The Lights Are Going Out All Over Television. We May Not See Them Lit Again In Our Lifetimes.

First, the bad news: Channel Seven, home of commercial sketch comedy in Australia for close to two decades, now thinks this is a good idea:

From Kylie and Dannii to Warney and Thorpey, the celebs come out to play for a new series of Kath & Kim specials coming to Seven.

A galaxy of Australia’s biggest stars (and best known fans) will share their funniest foxymoron moments in a new series of Kath & Kim specials which will air soon on Channel Seven.

Featuring never-before-seen footage of Australia’s favourite hornbags, The Kath & Kim Kountdown celebrates the magic of Fountain Lakes, counting down to the Top Ten Kath & Kim moments of all time.

Kylie and Dannii? Warney and Thorpey? What, Sleepy and Dopey weren’t available?

So a bunch of “Australia’s biggest stars” are going to talk about their “favourite” (from the ones selected by the producers for them to choose from) moments from Kath & Kim? So it’s a clip show? For a show that hasn’t been on the air in five years? Wow, good thing it’ll be desperately promoting both a range of Channel Seven “personalities” and the commercial television /  DVD release of the critically and popularly ignored Kath & Kimderella movie, otherwise there’d just be no reason to show it at all.

At least we’re supposedly going to get at least some new linking material. Yay? Presumably it’s hard for creative types to accurately pinpoint the moment when they stop caring about their characters –  especially when there’s still money to be made – but it’s still safe to assume that the idea of quitting while they’re ahead and preserving some of their dignity as comedians is something they’ve considered… and then said “naaah”. But who knows? Perhaps the goodwill towards Kath & Kim is so bottomless that they can be attached to literally any cheap, nasty, time-wasting product or programme and the public will lap it up. Lord knows they’re still miles ahead of anything Chris Lilley’s come up with.

Meanwhile, over at Jungleboys the champagne corks are popping once again:

It draws a meagre 300,000 viewers on ABC1 – yet this Australian comedy has become a global internet sensation, racking up millions of YouTube views and attracting the interest of Fox Television in the US.

The debut episode of provocative sketch comedy The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting, made by Sydney production company Jungleboys, was watched by 432,000 people. The audience dropped to 290,000 by the second episode – perhaps not surprising given the dark, edgy nature of some of the material.

But yesterday, executive producer Jason Burrows awoke to an email, alerting him to the fact that someone had posted a clip from the program on YouTube.

“It was sent at 10.30 at night and it said the clip had 600,000 views,” Burrows says. “By the time I read it at 7am, it had 1.4 million views.”

Now, it is close to 1.6 million.

Great! Oh wait a second, 1.6 million views (more like 1.9 million now) for a professionally made product on YouTube is, how you say, “average”? Put a slightly less snarky way, at the time of writing the original “Beached Az” clip on YouTube has 7,839,920 views. And where’s Beached Az now? Where was Beached Az in the first place, apart from on a bunch of merchandise?

When Jungleboys honcho Jason Burrows says “the game has changed”, what he means is “we now have an angle we can use to try and paint The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting (which finished up this week) as something more than a flop.” To which we draw your attention to the final line of this article:

Ironically, The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting began as a web series in 2011 before it was picked up by the ABC.

That is correct, sir or madam: the show has succeed at doing what it was a success at doing before it became a television show. The story here is not “ABC series makes good”, but “ABC blunders in taking web series to television”. When a show is a hit on the web, then fails to make any kind of impact on television, then becomes a hit again on the internet, the takeaway is obvious: it’s a really good web series. So leave it on the web.

The internet rewards short clips – like comedy sketches – that have “edgy” premises. Television, not so much. In fact, you could probably argue that the internet has killed off sketch comedy as we once knew it, where sketches were discrete scenes like individual short films. The sketch shows that work on television today look more like The Daily Show or even Mad as Hell, where the comedy bits weave in and out without clear cut-offs. Because if you want short, stand-alone, done-in-one comedy, YouTube is where you’re looking. Probably at bits from Family Guy. That “The Bird is the Word” clip they did has seventy million views.

If we wanted to be extremely cynical, we could suggest that Jungleboys have taken the ABC’s resources to make a product they can exploit outside of the ABC. Obviously that’s not the case here, though the person who posted the 1,900,000 version has only ever posted one other clip, also from The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting; guess they’re a committed fan.

Meanwhile, the official version on the Jungleboys YouTube channel has around 12,000 views, and their other clips don’t seem to have been as successful: the Amish IT guy clip is around 190,000 views, and the rest range between 50,000 and 5,000 views. The 300,000 viewers ratings figure for the TV show meant it was a flop, right?

What this story really tells us is that while The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting was a fizzle on television, one of their clips is doing really well on YouTube, as someone not related to the production company has scored almost two million views for their channel using one of Jungleboys clips. So the ABC lost out by trying to take an online show to television, and then the production company lost out when someone ripped off one of their clips and everyone linked to it.

Australian comedy in 2013, everybody. Take a bow.

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9 Comments

  • Dom Romeo says:

    Please. Australian *television* comedy in 2013. If you can extrapolate from one example. There is a heap of fine Aussie comedy going on in live venues across the country all the time. Just as so many pubs feature live musicians who’ll sell you their music after a gig, if you like. The Voice doesn’t represent them any more than a solitary sketch show represents the multitude of great comics, many of whom are world class, playing to tiny audiences in weekly and monthly comedy rooms.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    There are also cat videos that are more humorous and have more views.

    I read the article and there seems the implication that the, ‘ABC/Australian audiences can’t recognise talent when they see it!’ which of course true in regards to MAH but not really the case here. It wasn’t ‘too dark’ it just wasn’t that funny.

    Anyway there are a slew (two is a slew- right?) of live shows coming up so somebody might actually go off script.

  • Matlock says:

    I feel like I’m taking crazy pills every time someone says Elegant Gentlemen was dark and edgy, IT WASN’T! Now dark and edgy doesn’t necessarily equal laughs (although my sensibilities do tend towards more dark stuff; but having said that, at the end of the day, funny is funny) As for the show being funny, it was ok….at best.

    Was it just me, or did every sketch on that show hit the same notes?
    – Person misinterprets situation
    – Person goes on rant
    – Person is proven wrong
    – Person is looked like to the be fool

    I guess I’m basing that off the key party sketch; but I swear others have had that same feeling.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    The ‘too dark’ thing is just an excuse to use ‘artistic licence’ to dismiss poor ratings. ‘Laid’ was dark. ‘PLM’ was dark and GAY! Now EG is ‘dark’ too.

    Also see Sam Simmons and ‘too surreal’.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Pretty much every sketch I saw was “Surreal situation everyone takes seriously – one guy doesn’t take it seriously – everyone says he’s crazy – the end”. The real problem the show had was that while there were a bunch of good ideas for sketches there, they had zero idea of how to develop them and so they fell back into the same story structure over and over. “Wouldn’t it be hilarious to have a fat jockey? Wouldn’t it be hilarious to have an Amish IT guy?” And so on.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Dom, thanks for your defense of the live scene but this is a blog about televised comedy, not live stand up. Sorry, but we’re not going to stick “television” in front of our every use of the word “comedy” when every single post we make is entirely about television.

  • Matlock says:

    ^ Yeah, pretty much that.

  • BIlly C says:

    You should change your heading to Australia’s most opinionated blog about television comedy.

  • Bean Is A Carrot says:

    Since 2009 we’ve stated on the About page that we don’t really cover live comedy. Our focus is on TV but we also cover radio, film, online, print and live when we have something to say about it.