With just one week to go until our triennial democracy sausage party, Sammy J’s Government Coach is appearing in weeknightly instalments of Countdown to Glory, a mockumentary about the Liberal party’s 2019 federal election campaign.
Sammy J has been using his Government Coach character as a concept through which to satirise the week’s politics for a while now, imaging that our federal politicians are actually part of a poorly-performing football team and that it’s the Coach’s job to get them to win the next match. In much the same way, Clarke & Dawe used to do sketches where Bryan Dawe was a teacher telling off John Clarke’s wayward child, er, politician for not letting another child, er, politician “have a go on the bike”.
As conceits go, these aren’t bad ones; we’re all familiar with sports coaches’ press conferences, and we’ve all been told off by teachers. And framing a current political issue as a sporting match or a spat between schoolkids is usually a pretty apt metaphor. It’s also quite a neat way of sneaking in a lot of references to dull political wranglings whilst keeping the audience laughing with recognisable parodies of sporting clichés and teacher/student dynamics.
Thing is though, to work as political satire, there needs to be some analysis of the politics, no matter how disguised, and Sammy J doesn’t really manage much of that in Countdown to Glory beyond a few hackneyed visual gags referencing the one or two things most people know about the one or two Coalition politicians most people have heard of. For example, Barnaby Joyce walks around the “Blue Ties” team changing rooms in the nude apart from an Akubra hat and Tony Abbott is known as “onion” and walks around in lifesaving gear. If Kim Beasley was still in politics, there would be fat jokes. It’s that level of humour.
To be fair, there are also some very topical references as well, as the show is clearly shot on the day of broadcast. This means that Sammy J can include up-to-the-minute mentions of Egg Girl, franking credits, candidates disgracing themselves online and the Royal baby’s name. But beyond that, it’s a show that was written well before time and mainly looks at generalities of the campaign (i.e. the Club President will sack people if they don’t perform), what the fans think (there’s a scene where some hardcore Blue Ties fans hark back wistfully to the great Premiership of 1996) and occasional cuts to clips from The Pollie Show, another Sammy J staple conceit and one he won’t able to do any longer, it seems.
For those of you with very long memories, Countdown to Glory is a bit like 90s newsroom sitcom Drop The Dead Donkey, solid enough but mainly notable for whatever topical references it managed to shove into the plot the writers had written weeks, probably months, in advance.
Have said that, with week one of Countdown to Glory focusing on the lead up to tomorrow’s Liberal campaign launch, and this week’s batch of episodes presumably being about that, it could get excitingly topical. Assuming Sammy J has the skill to quickly turn whatever happens tomorrow night into sports comedy gold.