Has there ever in the history of Australian comedy been a show more aptly named than Hamish & Andy’s Gap Year? A Gap Year being, for those not in the know, a year taken off between serious, future-shaping pursuits so you can pissfart around and enjoy yourself without having to worry about the future arc of your career. And so it has proved to be with the Gap Year programs: Hamish and Andy, seemingly free of concerns about making a “proper” television program, instead pick a spot on the map and wander around looking for fun stuff to do that they can slap together in a… wait, what?
Yeah, okay: the current two-part Hamish and Andy series is not actually called Hamish & Andy’s Gap Year. It is, in fact, Hamish & Andy’s Caravan of Courage, dusting off the title they gave to their in-Australia wanderings back when a): they had a daily radio show and b): made television specials for Channel Ten. Okay, well, whatever: they’re still wandering around the countryside looking for the strange and unusual so they can crack a few jokes about it and be on their way.
On the one hand, what’s wrong with that? They’re only on television a few times a year – ten hour long episodes in 2011 and (we think) seven hour episodes leading up to the London Olympics followed by the two 90 minute Caravan of Courage episodes. Hey, it’s almost as if they signed a contract to provide ten hours of television per year instead of just filming their wacky adventures until they ran out of wacky adventures to film. Acting like a slightly more comedic version of The Leyland Brothers plays to their strengths as comedians too: they’re likable guys, they have good chemistry together, and seeing Hamish taunting Andy after Andy’s just eaten a giant bug is about as funny as a scene where someone eats a giant bug is ever going to get.
On the other hand, enough already! After their half-hearted attempt at a talk show during the first series of Gap Year failed to set the ratings ablaze, they’ve retreated to a “travel all over the countryside” formula that was already looking a little threadbare back in 2009. There may not be a limit to the crazy guys and oddball situations they can uncover across the globe, but it’s certainly starting to feel like there’s a limit as to how many times they can expect us to watch it.
They’re still doing a good job of what they do. They’re still funny, likable guys. Still, there comes a point – very, very soon now there will come a point – where more of the same stops working. Oh, with the kind of ratings they’re pulling in now they can keep doing Caravan of Courage / Gap Year television for the next ten years. But unless they start trying to mix things up now, that’s all they’re ever going to do: every time they suggest something different (if they even want to try something different now), the network execs are going to frown and shake their heads and remind the guys that the last time they tried something different it didn’t really work out so maybe it’s time to drive around Tasmania looking for giant robot sheep, okay?
Whatever your opinion of Hamish Blake and Andy Lee, it’d be a shame if all they ever did from here on in was more of the same. They’re the only current comedians popular enough to actually make a stand-alone comedy series work on a commercial network: fingers crossed one day they’ll make a series that involves slightly more than just them standing in some guys homemade lightning-proof “coffin” while he fires bolts of electricity at them.