Press release time!
This came as a bit of a surprise here, as we’d thought he’d nabbed the top job months ago:
Producer Todd Abbott (Please Like Me, Micallef Tonight, Geoffrey Robertson’s Hypotheticals, Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey, Rove) is the hot tip to join the Entertainment and Specialist division.
ABC has been without a Head of Comedy since Rick Kalowski departed in February.
And just look how well they’ve been doing since then! Seriously, we’d hazard a guess there was more new comedy commissioned this year (what with the rush of corona comedy) than the last… three years of Rick Kalowski’s reign, so somebody must have been left behind to push the big red button marked “go”.
Anyway, big congratulations to Todd Abbott, who clearly has an extensive resume as far as decent comedy goes* and also Please Like Me. Maybe he’ll bring back The White Room! Finally its time has come.
Of course, these days at the ABC The White Room would literally be just an empty white room, as they don’t have the money to put anyone in it. It’s not exactly a good sign that he’s taking on the job (if he is actually starting this week; we’re going by a media newsletter, not an official announcement) at a time when the ABC can’t even manage 90 minutes of new comedy content on a Wednesday night.
Not that he’ll be responsible for the majority of the ABC’s “comedy” line-up either. For a while now the ABC’s increasingly shoddy Wednesday night has been roughly as follows: one game show or lightweight interview thing at 8pm, one news satire show at 8.30pm, and one sitcom. sketch show or slightly more serious interview thing at 9pm. Things may have changed since we last knew what we were talking about, but from what we remember of how things work, out of these three, only the scripted comedy – sketch or sitcom – counts as “Comedy”; everything else is light entertainment, including Mad as Hell and The Weekly.
Things could obviously be worse – it’s not like Abbott has arrived threatening to “axe left-wing comedy” like in the UK – but you couldn’t seriously say ABC Comedy is in glowing health. It’s hard to know exactly why the comedy department shrank so severely under Rick Kalowski’s leadership. We weren’t the first to note that practically nothing new was commissioned during his tenure; whether that was thanks to dwindling budgets or a decreased appetite for risk from head office we don’t know.
What we do know is that without a couple of rushed-out lockdown series the only ABC sitcom this year would have been season four of Rosehaven, and we’ve yet to hear anything that makes next year sound any more promising. Hopefully Abbott’s brought a truckful of money with him; without that, those repeats of Utopia are going to become permanent fixtures.
*It’s interesting to compare his resume – which is mostly talk shows and live stand-up recordings, AKA the cheapest possible comedy television you can make and still be making both comedy and television – with Rick Kalowski’s, which was mostly based around (very broad) scripted comedy. Around the time Kalowski was hired there was a bit of talk that bringing him on board was going to signal a new direction for ABC comedy towards more mainstream fare; that didn’t really happen, but if we assume a Head of Comedy’s past work is an indication of where the ABC sees its comedy future, then it looks like they don’t expect a boost to the budget any time soon.