The community TV sitcom Leongatha finished up on Melbourne’s Channel 31 a few months back and is now airing on Sydney’s TVS. Set largely on a mini bus, it’s a six-part show about a family’s stilted journey to a wedding. In the first episode we meet Denny (Chris Gibson) who’s reluctantly agreed to film cousin Darryl’s (Bryce Hardy) wedding (“This is the last time I do this!”). And at the last minute has to step in as Best Man when Darryl’s mate has to pull out due to a football semi-final. Darryl still wants Denny to get good shots of the bride and bridesmaids going in to the church, though.
Joining the increasingly put-upon Denny and anxious Darryl on the bus are Darryl’s parents and sister (Roy Barker, Jane Menze and Kate Mulqueen), Denny’s Dad (Trevor Major), Grandma Lorna (Maureen Andrew), who has a poorly-guarded secret she doesn’t want the rest of the family to know about, and Mazzy (Sarah Ranken), a mysterious stranger Denny first met when he was buying a wedding present from unhinged shopkeeper Terry (Bob Franklin).
There’s a lot of set-up in episode 1 and a lot going on between the characters, but oddly the pace is quite slow. Stretching a two hour journey to a wedding over three hours of sitcom means there’s a fair bit of padding, and the show would benefit from some editing. (Leongatha might have worked better if it’d followed the lead of the British sitcom The Worst Week of My Life and set the action over a week, with the final episode being the ill-fated wedding ceremony.)
What doesn’t necessarily help is that there’s a clash of styles between the realistic production values and the more traditional broad dialogue and comedy performances in some of the scenes. A Moody Christmas took a similar approach by mixing dramatic and comedic styles, but Leongatha probably does it better. Having a strong comic performer like Bob Franklin, doing what he does best, at the start of the show is a statement of intent – they want this to be funny – and as the show hits its stride it probably will be.