Winners & Losers

It’s been a big week in Australian comedy, as sports reporters say… only they say “sport” instead of “Australian comedy” thus rendering this opening sentence pretty much useless. And having set the tone for this post, let’s move on:

WINNER: Gristmill and Little Lunch, at least according to this press release:

Little Lunch returns with a special trick or treat or two …..

Friday, May 20, 2016 — The hugely successful Australian children’s series, Little Lunch, will commence filming 2 x 30’ Halloween and Christmas specials for ABC3 in Melbourne next week.

Based on the popular books, written by Danny Katz and illustrated by Mitch Vane, and adapted by Gristmill Productions, both new episodes will feature all original cast members including; Rory (Flynn Curry), Atticus (Joshua Sitch), Battie (Oisin O’Leary), Melanie (Madison Lu), Debra-Jo (Faith Seci), Tamara (Olivia Deeble) and Heidi Arena (The Librarians, Nowhere Boys and Heidi’s Kitchen) as Mrs Gonsha.

Both stories will be written by Gristmill’s Robyn Butler, who will also make her directorial debut shooting the Christmas special.  Tim Bartley will direct the Halloween episode.

Producers Butler and Hope say, “We missed the kids, we missed the school, but mostly we missed the cheese sticks. It will be great to be reunited with all of them.”

Little Lunch wasn’t exactly to our taste – which is only to be expected really, what with us being old farts and so on – but Gristmill generally do good work (let’s just forget Now Add Honey, shall we?), so anything that keeps them in work is good news.

LOSER: Dirty Laundry Live:

ONE of the wittiest shows on Australian TV has been axed.

The ABC panel quiz show Dirty Laundry Live won’t be returning for a fourth season.

The show’s host, Lawrence Mooney, dropped the bombshell on Hit105’s Stav, Abby & Osher this morning.

Dirty Laundry Live has been officially axed,” Mooney said on the breakfast radio show.

“This is the first time I’ve said it publicly. I’m OK, I’m fine … It is not coming back on the ABC.”

This isn’t the world’s biggest surprise – it hadn’t been listed as one of the ABC comedies coming back for 2016 – but it’s still a bit of a sour note. After all, if various budgetary restrictions mean we must have panel shows, then Dirty Laundry Live was pretty much the best we could hope for: usually funny, occasionally informative and with solid chemistry between the regulars, it was the kind of show the ABC should have been able to keep running tucked away somewhere.

But as usual, that kind of thinking is avoiding the harsh realities of the world in which we live:

LOSER: Ben Pobjie:

Oh ho ho, see what we did there? But no, this is actual bad news: as part of their recent round of budget cuts, Fairfax have cut Pobjie’s daily television review spot. While obviously we’d have preferred someone else to be doing that coverage, Pobjie was better than nothing (and, when his word count forced him to be pithy, usually got to the point) and any major media outlet cutting back their daily television coverage is bad news as far as we’re concerned. Plus being sacked – well, being shunted over to The Green Guide, which really just means staving off unemployment for a year at most – as part of budget cuts sucks in general.

SIDEBAR: it seems clear that, as someone who we can’t quite remember already pointed out somewhere else, Fairfax is rapidly moving towards a two-tier model of journalism: a handful of “big names” at the top whose jobs are safe because supposedly they’re writers that people go to Fairfax to read, and then a bunch of badly paid newbies generating everything else that makes Fairfax look like a media organisation and not a joke.

The trouble with this hollowing-out is that it’s being driven by the same people who’ve been driving Fairfax into the ground for years, and so their judgement as to what constitutes their core readership is dubious at best. They sacked (though his Sunday column is still going for now) Leaping Larry L, for fucks sake:

What makes them think we’re going to keep buying their paper now?

LOSER: The Australian Tumbleweeds Blog:

Well, in a way we’re a winner, because recently the fine folk at the I Love Green Guide Letters podcast had Ben Pobjie on as a guest, and for around five minutes or so the topic of discussion was, well, us.

