One of the advantages sketch comedy has over comedy serials is that producers can re-order them easily. Got lots of funny sketches in episode 2 but less in episode 5? Move some of the strong material from episode 2 to episode 5! Sure, it doesn’t make the series funnier overall, but it at least it ensures there’s a consistent level of funny.
The makers of Soul Mates have no such luxury. If there’s a laugh lull in one of their sketch serials, they’re buggered. What’s that you say? They could make their serials consistently funnier in the first place? True. But given that we’re halfway through the second series of Soul Mates we think it’s fair to make the following call: the makers of Soul Mates are happy with the level they’re on. They haven’t learnt from the mistakes they made in series 1, they’ve just given us more of the same:
Hipsters are funny because they have beards and stupid clothes, and come up with stupid ideas for shops, and have rich parents who keep funding their bound-to-fail schemes. 1980s secret agents from New Zealand are funny because they have stupid accents and moustaches, and they’re going to a ridiculous amount of effort to get back their national pride. And cave people are funny because… oh, you get the idea.
The comic premise behind Soul Mates is that it’s funny if you take some pop-culture stereotypes and put them into a hyperreal context. And that’s it. You don’t need to write funny lines for the characters, you just need to get them to behave as they’d behave and it’s automatically funny.
Or, in other words, it’s taking the theory of how to write drama – that you create some characters and put them into a situation and the drama comes from the characters interacting with each other in the context of the circumstances they’re in – and applying that to comedy. Problem is, you don’t get big laughs that way. In comedy, characters don’t need to be well-defined – in fact, it helps if they’re not. And in comedy, it’s acceptable to be a little flexible with your characters if it allows them to deliver a killer line to gets laughs.
The makers of Soul Mates don’t even have the dramedy excuse to fall back on (you know the one, it’s where half an hour of television comedy with no laughs in it gets away with it because it’s not all about the laughs, there’s actually a dramatic subtext to this, yeah?), they’ve just produced something that isn’t particularly hilarious.
There are three more episodes of Soul Mates to go. And given there’s US money behind it, probably a whole bunch more to come. Great. We really, really hope you enjoy them, coz we sure ain’t!