice of Shaun Micallef, and Tony Martin turns up in episode two) – is that it’s resolutely undergraduate when it comes to its many, many jokes. There are highbrow film references a plenty here: there’s also a robot with a milk crate for a head.
A lot of recent ABC1 comedy has seemingly held itself above the idea of actually making jokes; comedy should flow naturally from character, obvious one-liners will disrupt the reality of the performances, and so on and whatever. Problem is, sometimes you just want to laugh at funny stuff, and it’s a little disappointing that the ABC has decided that the kind of comedy that puts being funny first only belongs on the digital-only channel. In other words: why isn’t this on ABC1?
It’s not like Bazura isn’t informative as well; it’s packed with fun facts about the history of cinema, plus reviews of trends, fashions, strange old films and episode two features loads of strippers. With the erasure of the ABC’s traditional arts coverage now all but complete, Bazura could very well fill that niche as well. You’ll laugh and you’ll learn; if that isn’t value for your eight cents a day, it’s still a lot more than you’re getting out of the average episode of Crownies.