So was Taboo any good? That’s the wrong question to ask, and by wrong we mean offensive: as a show about the heart-warming struggle of a group of disabled people, we should be applauding the very fact they’ve made into on Australian television screens. But it does make it a little tricky to review… and maybe that’s the point.
As easily the most worthy of the Pilot Week line-up – unless you think rehabilitating Kyle Sandiland’s career is somehow a good deed – this one hour look at stand-up Harley Breen’s work interacting with four disabled people and turning their stories into stand-up comedy is the kind of thing we’d usually expect to see on the ABC or SBS. It’s positive, feel-good television even as it deals with people dealt a bum hand by life; while tears were not shed at Casa Del Tumblies, it’s not hard to imagine those with human feelings being deeply affected.
And the stand-up material is… not bad? It’s a bit of a cheat in a way; having seen where it came from (and feeling sympathetic towards the people he’s learnt from) puts a spin on the finished material that it definitely wouldn’t have had going in cold. But you know “I know where that came from” is just as good a reason to laugh at a joke as any, and the material isn’t exactly PC either; because we’ve seen Breen listen and treat the people whose stories he’s using with respect, he’s able to safely go in harder than he could if he was just some random guy going “ha ha, you can’t walk”.
But as the ABC and SBS have learnt over the years, this kind of material is pretty much review-proof: you attack the show and it comes off as an attack on the people in the show. Good luck making it to the border alive if you happen to think You Can’t Ask That is cheap TV pandering to mainstream curiosity rather than a show tearing down barriers.
So as hard-hearted bastards, pretty much all we have to say here is that at an hour long this does overstay its welcome. Basically, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry. At least Breen isn’t painting their fucking portraits.