With TV and radio having pretty much wound down until the end of January, and as a prelude to our glittering launch of the 2013 Australian Tumbleweed Awards (ED: In what sense is setting up the voting on Survey Monkey a “glittering launch”?), we present our annual preview of where you will – or won’t – be getting your locally-made televisual laughs in 2014.
The national broadcaster leads the comedy charge with sitcoms Soul Mates, Maximum Choppage, Utopia and Jonah, sketch shows The Is Littleton and Don’t Be Afraid of the Darkies, The Chaser’s We’ll Have To Leave It There, further series of Please Like Me, Dirty Laundry Live, Upper Middle Bogan, The Moodys, Mad As Hell and The Roast, another Agony series from Adam Zwar, new shows for Judith Lucy and Hannah Gadsby, and the return of Spicks & Specks.
As we’ve said before, Spicks & Specks is more of a strategy than something we welcome back with open arms. Always more appealing to the ABC’s rusted-on audience of “Baby Boomers who don’t like to be challenged too much” than to actual comedy fans, it performs a useful function in that it encourages those audiences to stick around for whichever locally-made comedies get scheduled after it. If that sounds cynical, well, it is. But as one of Australian comedy’s problems has always been that Australians have assumed it’s all rubbish based on the shows that are, and as the old Spicks & Specks was remarkably good at redressing that balance, we cautiously support its return. Even if we won’t be regular viewers.
Also returning is The Roast, which will either start to prove its worth this year or continue to be ignored – either works for us – and Please Like Me, a program we’re pleased to see back on the basis that the more Chris Lilley is on air the more the flaws in his work start to become obvious to audiences, so there’s no reason to suppose that won’t happen to Josh Thomas too. A new series involving the Moody family (A Moody Christmas) is also something we’re not exactly celebrating ‘round these parts – is there anything further to say about this bland lot? – but more Upper Middle Bogan should be interesting. Gristmill sitcoms usually come in to their own in their second series, and with the Denyer/Wheeler/Bright family dynamics well-established it can only get funnier from here.
More interesting to us are the new series from Working Dog and The Chaser. Utopia looks set to cover some of the same ground as Working Dog’s previous political effort The Hollowmen but hopefully won’t take until the end of the second series to become funny. As for The Chaser’s new show, it’s a bit of a mystery but we’d surprised if it branches out too much from their well-established mix of topical gags and pranks.
Soul Mates, from the team behind online hits the Bondi Hipsters, Beached Az and Trent From Punchy, will see “a couple of buddies who are continually drawn together across the course of human history and into the future” have hopefully hilarious adventures in locations as diverse as Ancient Egypt and late-70s New Zealand. It’s possibly one for the #7DaysLater fans.
Also firmly in high concept territory is The Is Littleton, a sketch show set in and around the fictional Littleton City Council. Those with long memories may remember a similar group sketch show called The Wedge which was a launch pad for Rebel Wilson and This Is Littleton producer Adam Zwar, amongst others. We’re not saying the two concepts (The Wedge was set in the suburb of Wedgedale and featured regular appearances from a variety of kooky characters) are exactly the same, but they are remarkably similar. Hopefully This Is Littleton won’t be as awful, though.
And speaking of potentially awful, wasn’t Don’t Be Afraid of the Darkies part of the 2013 ABC launch? Oh yes, it was. There are many reasons why these things get delayed of course…
But for every return of the likes of the Agony series at least there’s also more Mad As Hell (which is unlikely to be stopped by an election this year) and Dirty Laundry Live, plus new shows from Judith Lucy and Hannah Gadsby. And as no one’s said anything about Clarke & Dawe we’re assuming they’ll be back too. So, not a bad line-up for 2014 from “Aunty”.
As usual, the comedic offerings from the other channels is pretty underwhelming. Nine’s one locally-made comedy is, you guessed it, Hamish & Andy on a gap year. This time the pair are traveling to South America, which just leaves Africa, the Middle East and Antarctica to go – place your bets on where they’ll head in 2015 now!
Over on Ten, they’re talking-up a new 6pm show which will replace The Simpsons and lead in to The Project. Will it be comedy? Unlikely given the network’s recent news and factual focus, but hopefully they’ll bring back the surprisingly good This Week Live in the evenings, and make more of the still-on-air-and-improving-every-week Have You Been Paying Attention?
Seven doesn’t seem to have announced any Australian comedy programs for 2014, so unless they bring back Slide Show the funniest local laughs over there will be the usual parade of delusional hopefuls on The X Factor. Great.
Also less than exciting is SBS’s 2014 comedy line-up, which includes more RocKwiz and The Feed. Having said that, SBS usually manages to sneak out something interesting that’s trying to be funny, so keep your eyes peeled on the schedules.
Foxtel’s history of original comedy programming has always been sporadic but with Santo Sam & Ed’s Total Football going on in to the summer and Justin Hamilton’s Stand Ups Sit Down airing tonight they’re at least still in the game.
And finally, TV Tonight has reported today that Aussie web-based sitcom The Cleanists will start airing on British television from this Sunday. Will it make it to broadcast TV here? And will online premieres increasingly become the norm? 2014 may be the year in which we start to find out…