Keeping kids entertained isn’t an easy task – especially when there’s scary costumes to be worn and pumpkin-shaped lollies to be eaten – but the Halloween special of Gristmill’s primary school sitcom Little Lunch (which aired earlier today on ABC Me) did a pretty good job of it.
Like any Gristmill production, Little Lunch has all the hallmarks of good comedy – a fast pace, tight scripting, and a focus on detail and character – and in this extended-length special there was all that plus a fair bit of pathos. As the class get excited about trick or treating, brainy Atticus announces he’ll have to leave the school as his Mum’s got a job overseas. His classmates are upset, but they work out how they feel about their friend’s immanent departure by staging a spooky Halloween-themed send-off.
Little Lunch, with its mix of child-friendly comedy and serious themes, is one of the most sophisticated kids sitcoms we’ve seen for a while. And the plot about putting on a play really captured the excitement of the first time you put on a show at school. But it’s not perfect.
Some of the acting could be better. And while the kid-dominated cast are pretty good overall, the small number of wooden performances and badly-timed gags really killed the comedy. As did the device of the kids narrating to camera. It’s nice to hear the story from the different characters’ perspectives, but it feels like at least half the show is kids speaking to camera, rather than the makers showing us what happened. We’re not sure we liked how the kids were making cold rolls while they told the story, either – it was kinda distracting (although the rolls did look delicious.)
Like many sitcom specials over the years, the main problem here was that the makers took a conceit (the characters narrating the story to camera) which worked in its usual timeslot (15 minutes) and assumed it would work in an extended story (30 minutes, and not really). We hope they won’t do this again in the Little Lunch Christmas special, which will air in a month or so.
You know that thing about showing not telling a story? That.