If you want to listen to their take on us, it starts at around the 25 minute mark – though you really should listen to the whole thing, if only to discover that Pobjie is quite confident of his headline-writing ability and the surprising news that Game of Thrones just might be a sequel to Taken.

Also it’s true, we really did say a nice thing (for us) about Dilruk that one time:

the main laughs come from the short interactions between bastard boss Borkman and his subordinate Michael (played by Little Dum Dum Club favourite Dilruk Jayasinha)

As for what Pobjie had to say about us… look, we’re not going to argue with “I’ve got Eric on side, so fuck those guys”. We will argue with us being “some very frustrated young men”, if only because we’ve been doing this for a decade and so clearly our (wasted) youth is long behind us (also: not all of us are men).

But Pobjie does do a decent job of defending himself against our regular accusations that he writes good reviews of Australian comedy shows in the hope that they’ll then employ him, by which we mean he points out that as employment strategies go that approach is probably “the worst way ever” to get a job in Australian television. We’ll leave it up to you to decide if this means we’re wrong as to his eventual goals or just that he’s going about it the wrong way.

And we feel for Pobjie when he says that it’s weird when people won’t just let you disagree with them about a television show – they have to assume you have some kind of “weird, ulterior motive” for having a contrary opinion. Like, we don’t know… assuming the writers are “very frustrated young men”?

Anyway, we answered all this when Pobjie said the exact same stuff back in 2011:

As for this bit from a fictional Angry Boys hater:

”You don’t really like that show. You think you like it because you’ve been hoodwinked by media hype and it’s politically correct and you think this is the sort of show you’re supposed to like. But actually, you hate it, like me, because it’s a bad show, so how could you not hate it?”

Yeah, we’d hate that too. And we’ve actually argued against that kind of lazy criticism before, so clearly Pobjie wasn’t talking about us with that crack, right?

Our completely unfounded and somewhat needy paranoia aside, we don’t doubt for a single solitary second that Angry Boys fans enjoy the show. We’d just like them to explain why without falling back on cliches that are wobbly at best and untrue at worst.

After all, we’re not talking about having a chat with people down the office about a television show. We’re talking about professionals writing thought-out pieces for major newspapers. Pobjie is totally right to say arguing over television is pointless and ugly – when you’re doing it down the pub. When you’re actually writing about television, it’s your job.

Not that Pobjie would agree. This is his final argument:

It’s only TV, after all – it’s important but it doesn’t matter.

An attitude which can be reasonably extended to cover roughly 85% of Western Civilisation and 99% of issues covered in The Age.  So this is a man who’s just written that the sole reason for him being in the paper “doesn’t matter”? Sorry, we didn’t realise we were reading his farewell column.

The really telling bit is when Pobjie says we hate everything “except Shaun Micallef”. Sure, he’s wrong – shit, our last review of Mad as Hell was literally part of a post praising Have You Been Paying Attention? – but that fact that we clearly do like some things kind of sinks the whole “ooh, don’t read those guys, they’re just haters who hate everything”. boat.

Seriously, for haters we sure do seem to like a bunch of stuff. In the last few months alone we’ve given the thumbs up to The Katering Show, Aunty Doona, and the Ronnie Cheung episode of Comedy Showcase alongside usual suspects Mad as Hell, HYBPA? and the work of Clarke & Dawe. The problem seems to be that, unlike the vast majority of Australian TV critics, we tend to point out that a lot of what we’re being served up isn’t as good as those shows. Which, let’s be honest, isn’t news: good luck finding anyone who’ll tell you with a straight face that The Weekly is as good as Mad as Hell, for example.

We all know that every single show on television is the result of weeks of hard work and effort from human beings who are desperately trying their best. We also all know that sometimes the end result is rubbish, and sometimes that’s because the people responsible clearly set out to create rubbish in the first place. Who benefits from pretending otherwise?



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  • Baudolino says:

    Pobjie’s comment about this blog resorting to conspiracy theories and accusations of ulterior motives to explain the dubious quality of his articles must surely be the first recorded instance of a person invoking Hanlon’s Law in their own defence.