As we often point out ’round these parts, we Australians don’t make much sketch comedy. Particularly the sort of “pure” sketch comedy shows associated with British television, programs like That Mitchell and Webb Look or The Armstrong and Miller Show, or if you’re old enough to remember them, A Bit of Fry & Laurie, Smith & Jones and French and Saunders.
The ABC’s contribution to this genre in the past decade seems to begin and end with 2004’s Eagle & Evans. Before that you have to go back to The Micallef P(r)ogram(me) (1998-2001), or stretch the definition slightly to include BackBerner (1999-2002) and The Chaser’s various shows (2001-present). Commercial TV, meanwhile, has served up Comedy Inc. (2003-2007), skitHOUSE (2003-2004), Big Bite (2003-2004), The Wedge (2006-2007), Double Take (2009), and (again, stretching the definition a bit) Let Loose Live (2005), Live From Planet Earth (2011) and Good News World (unbelievably still on air). Judging by that list it’s not hard to see why pure sketch comedy in this country, if not entirely dead, resembles such a fetid, lurching, zombie-like corpse that networks have mostly steered clear.
On the one hand the move away from pure sketch has resulted in some interesting shows which incorporate sketches – The Joy of Sets and The Bazura Project being the most recent examples. Of these two The Bazura Project is the show which seems to hark back most to those old school ideas of “pure” sketch, perhaps because it comes from Melbourne’s Channel 31, a station whose many strengths include not being run by ratings-obsessed executives who hold views like “sketch comedy is divisive” or “sketch comedy is uncool”. They just seem to let people get on with making the shows they want to make, which is great news for anyone who likes watching interesting comedy with the stamp of its creators all over it.
One such program is Channel 31’s latest sketch show Lost Dog, which airs Saturday at 10pm (or catch up online). Lost Dog combines “six tiny comedy shows in one big kennel” and includes the twisted family antics of The Peep Jeep, deadpan duo Mach/Lap, dark sitcom The Broken Ones and the surreal Neil Adams is Stuck in a Box. Cutting the shows together initially seemed like an odd thing for the creators to do, but it works fairly well and results in a cohesive program. It’s also pretty funny, and looks remarkably good for something which probably had a tiny budget.
If we were a betting blog, we’d lay down money that ABC executives will take a serious look at this show – their best new comedies of this year have come from Channel 31 after all.
NOTE: This post has been amended slightly to correct the detail mentioned in mike’s comment.