It may have snuck back onto our (digital) screens with a lot less fanfare than it did in 2014, but Troy Kinne’s 7Mate sketch show Kinne is still well worth checking out. What’s that? An Australian sketch comedy show that’s actually not all bad? And it’s on a commercial network? Yeah, we’re as surprised as you are.
In part our surprise comes from the fact that Kinne suffers from the same, usually fatal flaws that have crippled sketch comedy in this country for a decade or more: running gags and plenty of them. Is the Impromptu Lifeguard back? Yes he is. Is “Things Never Said” back? Yes it is. And yet for the most part Kinne makes this stuff work by keeping his various standard premises (relatively) wide open.
While the Impromptu Lifeguard is a regular character, he’s dumped into a bunch of different circumstances where the main factor is that he’s a bungling dickhead: it isn’t the kind of sketch where he does the exact same thing as every other time only the big joke is that the setting’s changed, which was a problem that killed off more than a few of the sketches on Black Comedy.
Likewise, “Things Never Said” is a premise that’s loose enough to cover pretty much anything in the public conciousness – and it’s usually rapid-fire enough to ensure by the time you’re tired of this week’s target the segment’s over. It’s basically a YouTube clip (unsurprisingly, as YouTube is where Kinne first made his mark), but at least the comedians learning their trade on YouTube are learning that packing a lot of jokes into a small space is a good way to ensure that you at least get a few laughs.
Kinne’s added Roz Hammond and Ronny Chieng to the cast for this series, which means he’s now able to cover pretty much the full range of human relationships (plus, you know, they’re both funny). Which is important, because relationships are a very large part of what this show’s about. Yes, as we said last year, Kinne largely looks at relationships (and society in general) from the POV of a straight white vaguely sports-loving dude in his 20s (which is basically the most boring possible standpoint to approach comedy from these days) but Kinne and his team put in a solid effort to ensure the jokes come from a variety of angles – and that the kind of characters Kinne himself plays are the butt of the joke at least as often as not.
Mind you, it’s not all gold here: The on-the-street stuff is a bit wobbly at times – using as-seen-on-Tinder pick-up lines in real life is funny if you like awkward encounters, not so funny from any other direction, though the actual sketch turned out to be a bit less creepy than it could have been – and there’s only so much “have you ever noticed” material we need to see in half an hour.
The real strength here is Kinne himself: he’s blokey enough to have the kind of mainstream appeal required on commercial TV, but he’s able to undercut or play against the blokey stuff when a joke requires it (as seen in the early sketch where he plays a game show host nowhere near over his ex). Despite butting up against the occasional limits of his chosen subject matter (there’s a lot of “guys are like this, girls are like that” material here and his insights range from sharply observed to “yep, guys sure do like fixing stuff”) this is still the best traditional sketch show Australia currently has going.
And yes, we wish that was higher praise.