Fresh Blood pt.1: BedHead on Arrival

When we first encountered BedHead in the ABC’s 2014 online comedy initiative Fresh Blood, it’s safe to say we weren’t overly impressed. So of course, it was one of the five shows to be given the chance to come back in sitcom length-form. As a relationship comedy, surely the extra airtime would be used to flesh out the characters, make the storylines more involving, and just generally provide a richer, deeper experience, right?

If the use of the word “surely” in the previous paragraph didn’t already give it away, then no. The sitcom-length version of BedHead did none of those things. In fact, in more than a few ways it was actually a step back from the original five minute version. We didn’t exactly love the Peep Show-style voice over narration in the original version, but at least it provided another potential avenue for comedy; without it, what’s left is little more than an extremely basic “will they or won’t they, oh wait they just did but it was totes awkward so they’re pretending they didn’t even though it’s obvious they both still want to” sitcom.

There are a lot of problems with BedHead, and the opening scene – Nick is wanking over computer porn, so of course he’s completely naked, then when he gets a Skype call he answers it and on no it’s Sophie his best friend! – is a pretty good advertisement for all of them. Basically, it’s not realistic, but it’s not so over-the-top that it’s funny in itself. It’s just implausible, which is not a good note to strike in a rom-com.

The set-up that follows is so generic the only real explanation is that someone high up at the ABC said “we need one of those relationship comedies like, um, Coupling? Or the Ross and Rachel bits of Friends?” Sophie has split with her man so she’s coming back to Australia and wants to move in with Nick, which she does and that night in they drunkenly have sex. THE MOST AWKWARD SEX EVER.

Unfortunately for this show, awkward sex stopped being hilarious around 2005, so this scene is just awkward: he over-thinks things, he can’t remove a bra, he can’t stop talking during oral sex… is anyone else seeing the actual problem here? Is sex just a thing a man does to a woman? Oh wait, she finally goes the grope and it’s not fun for anyone. Just like watching this scene.

The real problem at the core of Bedhead is that Sophie is one half of the show but gets 0% of the personality. All we know about her is that she broke up with her partner and is friends with Nick. That’s it. It’s a good performance from Sarah Bishop, but it’s a nothing role. Not that Nick has much more going on, but there is one scene where we find out he’s – shock – a bit of a nerd. Which provides at least some shading to the “gormless loser” performance given by Paul Ayre.

This kind of rom-com is a tricky balancing act. The characters have to be bland – uh, “universal” – enough that the audience can project themselves into the situations they’re dealing with, and yet not so bland that they’re ciphers. Bedhead? Ciphers all the way. And it doesn’t help in the slightest that the core dilemma – Nick and Sophie like each other but their awkward sex session means they’re now acting like they’re not romantically interested in each other – is utterly generic. If you’re going to do a “will they or won’t they” story, it helps if we actually care them enough to care if they will or not.

Character criticism would be a minor issue if there was anything else going on here, but the back half of the episode involves Mick meeting co-worker Daisy at a bar and – despite pretty much throwing himself at an oblivious Sophie (one of the many things this show gets wrong is not realising that 80% of the time people know when a friend is crushing on them) who is also at the bar – he ends up going back to their office to have sex with her. Shock twist: Daisy, despite seeming to be a sweet nerd, is actually a violent sexual psycho. Remember how the awkward sex was horrible instead of funny? Same deal.

So Nick is a sad sack loser who somehow has (bad) sex with two different women in twenty four hours. Meanwhile, Soph is this desirable and amazing women Nick’s been in love with for years, only she has no personality whatsoever. Bedhead would be an offensively stereotypical male fantasy if only it seemed smart enough to be pandering to male fantasies. Instead, it’s just a lazy mess.

Of course, if this does go to series it could easily turn itself around. It’s just sloppy, not terrible. But if it did suddenly put all the pieces together, it’d only ever be a retread of every other dull sitcom based around whether two people are going to have sex. The characters are utterly forgettable, they inhabit a world that is completely without quirk or humour, and their every feeling and situation is taken from a dozen other sitcoms whose heyday was a decade ago.

And on top of all that, it’s just not that funny.

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