The Vagaries of ABC Scheduling (vale Soul Mates series 2)

So who knew Soul Mates series 2 wrapped last week? Not us, clearly – we bought the DVD when it came out last week and finished up the series by watching that rather than stuffing around with all that old-fashioned television bizzo. Yes, basic maths would have pointed out that a six part series was going to run for six weeks, how observant of you, why don’t you bugger off back to the CSIRO and let regular people get back to counting on their fingers.

To be fair to us – oh right, better wrap up Soul Mates first: does anyone else get the feeling that the Bondi Hipsters (aka Connor Van Vuuren, Christiaan Van Vuuren and Nicholas Boshier), like a lot of other comedy teams of recent vintage, are not really all that great when it comes to coming up with actual stories? Not that they really need to, obviously, but of the four stories this season the two that largely worked for us were the ones making fun of specific things – hipsters with the Bondi Hipsters, and various 80s cultural guff / New Zealand-Australia rivalry with the Kiwi Assassins.

The other two stories – the Egyptian stuff and the cave dudes – held together roughly as well but didn’t really have a strong comedy hook to disguise the fact that they weren’t really holding together all that well. Plus we’re not really talking about subtle and nuanced characters across the board here; when you’re making a six part series built on characters that are basically one-joke characters – and three times out of four you told the joke last season – you better have a joke with multiple angles to it.

The reason why sketch shows of the 80s and 90s had large writing staff is because characters like the ones in Soul Mates just aren’t strong enough to take up seven minutes a week for six weeks. They’re sketch characters, not sitcom characters (ok, the Bondi Hipsters could maybe handle their own sitcom). They’re decent sketch characters – give them half as much air time and they’d be twice as funny – but Soul Mates still ends up spinning its wheels a lot because it really needs something else (more characters, one-off comedy bits, just five minutes of something different scattered throughout to break things up) to really make it a decently funny half hour.

Anyway, the real blame for us failing to notice Soul Mates had finished is not us falling asleep each week trying to make it through Gruen, but the recent wave of ABC comedy (and “comedy“) program announcements. Say what? How could we possibly blame a press release for our forgetful ways?

It’s simple: we looked at the dates for all these releases, saw they were in early October, and figured the ABC would continue its commitment to first-run Australian comedy from now until then. Okay yes fine sure, it’s only mid-September, obviously Soul Mates wasn’t going to pull another three or four episodes out of its arse. But what’s so special about October that the ABC is throwing all their quality comedy releases on at roughly the same time?

The best we can come up with is that there’s some cross-promotion angle they’re trying to work. Why throw away their good programming in dribs and drabs when they can release it all in a rush so for a few weeks it looks like they’ve got more to offer than old episodes of QI? Oh right, because they’re a public broadcaster and their job is to provide programming for the public across the whole entire year, not hoard it for a few weeks to try and make a big splash. How silly of us to have forgotten that.

Next thing you know we’ll be forgetting how many weeks a six-part series runs.

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1 Comment

  • Seb Ratcliffe says:

    This a right old shame what’s happened to televised comedy.

    Are you guys going to review Suspect Moustache, one of SBS’s Comedy Runway pilots? I was terribly excited, flicking over to see actual Australian animation on TV until I saw it was a SKETCH comedy. I stuck with it through its half hour duration, and besides a few smirks, it was nothing more amazing than a bunch of half-baked Newgrounds gags sewn together.

    Considering a pilot is supposed to showcase the best a show has to offer, it saddened me. It’s just a shame, knowing Australian TV has a phobia of financing narrative animation.