Making its debut tonight is the second series of Lowdown, the Adam Zwar sitcom set in the world of celebrity tabloid journalism. Series 1 ended with columnist Alex Burchill (Zwar) and photographer Bob Geraghty (Paul Denny) carting their boxes down the street after their employer, The Sunday Sun, had been shut down. Now The Sunday Sun has re-opened with almost all of the same staff back in place as if nothing had ever happened: business as usual.
Also very much the same is Alex’s on-again-off-again relationship with artist girlfriend Rita (Beth Buchanan), and that plot about how Bob fancies or hero worships (or somethings) Alex. There’s laughs to be had from all of this, but we’ve kinda seen it before.
The same goes for the plots, which pick up on recent tabloid scandals and re-work them a bit. In episode one Alex is sent saucy pictures of a prominent female politician…but they turn out to be of a porn star. So heavily does this reference the Pauline Hanson nude photos scandal of several years ago that the politician in question is controversial for making racist remarks. Slightly more original is the second episode where Alex gets a film director’s phone hacked in order to prove that the director is involved in some casting couch action, and the third episode in which a gay AFL footballer decides to come out.
Not that Lowdown goes very deeply into the ethical quandaries involved in this sort of thing – it’s all trad gags, slapstick and over-the-top characters – and while that’s a perfectly reasonable way to pitch a sitcom, the topic of tabloid journalism kinda lends itself to something a bit deeper. What’s missing is an overall satirical point or some character development, or something other than some wacky adventures involving some crazy characters each week. In this series the character’s lives have changed a bit – Bob’s girlfriend has moved in with him and Alex which causes tension, and peripheral character Dr James (Dalian Evans) has given up General Practice to focus on alternative medicine – but there’s no overall driving narrative other than Alex’s need to get a particular story each week while other stuff goes on too. Perhaps this is all leading up to something which will start to emerge as the series progresses? Or maybe we should just enjoy this weekly cartoon-like look at journalism for what it is and turn to Clarke & Dawe for our satire?