In this the second of our blogs about Comedy Showroom, the ABC’s pilot season, we look at the final three programs. The episodes are going to air at 9:00pm on Wednesdays on ABC while all six episodes of the series are now available on iView. You can read our blog about the first three shows here.
Who’s Involved? Eddie Perfect (Offspring, Shane Warne: The Musical) wrote the script and the music and plays the lead role. Matthew Saville (Please Like Me, We Can Be Heroes) is the director.
What’s It About? Eddie is an inner city stay at home Dad who lives in a nice house and seems to spend his time looking after his two-year-old daughter and doing DIY while his wife works. According to this article on TV Tonight, Eddie’s a musician, although there’s very little evidence in the pilot that he has any kind of career, apart from maybe the scene where Paul Kelly turns up to sing a song while Eddie’s building a deck. In fact, it’s almost like they forgot to set up the fact that Eddie plays gigs at night, or whatever he does, and just thought it would be funny for Paul Kelly to turn up and play for a bit. Er, okay…
Is It Funny? No, it’s just weird. And badly done weird at that. There are various scenes where the show tries to get laughs based on heightened realism or bizarre surrealism, but it just doesn’t work. The first scene ends with Eddie being chased out of the local park and one of the people chasing him being knocked down by a taco truck. Later, when Eddie has to take his daughter to a friend’s birthday party, Eddie complains that the birthday boy is a little shit, yet we never meet the boy. The closest we get is meeting the boy’s Mum, who takes the present Eddie’s bought and smashes it up. There’s an implication that she does this because her son would just end up breaking it, but that’s never made clear. It’s just basically a 30-something woman smashing up a wrapped gift box while Eddie doesn’t really react. Also, is Eddie some kind of sociopath? Or is his wife? Or are all the characters?
Should It Get A Series? Not on the basis of this, it shouldn’t. This show really needs to work out what it wants to be and how it’s trying to get laughs. Is it a dramedy or a piece of avant-garde surrealism? Or an unwanted revival of whatever style of program Ally McBeal was, but with sociopaths.
Who’s Involved? This is written by Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan (The Katering Show), with Kate McLennan in the lead role of Anna. Also in the cast are McCartney as Anna’s boss, Jean Kittson (Let The Blood Run Free, Kittson Fahey) as Anna’s Mum and Shane Bourne (City Homicide, Hey! Hey! It’s Saturday, Are You Being Served?) as Anna’s Dad. Kate McCartney is the director.
What’s It About? Based on McCartney and McLennan’s web series of the same name, this is about what happens when graphic designer Anna loses her job and her boyfriend on the same day, and realises she’s a friendless, directionless loser whose only choice is to move back in with parents who are, at best, indifferent to her.
Is It Funny? Sort of. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Anna, who, while fairly annoying, doesn’t really deserve this. And it’s here the problem lies: it’s hard to laugh at the various quite funny things that happen because it keeps cutting to Anna’s heartbroken face. As the series develops it will probably get funnier, but, as the title says, things are pretty bleak in episode 1.
Should It Get A Series? Maybe. As we said above, this will have to become a lot funnier fairly quickly to justify taking this to a full series, but there are good indications that it could do so. The cast includes a number of great comedy actors, with fabulous timing – Jean Kittson as Anna’s drunk/indifferent Mum especially – and McLennan and McCartney can always be relied upon to get laughs. However, we felt the visual scenes could have been better written and directed – the scene where Anna steals bubbly, champagne flutes and a cheese platter from her parent’s kitchen should have been a lot funnier, for example. Also, Anna’s going to need to start winning at some point, or this will just feel like it’s about laughing at a loser.
Who’s Involved? Lawrence Mooney (Dirty Laundry Live, stand-up) plays the title role and is credited with additional material while Scott Taylor (Neighbours, Home & Away) wrote the script. Ian Smith (Neighbours, Prisoner) plays Lawrence’s colleague Ian, and the show’s directed by Clayton Jacobson (Kenny).
What’s It About? When we meet Lawrence he’s being arrested for drunk driving in a golf cart as part of a celebrity golf day bet gone wrong. But it turns out that Lawrence isn’t actually much of a celebrity, he’s a midnight-to-dawn DJ on Soft FM, he’s in his 40’s, and his heavy drinking, partying ways have clearly taken their toll. But on the plus side, maybe, his girlfriend’s pregnant and he’s starting to realise that he needs to straighten out his life and get a job he finds more satisfying. Can he do it?
Is It Funny? A bit. Lawrence Mooney’s a funny guy, and Ian Smith (Lawrence’s sort of sidekick and foil) is a good character actor, but the script really lets things down. Maybe it’s because most of the show’s set at night in either the seedy radio station or near the dodgy kebab van Lawrence frequents, but it just reminds us a lot of Roy Hollsdotter Live, a bleak but fairly realistic telling of the what show business at the mildly-successful-but-this-won’t-last end is like. There are many moments that could have been a lot funnier if they’d been better written and directed, but most of the time this is a pretty downbeat show.
Should It Get A Series? Maybe. We can imagine a series where Lawrence, having quit his job at the radio station, tries his hand at various day jobs and fails. And although this pilot’s not amazingly funny, it’s well-enough executed to suggest it could have a series in it. We’re not sure how Ian’s going to fit in, though, what with Lawrence not having to work with him anymore, and the pair hating each other. Maybe they’ll move in together and it will get all The Odd Couple?
From what I’ve seen so far, Ronny Chieng is the clear winner. There is a reason for this: structure. The jokes are structured. There are setups and payoffs, both comedically and narratively. Bleak almost did it (loved the bro) but it came off as a bit of a mess in the end (also a woman in the throes of grief for fifteen minutes is not funny). The Future Is Expensive was weirdly hateful and lifted jokes from Anchorman.
If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that not many standups or performers can move across into narrative comedy that easily. Oh, and let’s call a halt on comics trying to do their own Louie (Mooney, I’m looking at you). Reminds me of the bad old days when pitches for Curb Your Enthusiasm rip offs bedevilled innocent producers all over town.
After seeing the kind of people involved in these comedy pilots, I would have expected better quality material. I think it’s a telltale sign that the ABC themselves aren’t exactly waving their arms in the air with joy over this experiment. That’s why they’ve turned it over to us, the viewers, to choose one of the less offending turds in the pile.
Comedy Showroom only reminds us that this whole test is a complete waste of time and money. The problem with all these pilots was that the narratives were hollow and soulless. It’s hard to see beyond the pilots where they could possibly go if commissioned into a series (Why?!), given that the settings were all written or centred around the same joke. It becomes tedious and repetitious very quickly.
The jokes were also derivative, clichéd and embarrassingly stereotypical, it was like watching a terrible 80’s sitcom shot today. I wish Australia could be more adventurous when it comes to comedy. The problem is we tend to do more sketch comedies than narrative. Sketch shows are a pathetically tired and dated format, they seldom hit the mark these days.
We attempt to write narrative comedies with sketch humour mindsets. It doesn’t work. The key is simple, write your story and characters, and then, then you insert the comedy. There’s too much trying to be funny. Let the humour come naturally. I think Australia should try to venture into darker comedy. But we tend to shy away from that because we don’t like being negative or just straight out cynical (excluding satirical shows).
Very disappointing. I wish there had been at least one pilot that was excellent. But as usual, nothing to see here.