Fancy Fest

In news that will surprise no-one – mostly because it seems to have been announced then ignored months ago – sketch comedy group Fancy Boy were one of the big winners out of the ABC’s Fresh Blood program:

ABC has a new sketch comedy series in production, Fancy Boy, which was part of the Fresh Blood iview initiative.

The six-part series, produced by December Media in association with Checkpoint Media and Fancy Boy TV, commenced production in Melbourne this week.

It features writer / performers John Campbell, Stuart Daulman, Greg Larsen, Henry Stone and Jonathan Schuster, joined by Anne Edmonds. The iview series also included guest appearances by names such as Luke McGregor, Celia Pacquola and Ronny Chieng.

A press release describes Fancy Boy as living somewhere between the moody and the downright dark: “The show finds comedy in the stranger corners of suburbia: in the couple whose communication breakdown leads to a kidnap; in the artist who loses everything over his obsession with fart sounds; in the mum who struggles to accept her missing teen back into the family, mainly because he returns with a full beard and a foreign accent.”

Due to premiere later this year on ABC, it will also get a run on NBC-Universal’s SVOD comedy platform Seeso.

Ah, co-productions. Where would be we without them? Watching a lot less Please Like Me, for starters.

We really wish we were more surprised by this result, especially as we were only mildly impressed with Fancy Boys’ Fresh Blood effort:

So while this isn’t always kicking goals, it’s doing a decent job of serving up fresh jokes even when it keeps returning to various set-ups. We’d still rather that some – most – of the sketches were one-offs (having the shit-in-the-sink set-up turn into one of those “exasperated lead is the only person who can see the obvious” sketches so beloved of The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting was a big let down, even for a sketch that started out with someone shitting in a sink), but if you have to keep going back to sketches this is the way to do it.

But as Blind Freddy could see that the ABC’s online comedy department was only ever going to be interested in sketch material because sketch material is what works online, the news that a fairly average sketch show got the nod (twice, if Skit Box really did also get the green light) is no surprise at all.

That’s why we’ve been so anti the ABC’s current fondness for selecting comedy programs by competition. You know what, guys? Sometimes it’s okay to say “we’re only interested in sketch shows at the moment”. We’d also prefer you to say “we’ve got enough series featuring vaguely arrogant white guys in their 20s killing time before their advertising careers take off”, but that’s up to you. You’re the people running the network: you’re allowed to pick what types of shows you want to put to air. Especially when quotes like this reveal a natural talent for getting laughs:

ABC’s Head of Entertainment, Jon Casimir, said “Fancy Boy made their name as a transgressive and weird live act, willing to go to places others wouldn’t. But what really marks their work is not just the boldness of their intent, it’s the heart and insight that underpins it. Fancy Boy sketches make you laugh but surprisingly, they also make you feel.”

We’ll leave it up to you to guess what we’re currently feeling.

The fact is, when you need a two year-long public competition to give Fancy Boy six episodes, it looks a little too much like everyone involved is more interested in covering their arse than presenting the viewers with a product that management can stand behind. And from the way Fancy Boy hammered a handful of uninspired ideas into the ground in their Fresh Blood pilot, who can blame management for wanting to have their excuses ready?

Of course, Fancy Boy are all up-and-comers, so there’s still a good chance that their actual sketch show is going to be a tightly focused effort packed with ideas and not some endlessly meandering snore-fest involving a gaggle of forgettable reoccurring characters and one-laugh ideas dragged out across three or four segments. But they’re not all up-and-comers, are they? While the new guys get to do most of the heavy lifting, both their original Fresh Blood sketches and their longer second round pilot have featured more established names – most notably Luke McGregor.

So wait, let’s get this straight: the winner of the ABC’s totally random, let-the-best-show-win online comedy competition was a): a trad sketch show that was b): featuring a comedian already appearing in two separate ABC shows in 2016? Why exactly did they need to spend two years running a public competition to get that result?

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  • EvilCommieDictator says:

    “we’ve got enough series featuring vaguely arrogant white guys in their 20s killing time before their advertising careers take off””

    When’s the Election Gruen special on again *sound of head finally breaking through brick wall*

  • Matlock says:

    Fancy Boy getting the show off the back of their live shows, but they weren’t doing sketch comedy and now they’re got a show where that’s what they’ll be doing. Their live shows were more bits of character comedy framed as a variety show that parodied types of comedy and other live acts. It’s a bit weird to then get them to do something completely diferent.