Press release time!
Actually, it’s a pretty big press release, as the ABC has just announced a hefty chunk of what they’ll be coughing up in 2016. So let’s focus on the comedy bits:
ABC iview will continue to lead the way with a range of digital-first exclusives, including the second series of the highly inappropriate and hilarious YouTube hit, The Katering Show. You Can’t Ask That will pose the awkward questions you’ve always wanted to ask but never could; and from WA’s up-and-coming online stars Mad Kids, a comedy about a group of reporters at DAFUQ?, the hottest thing in non-mainstream, cross platform news.
We also have a hilarious line-up of funny and entertaining programming for 2016.
Comedian Luke McGregor takes us on an embarrassingly honest and humorous look at sex in Luke Warm Sex; he’ll also pair up with Celia Pacquola to star in Rosehaven, a new comedy series filmed in rural Tasmania.
The ABC Comedy Showroom brings together some of Australia’s best comedic talent – including Eddie Perfect, Ronnie Chieng, Lawrence Mooney, Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan – for six new pilots, each the first episodes of a brand new sitcom. Audiences will get to vote on the episodes they’d like to see as a full series.
There are new seasons of firm favourites including Black Comedy, Upper Middle Bogan, Soul Mates, Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell, The Weekly with Charlie Pickering and Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery.
Two shows with Luke McGregor? Guess with Utopia and Dirty Laundry Live nowhere to be seen the ABC has to keep the McGregor levels up somehow. Oh, and there’s also this:
the hit series Stop Laughing… This Is Series returns to more deeply explore how humour, laughter and comedy have been integral to our national identity.
On the one hand, it’s nice to see that someone, maybe, agreed with us that three hours isn’t sufficient to tell the history of Australian comedy. But actually, we’re guessing that after editing the interviews so heavily for the first show they realised they had more than enough offcuts to piece together a whole new series. Get ready to compare and contrast haircuts and backgrounds between both series!
So, to begin an overly extended conclusion, what’s notable here is what’s not mentioned. No Gruen? No Chaser? But as they’re usually sprung upon us towards the end of the year, we’re going to pencil them in anyway.
And where’s the big flashy exciting items? Even last year they had “Shaun Micallef sitcom!” to get people excited, and before that there was “Chris Lilley’s Back!”, “Spicks & Specks is back!”, “Denton is back!”, and you get the idea. Yes, they pretty much always fizzled out, but that wasn’t the point – they sounded exciting (to a general audience) and drew attention to the comedy line-up as a whole.
But there’s literally nothing here to get anyone not already fully invested in comedy paying attention. Seriously, when you’re leading off your comedy line-up with not one but two shows featuring Luke McGregor – who is very funny but is yet to become an established draw – you’re not doing much to get the general public excited about comedy in 2016.
Also, bad news for all those First Blood contestants: looks like the “real” ABC has ignored all their hard work and gone ahead with their own comedy contest. Note: “Audiences will get to vote on the episodes they’d like to see as a full series” does in no way imply that any of the pilots will actually get a full series.
But the big stand out is the return (for an unprecedented third season) of Upper Middle Bogan. Gee, aside from Shaun Micallef’s Ex-PM (which does not seem to be returning), has the current head of scripted ABC comedy actually developed any scripted ABC comedy (as opposed to picking up former ABC2 series) during his reign? In fact, doesn’t the return of a show that – if rumours are correct – he definitively said would not be returning on his watch put his position under something of a shadow? Not that his co-workers were casting shade his way at a recent public function that we definitely didn’t attend.
Otherwise, once the thrill of seeing potentially interesting new shows has passed, we’re once again left with the sight of the ABC doing their best to make a tight budget stretch. Panel shows are out (thank fuck); a host wandering around talking to unpaid guests and extras is in. It’s a safe line-up at a time when television audiences are declining: by failing to either rope in some actual big names or come up with anything really exciting, it’s a little too much like the worst of all worlds.