A little under a year ago we flipped our lids when the Australian Writer’s Guild awards – known as the AWGIES – gave Wednesday Night Fever their “Comedy – Sketch or Light Entertainment” prize. Our readers were quick to inform us that while this was obviously a result no-one could be happy with, it wasn’t quite as bad as it originally seemed… mostly because the AWGIES are generally seen as a bit of a joke.
That’s because a): you have to be an AWG member to nominate your show – yes, as the scriptwriter of your show you’re clearly best positioned to decide that your show should win an award – and b): hardly anyone of note in the world of Australian comedy is a member. So you’d think the announcement of this year’s nominations would pass by with nary a murmur from us now that we know they mean pretty much nothing. But you’d be wrong!
If this line-up from the 2015 Awgie nominees wasn’t grim enough:
COMEDY – SITUATION OR NARRATIVE
Maximum Choppage: ‘A Fistful of Pastels’ – Lawrence Leung
It’s A Date: Series 2, ‘Worst Thing’ – Phil Lloyd with Peter Helliar
Danger 5: ‘Back to the Führer’ – Dario Russo and David Ashby
Please Like Me: Series 2, ‘Scroggin’ – Josh Thomas
Then say hello to the true face of terror:
COMEDY – SKETCH OR LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
Only one nomination and the winner will be announced on the night.
Just FYI, the sketch comedies in 2014 were: Black Comedy, Clarke & Dawe, Fresh Blood, Kinne, Legally Brown, Mad As Hell, The Roast, Soul Mates, and This Is Littleton.
Shows that could be considered “Light Ent” in 2014 were: The Agony of Modern Manners, Back Seat Drivers, Bogan Hunters, The Chaser’s Media Circus, Comedy Up Late, Dirty Laundry Live, The Friday Night Crack Up, Hamish & Andy’s South American Gap Year, Have You Been Paying Attention?, Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery, Plonk, The Project, Reality Check, Spicks & Specks, Stand Up @ Bella Union, and Total Football. Only one nomination you say?
Meanwhile, over in narrative comedy we had the following in 2014: Die On Your Feet, It’s A Date, Jonah From Tonga, Please Like Me, The Moodys, Upper Middle Bogan, Utopia, Maximum Choppage, and Danger 5. And yet this was the best they could do? Well, at least no-one nominated Jonah.
(and what happened with The Moodys? They were all over this last year)
Fortunately it’s not all horrible, horrible news:
DRAMA OR COMEDY, OTHER FORM
Crazy Bastards: Episodes 1-3 – Justin Heazlewood
The Katering Show – Kate McLennan with Kate McCartney
BedHead: Episode 1 and 4 – Jon Dalgaard and Claire Phillips with Tom Keele, Reece Jones and Ben Mathews
Restoration – Stuart Willis with Matthew Clayfield
Maybe the future of Australian comedy really is online after all?
We don’t want to say the AWGIES are complete and utter rubbish – we wouldn’t bother mentioning them if they were. And in some areas, such as feature films, they seem at least moderately representative. But when it comes to comedy the fact is that they are rubbish, for two reasons:
*They’re rubbish because they’re not representative – it’s a member’s only club.
*They’re rubbish because of the shows nominated – if this is the best they can attract, no wonder the big names steer clear.
There’s a very large gap in the awards market for something aimed at praising quality rather than popularity, chosen by people who actually know their stuff rather than just shout the loudest. By focusing on the writing side of things, you might think the AWGIES could be those awards – but only if you knew nothing about them.
I’m an AWG member, and I’m constantly shocked at the crap they nominate. I suspect I’m not alone. You have to remember that most AWG members work in the soap opera industry (sorry, the technical term is “serial TV”). They once sent out an email newsletter which described Wonderland as “one of our finest dramas.”
The AWG is a lot like the AFI. Their attitude to awards is that you reward the also-rans, just like you’d give a prize to the disabled kid at an egg-and-spoon race because he managed to crawl across the finish line 12 minutes after everyone else.
The AWGIES from my understanding are only judging the script. i.e the people judging may not have even seen the finished product. In fact I don’t think they even need to submit the shooting script. As I haven’t read any of the scripts in isolation I find it hard to judge if the Moody’s scripts for example reads well of the page. Maybe please like me reads a lot funnier without the accent?
As for it being a members only club, of course it is. So are the AACTA’s , so are the Helpmanns. Heck even the Logies limited the number of nominations per network per category. So it’s not representative either.
But yes I take your point it’s not remotely representative particularly when it comes to comedy as a lot of people aren’t AWG members. But if everyone in their little club wants to give out some awards to members of their club does it really matter? It’s just inconsequential backslapping.