You know how when you’re watching the Agony series and you’re not laughing? That was intentional this week. At least for the first 15 minutes of the show, because they were talking about the burka. Yes the burka, a Muslim thing that you definitely can’t joke about in case ISIS are watching and will become so outraged that they’ll blow up the ABC.
Okay we know that the cultural sensitivity on display here was well meant and that Muslims don’t have an easy time of it out there in the land of the fair go, but this was a pretty odd gear shift for a show for which glib attempts at comedy are its raison d’etre. Especially when they started talking about bikinis in the second half of the program and it was basically wall-to-wall middle-aged blokes dribbling and leering at the mere thought of young ladies wearing the skimpy bathing costume in question. Imagine Sid James in a Carry On film reacting to a young woman in a skimpy outfit, except it was Steve Vizard reacting to whatever was happening in his evil mind. Ugh.
On the other hand, as it’s rare for the Agony series to have a point in existing beyond being a holding pen for out-of-work stand-ups and weird old black and white footage of domestic scenes, we should possibly praise it for teasing out all the contradictory opinions one can have about the burka and for airing them on primetime television in a way that wasn’t politically loaded. A similar dissection of this issue in almost any other televised form would have been a shouty, biased, pointless shit fight – whether on Channel 9 or ABC Local radio – yet when it was this particular bunch of celebrity talking heads mulling it over, the discussion was weirdly sensible. Likeable even, if somewhat incoherent.
Normally talking heads take a topic and ruin it for us all, turning it in to a pile of pointless mush. But here the “Aunts and Uncles” managed to take one of the most controversial topics in modern day Australia and neutralise it. We’re almost grateful.
But then they turned their attention to the bikini and, yep…Steve Vizard. Over the next few weeks Steve and chums will be discussing God, secrets and flirting. We’re not promising to watch.