Premiering tomorrow tonight on ABC1 in the not terribly good timeslot of 6.25pm is the new Working Dog series Audrey’s Kitchen, ten 3-minute episodes based on their 2010 parody cookbook Audrey Gordon’s Tuscan Summer, and featuring Heidi Arena (Dawn from The Librarians) in the title role. Audrey Gordon is a British TV chef and cookery writer who takes a “no nonsense” approach to food; in Audrey’s Kitchen she presents a series of simple and delicious recipes in her own unique style.
Audrey’s Kitchen gets the look and feel of a real cooking show just right, from the slightly irritating soft jazz in the background to the unrealistically stylish home kitchen filming location. But while the recipes are also real to life (in that you could actually make them), Audrey isn’t – initially she comes across as a more homely Nigella Lawson, but as the series progresses it becomes increasingly clear that she’s a racist snob who hates, or at the very least is hugely intolerant of, the rest of humanity. Some of her less savoury utterances include tips on feeding the elderly and children – the latter is pure Working Dog gleeful silliness and a particular highlight.
A few months back we reviewed one of Working Dog’s recent efforts Any Questions For Ben?, a disappointing and bland film which quite rightly made a quick disappearance from cinemas. In that blog we put forward our theory that there are several types of Working Dog project – the gag-heavy, script-led efforts of Tom Gleisner, the mildly comic but stylish-looking work of Rob Sitch, the casual piss-farting about of Santo Cilauro, and the commercially-minded formats ripe for flogging overseas. Audrey’s Kitchen has the Gleisner style all over it; it’s like a rich and complex dessert, small in size, gone in a flash, but chock full of the good stuff. And as such it’s one of those shows that’s worth watching again to pick up more of the detail –did she really suggest adding a “light vajazzle of pomegranate seeds” to that dish?
Audrey’s Kitchen may succeed in restoring your faith not just in Working Dog but in Australian comedy itself. It also suggests a possible model for future scripted shows: give comedians old and new a small number of 3-minute timeslots to do whatever they like, and see what happens. The reason so much scripted comedy in this country is crap is because there aren’t many people who have a decent amount of experience of making it anymore – where are team sketch shows for new writers to get work on, for example.
6.25pm on a Saturday isn’t a great timeslot, and there’s no guarantee that comedy shorts like this will get much attention on iView either, but as Audrey’s Kitchen shows it’s more a question of quality than quantity when it comes to good comedy.