How does the ABC start the new comedy year? With an episode of Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery featuring that well-known comedian, er, Kerry O’Brien. Safe to say we didn’t really bother with that one, as entertaining as the 7:30 host-turned Keating interrogator can be. We’ll save ourselves for episode 2: Rebel Wilson. Be back at this blog, same time next week for our take on that one.
Let’s instead move on to the return of The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, big time winner in our recent awards, and on track to win a few more next time ‘round. Disappointingly, little seems to have changed about this program – it still feels like (and largely is) a program that would have been most topical about a week ago. The kangaroo suicide bomber story? That broke almost a week before this episode aired. As did the Mitchell Pearce story. How about the Australian of the Year announcement? That broke A WEEK AND A HALF AGO. Only the stories about big time gambler Paul Phua coming to Crown Casino (which broke Monday) and Trump losing to Cruz in the Iowa Primary (which broke Tuesday) count as recent. And the Trump/Cruz story could have been largely planned weeks in advance anyway.
Does any of this matter? Well, if you’re top and tailing a show airing on the 3rd of February with stories about Australia Day, we think it does. The Weekly is a program which describes itself, amongst other things, as a “news comedy show”. And when everything about the show’s stylings is conveying that this is a local version of The Daily Show/The Colbert Report/Last Week Tonight – shows which are pretty good at keeping it topical – then we the audience are bound to be disappointed by week-and-a-half-old news comedy. And this is even before we get down to the quality of the material.
The argument’s been put many times that in Australia we don’t have the budget to make something like The Daily Show because we just can’t afford the writers and producers necessary to make that kind of program. Which begs the question: why try? Why not make something we can afford to make? Why not come with a show that can include material written and made weeks in advance?
Following Charlie Pickering and co. was the new series of Black Comedy, sporting a new cast member, some new characters, and a sense that the show has matured and improved in the year or so since it was last on air. We’ll post a full review after episode 2, but so far we like the way it’s heading.
Finally, don’t you just love watching British people shitting themselves at the mere thought of encountering creepy crawlies? Yes, Adam Hills and The Last Leg team are here in Australia, traveling from Darwin to Sydney via dodgy transport, and hoping to make it to Sydney in time to celebrate Adam’s grandad’s 97th birthday or something.
It’s not the worst thing ever, but despite all their best efforts to set this up to be really hilarious – a crappy camper van, people out of their comfort zone, physical challenges – this didn’t work for us. People chucking hissy fits, even if they’re kinda justified (we don’t fancy a rickety-looking light aircraft flown by a blind pilot either), aren’t funny.
The gold standard for the comedy travelogue was probably Michael Palin’s Around The World in 80 Days. Not only was Palin a good judge of when to crack gags and when to gaze in awe at the scenery, but the series was buoyed along by a genuine sense of tension that he could easily miss his next travel connection and not make it back to London in his allotted 80 days. In contrast, The Last Leg Down Under feels like three guys wasting time in the desert, when it could have been about as funny and interesting if they’d just got a flight straight to Adam’s Grandad’s Party.
Overall, as a way to start the Wednesday Night Comedy Night year, this could have been a lot, lot better.