In the past month ABC Comedy and ABC iView have released three new web series: Halal Gurls, billed as the “World’s First Hijabi Comedy Series”, Nightwalkers, a story about vampire slayers set in Sydney’s Western Suburbs, and Carpark Clubbing, a show about young women hanging out in a donut stand carpark.
All received funding from Create NSW as part of the Digital First Comedy Initiative, run between Create NSW, the ABC and I.C.E (Information+Cultural Exchange), which aims to give opportunities to up and coming film and TV makers based in Western Sydney. Fair enough but are these shows worth watching?
At the centre of this is Mouna (Aanisa Vylet) an ambitious, twentysomething paralegal who wants to be a lawyer and is trying to get a promotion within the law firm she works at. She’s also juggling family responsibilities, a long-term boyfriend who wants to get married and her Muslim faith.
Much of the comedy comes from Mouna’s interactions with colleagues, mainly her boss Gordon (Bryan Brown), who seems utterly oblivious to Mouna’s commitment, ability and ambition. As for the Muslim thing? No idea.
In one episode, Gordon cooks up a scheme, which he thinks will help, where he dangles a promotional opportunity to a paralegal from a diverse background. This leads to a vicious war between Mouna and Rakesh (Vonne Patiag), a pan-sexual South-East Asian, but results in the promotion going to a disabled white woman, who it turns out is only disabled as she broke her leg skiing.
There are a few extra laughs to be had from Mouna’s social media-obsessed sister Fatty (Hajer) but most of the scenes with Mouna’s family and boyfriend feel more like soap opera than comedy. Having said that, the commentary on young women in the workplace and the older white men who prevent them from succeeding, is spot on.
Inspired by 1980s vampire films, Nightwalkers focuses on two sisters, Charlie (Georgina Neville) and Sam (Taylor Davis), who work as vampire slayers. This seemingly unlikely pair turn out to be pretty effective when it comes to vampire slaying, though, identifying the location of a 12th century vial of vampire blood and dealing with the gang of vampires who want it.
But apart from the odd one-liner – some decent, some not so good – this isn’t a comedy; it’s a story about vampire slayers, with a novel and very Australian twist at its heart.
This series looks at a group of three young women, Bonita (Monica Kumar), Nashrah (Tasnim Hossain) and Sokhey (Sophea Op), who hang out in a carpark near a donut stall. And that’s pretty much all there is to it.
Ultimately it’s a disappointing series because every time there appears to be a potentially interesting set-up – one of them gets dumped by their friends, another gets a boyfriend, another is failing at uni – it seems to go nowhere. Which would be fine if there was funny dialogue or something else happening, but there just isn’t.
Perhaps this is why Carpark Clubbing only goes for four episodes? The makers started out wanting to make a sort of modern-day Sex and the City but with diverse women with no money in Sydney’s West, and just ran out of ideas. Which is a shame, as there’s definitely a place for a witty series about female friendship that doesn’t involve rich, successful white women.