Come on, entertain us!

Yesterday it was announced that Jon Casimir, currently an executive producer at Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder, will start work as the ABC’s Head of Entertainment in April. Sophia Zachariou, who has been acting Head of Entertainment, now has a new job as Deputy Head of Entertainment (overseeing entertainment and non-narrative comedy), while Rick Kalowski (producer of Wednesday Night Fever) remains as Head of Comedy (responsible for sketch and narrative comedy). This isn’t exactly a comedy dream team.

Casimir is best known for co-creating The Gruen Transfer with Andrew Denton, and working on other Zapruder/Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder productions such as Enough Rope, The Joy of Sets, Randling and Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery. According to his biography on the (mysteriously still on the web) Randling website, before moving in to television Casimir spent almost two decades working as a journalist and editor at the Sydney Morning Herald, whilst also dabbling in radio and writing books.

On the one hand, Casimir’s appointment makes sense, he co-created a massive and continuing hit for the ABC in the Gruen franchise. On the other hand, he also co-created Randling, an epic fail of a panel show that cost the ABC more than whatever 27 half hours of shithouse panel show costs to make, it cost them in ratings, audience goodwill and credibility. You know, the kind of things you don’t wanna lose.

Still, we should probably wait until Casimir actually commissions some shows before we judge him. Unlike Rick Kalowski, who looked like a bad bet going in to the Head of Comedy job with a CV that included being producer of Double Take and script editor of Comedy Inc, Casimir has worked on some decent shows. And he may not necessarily give us a Wednesday Night Fever. Our fear is more that he’ll commission more of the sort of not-really-comedy comedy that he’s best known for. Shows which feature smug people behind desks spouting light-hearted waffle. And that may be the sort of thing that some people like to watch, but for us that’s not entertainment.

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  • Andrew says:

    The Joy Of Sets was disappointing but it had potential, surely it could be tried again by ABC instead of Channel 9?

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    From the little we know of the production history of Joy of Sets, it was pitched (and most likely bought) as “Gruen, but about TV”. Then when Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee were hired as hosts, they took it in a different direction. So Casimir probably can’t take much credit for what went to air – and he may not feel enough of a connection with it to even consider bringing it back.

  • BIlly C says:

    Well he’s worked on some shows that ABC audiences really like and that’s the job really. Make stuff the audience likes.

    Randling was a disaster but you can’t get it right all the time

    The difference is that Rick Kalowski has made a lot of comedy but hasn’t really made anything an audience has found funny. At home with Julia dropped in the ratings once the novelty passed. It had a few okay lines Phil Lloyd probably slipped in. Now he’s in charge of determining what’s funny. Although in defence of Wednesday Night fever’s ratings it’s not far off the new Spicks and Specks. 400,000 seems to be the new 800,000.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    “Randling was a disaster but you can’t get it right all the time”.

    No, Randling was the biggest on-air disaster the ABC’s had in at least five years. And starting any sentence with “in defence of Wednesday Night Fever” is pretty dubious too. Seriously, there are people out there making television who *haven’t* been intimately involved in massive cringe-worthy flops, yet somehow they don’t seem to get anywhere near the good jobs at the ABC. Why is that?

  • BIlly C says:

    Yeah but you’re assuming those people want to work at the ABC in management. Which I find dubious.
    It’s not like you’re making shows, you’re supervising and giving notes and generally being a pain.
    If I worked in tv I’d rather actually make something than commission. There is also this assumption that there are wonderful shows being put across desks that are being knocked back. They don’t have the money for development deals. They have things like fresh blood which is $10,000 to make stuff that should cost more than $10,000.

    Look I think you’re right to say Randling was a disaster but lets be honest they gave the guy who made Double Take the head of comedy job. Who do you think else applied?

  • Urinal Cake says:

    There’s probably few people in Australia with relevant managerial experience in ‘entertainment and non-narrative comedy’. The ABC is probably a stressful proposition at the moment with an uncertain future. They could’ve hired someone outside the industry or country but that would’ve upset the current employees too much.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    The point is this: if you’re hiring a person to commission shows, maybe you should consider someone who doesn’t have a proven track record of creating crap. And we’re not talking not “no-one watched it, but it has its fans” crap – these guys have made shows that no-one watched and no-one liked. They might be great at managing money, but they’ve been hired as commissioning editors: what qualifies them to oversee a creative process?

    Publishers don’t usually hire editors who’ve written high profile flop books; movie studios don’t generally hire executives who’ve made dud films. In part that’s because creating and supervising are two entirely different skills: it shouldn’t be a case that “oh, you’ve failed at actually doing the hard work, we’ll promote you to supervise the people who do the hard work”. Because that is a stupid way to run a business.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    And yet, from the little we’ve heard the hiring of Rick Kowalski did a pretty good job of upsetting a large swathe of the ABC’s actually successful comedy employees. It’d be better to hire someone from outside who might piss off some of the current staff rather than hiring someone who’s kind of inside who will piss off almost all of the current staff.

  • Rutegar says:

    I think people have to appreciate that the job title Arts Bureaucrat pretty much requires an absence of creative talent and an ability to isolate and nurture talent when they see it.

    If they were that creatively talented, they would be doing it themselves.

    If they were able to indentify sure-fire talent, they’d be making mega-bucks working in Hollywood.

    Of course, such home truths aren’t popular, but on the other hand, if it means audiences temper their expectations that anything remotely funny will be result, then some agony will be spared.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    I think you’ll upset most employees who are underneath the ‘new guy’ but for the people on his level of the hierarchy and higher were probably happy. Kowalski knew the organisation’s culture, is competent enough to do his job but not great to be a threat to upper management (for the recent future). Those are the people with ‘say’.

    The thing is current ‘comedy employees’ of the ABC don’t really have any other options in Australia.