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?
Yet another jokeless comedy from the ABC. The closest thing to a joke was the line about Ukranian porn, but it was out of context and didn’t have a punchline. This show suffers from Australian Sitcom Disease – one dimensional characters, bland plots, crap dialogue and no jokes. And to think it won an award.
In your esteemed opinion, does the ABC have a policy of only commissioning jokeless postmodern comedy? I ask because I have just started writing a sitcom that actually has jokes in it (I’m going for a high density of gagery like The Big Bang Theory). I wouldn’t want to waste my time if my efforts are only going to end up in the recycling bin.
Possibly. The ABC (and other broadcasters worldwide, to be fair) seem more interested in only making comedy series with people who have a bit of a profile. The other way to get commissioned seems to be if you have industry contacts. Good luck.
I found the satire (such as it was) within the first series to be that the paper was always on the verge of collapsing unless Zwar’s character got his story. And then the paper closed anyway – regardless of the scoops, the odds were stacked against remaining at a newspaper.
So I’m disappointed that they started the newspaper up again. It would have made more sense for Zwar’s character to continue what he is doing, but for some dysfunctional online news source (and one thing that helped Frontline was having a new ‘boss’ in each series who wasn’t much like the old boss). Perhaps they are keeping that in the background for series 3.
(And I didn’t even know that Lowdown series 2 was on until I read this post – not your best promotional work, ABC.)
Didn’t see it but I have been unable to find ratings for it anywhere. It was under 530,000 but I’d be curious to know given it had a 800,000 lead in from Rake. Strange that no sites have reported the ratings of a new Australian series.