Who exactly is Kinne Tonight for? Obviously it’s a sketch show with a young cast – Troy Kinne himself is what, early 30s? – so there’s a bunch of sketches set in bars and dinner parties (well, Christmas dinner in the first episode of this latest season) and a load of observations about drunk texts and the pain of helping the olds navigate today’s technology and so on. And yet there’s something a little odd about proceedings – something that doesn’t sit quite right with today’s comedy landscape…
Oh, that’s right; this is a television comedy aimed at mainstream Australia.
It’s easy to forget mainstream Australia exists when the only Australian television you watch is comedy. We’re not talking about the actual real-life mainstream of Australian society; we’d need to make a lot more television than we currently do to give a real picture of what’s going on out there. But young adults who have office jobs and go out for a drink after work and are in a reasonably committed relationship but haven’t “settled down” yet? The kind of generic “mainstream” you’d expect to be all over the media? They’re hardly ever seen in our comedies.
Partly that’s because – and hopefully someone’s pointed this out to Kinne, because this would be a shitty way to find out – these people don’t watch television. Kids and teens watch television; parents and old folk watch television. But people in their 20s and early 30s? They’re too busy going out, having fun, and possibly raising kids to watch television. Or at least, that’s what’s Australian television has assumed in the 21st Century: plenty of young people on our screens, but not a whole lot of references to how they actually live their lives.
So while Kinne Tonight is solidly more of the same thing Kinne has been doing since 2014, at least he’s got the market all to himself. There’s no way the ABC is going to make a comedy (or any other kind of show) about white middle-class people in their 20s, and the other commercial networks aren’t really going after this demographic. Even when he does a joke we’ve seen before (that bit about the difference between weekday drinking Kinne and weekend drinking Kinne resembled the old Seinfeld bit about how his nighttime self was always screwing over his morning self), it’s a reminder that nobody else is currently doing those kind of jokes on Australian television.
There’s a lot of comedy of manners here; that Christmas dinner sketch was basically a battle of the woke, only the joke wasn’t on the idea of woke so much as it was just pointing out the ways it can be taken to extremes. And because Kinne is approaching this stuff from an insiders point of view, the observational comedy is more “this is how things are” rather than “what’s up with those crazy kids” – which again, isn’t an angle we see much of at the moment.
It’s a little strange that Kinne has this market all to himself, because there’s been long stretches in Australia where this kind of comedy was the main kind of comedy. But these days comedy itself is a niche interest, so you might as well make Squinters or Mr Black or any one of seemingly countless comedies that feature characters in their 20s without actually being about anything anyone in their 20s actually does (remember how the female lead in Mr Black worked at a newspaper?) because who’s going to pull you up?
Kinne Tonight was a bit more focused this time around in its first episode back – no public interactions, not much live stuff, no guests – but Kinne’s sense of humour remains consistent. His relationship material is thankfully even-handed, he’s usually sure to make himself the butt of a sketch’s joke, and when he comes up with a dumb comedy character at least the central joke is an actual joke, which only sounds obvious if you haven’t been watching those reoccurring bits on The Weekly.
That final musical number about bad grammar in texts being a turn off could have done with another polish, mind you.