Even in the golden age of the ABC’s Wednesday Night comedy stronghold, the whole night was rarely all comedy. Shows like Spicks and Specks and The Gruen Transfer may have provided laughs but honestly? They were more entertainment than straight-up comedy. So having two comedy series on back-to-back should be a pretty sweet deal at a time when Australian television comedy is struggling, right?
Oh right, one of those shows is The Weekly.
The lack of actual news has finally been acknowledged by The Weekly, as it made an unsteady lurch towards sketch comedy with predictably shit results. “Charlie Pickering, ABC HR Guy” gave Pickering a chance to show off his comedy performance chops, and turned out to be a nice reminder that as a comedy performer he makes for a great newsreader. Sure, you make do with what you’ve got; what happened to Briggs anyway?
This week it really was the Charlie Pickering Show, though no doubt if we actually measured his air time it’d probably turn out to be the same contractually mandated 25 minutes it is every week. Which is fine when The Weekly is doing its usual shit mix of dull news explainers and dull celebrity interviews, but without that to lean on – we’re glad they dug up the Sports Rorts to slap the PM around with a bit, but even they had to admit it was old news that not everyone cared about in the first place – all they’re left with comedy, aka Pickering’s greatest weakness besides having to seem interested in other people.
And the comedy was not great this week. Corona Cops takes Australian comedy’s fine tradition of dubbing over existing footage and… doesn’t seem to understand that the results should be funny? Still, when you’re making a half hour show you can’t just rely on Judith Lucy’s segment having a pointless minute-long intro to fill in all those seconds. On the flip side, that edit of all the disastrous things that’ve happened to Millionaire Hot Seat contestants was gold; fire the writers, hire more researchers.
Nothing else in this week’s episode really worked, and while it feels like there should have been a difference between that sketch bringing back Scott Morrison’s PR team and the Yard Chat interview with Richard Wilkins son (why?), they both dragged on so long we stopped paying attention before we could figure out what it might be. Aside from them both being pointless, which is a weird thing to say about The Weekly when you think about it because unlike At Home Alone Together it still has a point: making fun of the news. It’s not good at it, but it’s a slightly better show when it sticks to it.
Speaking of At Home Alone Together, it’s funnier than The Weekly. Then again, so is [insert generic horrible thing here]. It’s still a mixed bag but that’s the whole point, and even when a bit doesn’t really work (that home wine tasting sketch comes to mind) it’s still possible to see what they were going for and how somebody else might find it amusing. Can we say the same about The Weekly? Let’s move on.
The weaknesses of the whole “lifestyle show parody” angle are coming clearer, but that was always going to happen. The joke in all the sketches is the same joke: the person hosting the sketch is either creepy, incompetent or having a breakdown, and this is laid over a traditional lifestyle show topic for humorous results. Or not. Already pretty much all this week’s sketches had characters paired off with someone else to interact with, which adds another layer to the hijinxs and should keep them going for the remaining five weeks even if we’ll be roaming the streets freely in a fortnight or so.
Unfortunately that means what initially seemed like the most promising aspect of this show – watching lifestyle hosts go increasingly nuts as lockdown drags on – has suddenly been taken away, leaving the prospect of it becoming a show making fun of something that’s already over and that most people will want to forget. Then again, we would have said that about Ray Martin a month ago and look where we are now.
As usual with Australian comedy, it’s the worst of both worlds (aside from the lack of deaths, obviously): At Home Alone Together will increasingly lose the only angle that made it interesting, while The Weekly remains stuck without any real news to cover as the rest of the world remains in lockdown. When’s that next Spicks and Specks reunion?