The Letdown has let us down

That’ll teach us to be optimistic. When we watched the first episode of The Letdown we saw some potential in the series. Now, four episodes in, we’re just waiting for it to end. If we were the mother of a small child and we were thinking about The Letdown, our face would look like this. But more on Alison Bell’s face later in this blog…

The Letdown

The Letdown wasn’t like most Australian sitcoms, which start out okay and then continue to be okay but are mainly kinda meh. The Letdown started fairly strongly, setting itself up as a show which struck a good balance between making the audience laugh with funny characters and situations, and being the kind of show that gets knowing laughs on the basis that the audience can relate to what’s happening to the characters. But now? It’s just the kind of show that can get knowing laughs on the basis that the audience can relate to what’s happening to the characters. And, frankly, we’re not even sure it can do that.

The last several episodes of The Letdown have been exactly what you’d expect of an inner-city dramedy about people in their 30s, except with Alison Bell’s face reacting in pain every time something bad happens to her character instead of there being some actual comedy.

The Letdown

And considering The Letdown debuted as part of the Comedy Showroom series, where six sitcom pilots were made and aired to see whether they’d make good series or not, and The Letdown was one of only two chosen, making a show were 90% of the intended laughs are “woman makes face” is pretty crap.

Just a reminder: this wasn’t Drama Showroom or even Dramedy Showroom, this was Comedy Showroom:

Comedy Showroom: six new comedy pilots made by some of Australia’s most exciting comedians, comedy writers, producers and directors

So, now that The Letdown is a series, isn’t it obliged to, you know, be a comedy?

To say we’re disappointed in the direction The Letdown has taken is an understatement. Now all that’s left of the show’s ambition to be funny is that wacky (and increasingly grating) incidental music, and Alison Bell’s reaction face.

The Letdown

We know many Australian comedies have put themselves out there and been less funny than The Letdown, but they also didn’t win what was, effectively, the highest-profile comedy competition in years.

And what does it say about comedy commissioning at the ABC that a show that gave up being a comedy after episode 1, is the show they’re pushing the hardest?

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  • Medium Ted 24 says:

    The trailer for The Letdown featured the main character admonishing her husband because he called looking after their children “babysitting”. “It’s not babysitting if they’re you’re own kids!” she shouts.

    This is a sentiment someone expressed on the internet a few years ago, and it went through the usual lifecycle of memeable observations, in which everyone pretends to have made this pithy and identically-worded observation all by themselves, and dozens of columnists are applauded for their insight when they weave it into their latest piece. It’s easy to justify stolen observations thanks to the concept of parallel evolution.

    Then, long after everyone’s accepted “men, stop referring to looking after your kids as babysitting!” as an exhausted though accurate sentiment, an ABC comedy will write it into the script in the hopes that its target audience doesn’t know how to use social media or remember anything they read in newspapers, and because this nicked-from-the-internet line is funnier than anything the writers were able to conjure by themselves, it will become the centrepiece of its promotional campaign.

    But no, Australian comedy is going great.

  • sven says:

    Hate to overplay the symbolism but as this show displays grumpy, depressing middle class couples, and is called ‘the letdown’ kind of sums up the whole depressing state of oz creativity. Stuff, or ‘life’, costs more and is more difficult to do and there is no hope of it getting better and here are the people squeezing out the drama for a few ‘small pleasures’. How about a strong dose of cheerfulness or aggression or something to bring some new ideas to life ? Or these shows are going to moan themselves to award winning mediocrity.
    Since I switched over from the soccer, which had its own boring, ‘please like me – Australian teamsports’ dramatics, went straight into an argument about a wife telling her man to get a job on ‘the letdown’. No humour, just pure frustrated pragmatism. Then they had a whinge about the need to initiate sex… as if the actors yearn for mid 90’s Woody Allen style material. Or have caught the same depressive virus Australian film had (it has moved on to nostalgia now).
    At least ‘the ex-pm’ dishes out the comedy and doesn’t bother with trying to identify with the stagnant middle class mind.