Viewers of Wednesday Night Fever, The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting and The Roast could easily be forgiven for thinking that we, Australians, just can’t do sketch comedy any more. Not relatively young Australians anyway. Good sketch comedy in 2013 is looking like an old person’s game, because apart from Mad As Hell, starring and co-written by 51 year old Shaun Micallef, and Clarke & Dawe, with 65 year olds John Clarke and Bryan Dawe, it’s a laugh-free zone out there.
Over on commercial TV, your only opportunity to watch something that could be described as “comedy” and doesn’t involve a bunch of breakfast radio types sitting around a desk, is Slide Show, an improvised mix of sketches and games featuring comedians and personalities such as Toby Truslove, Cal Wilson, Anh Do and Tiffany Hall. Based on a French show called Vendredi Tout est Permis Avec Arthur (Friday Anything Goes with Arthur), Slide Show’s big selling point is that the two teams of three have to perform a sketch on an improvised set…that’s tilted 22 degrees. Oh, and the camera films it at 22 degrees so it looks even more hilarious (theoretically).
In France – the principal flag bearer for physical comedy, mime and slapstick in the 21st Century – this is possibly de rigueur as far as TV hilarity goes. In Australia – and we say this knowing full well we’re hardly pumping world class laughs here – it looks like some production company combined It’s A Knockout, Thank God You’re Here and Hole In The Wall in some drunken, all-night creative session, and accidently submitted it to the Channel 7 programming department. How else to explain a show that’s basically got one reasonably interesting concept in it: the tilted set (although as many have pointed out, The Micallef Programme did this and even they nicked it from Buster Keaton).
But before you get excited about all that improvised comedy on an angle, bear in mind that the tilted set is only used twice in the hour-long show, meaning they have to pad the rest of it out with guessing games. These include slight re-workings of old favourites such as Pictionary, shadow puppets and Charades, with the most original (or pointless) of them being a version of Charades where the person doing the mime is hoisted up in a harness. Re-read that last sentence if you think we’re making this up. And try not to think too hard about how it’s 2013 and TV should have progressed beyond this point.
Anyway, Slide Show rated really well when it debuted last Wednesday, winning its timeslot and getting 1.3 million viewers…so what would we know about anything? Apart from that while the people slipping and sliding down a set has some appeal, there’s a certain irony to the fact that the rest of the show consists of the kind of dull parlour games you’d end up playing if the family TV broke. Based on this, we’re guessing the makers of Slide Show are already working on a large-scale, televised version of Monopoly, where Toby Truslove dresses as a boot and hops around a giant board making property deals. Except the board’s a series of pontoons floating in an Olympic-size swimming pool. Wait…that’s not a bad idea. Anyone know the number of the Channel 7 programming department?