Vale Fisk

Fisk, the best Australian sitcom for years, has been and gone. We will miss its deft plotting, consistent laughs, background humour (the ‘Gruber Ass.’ caps!) and perfect costumes (the brown suit!). And while in many ways Fisk was a traditional, going-for-laughs, half-hour sitcom, it still feels like writer, director and star Kitty Flanagan has brought something unique to the table.

It’s certainly not easy to think of another recent Australian sitcom which has been this good at getting laughs from the dynamics between characters. Every character in Fisk, from those with just one line, to those who were in almost every scene, was instantly funny and recognisable. From the noise-sensitive café workers who banned Helen (Flanagan) in the first episode, to Helen’s boss Ray (Marty Sheargold), a man whose off-handed blokey-ness captures the essence of 95% of white Australian men over 50, they were all perfect.

But where Fisk really struck gold was in characters who were pushy, po-faced and overbearing, like Helen’s omnipresent line manager Roz (Julia Zemiro) and Helen’s exacting stepfather Victor (Glenn Butcher). Both had a lot to say about how Helen could be a better human being, but neither seemed aware of their own ridiculousness, which was often hilariously shown-up by Helen when she tried to follow their advice. Helen’s re-working of her brown suit with a Bedazzler, an over-literal interpretation of Roz’s suggestion that she be a bit more polished, was a prime example.

Kitty Flanagan as Helen Tudor-Fisk

Episode six ended with a moment of high drama, as Helen’s Dad Anthony (John Gaden) collapsed, and with a moment of triumph, as Helen’s attention-to-detail secured her a local business award. We also discovered that Helen had retained her job at Gruber & Associates, leaving the way open for a second series.

Naturally, we hope Fisk will return, but with no announcement from the ABC so far, we cannot be certain. That said, the show was generally well-liked by critics, industry and fans, and seems to have developed a strong following.

According to TV Tonight’s ratings, Fisk rated higher than its lead-in, The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, for four weeks of its six-week run. Even better, the timeshifted ratings show Fisk beat The Weekly… five weeks out of six.

And while beating a show which regularly pads itself out with clips of right-wing commentators drinking whiskey is something any competent program should be able to do, the risk-adverse ABC seem to need a fair amount of convincing these days that we want sitcoms that are funny and not half-arsed dramas. Let’s hope better ratings than The Weekly… is enough to do that for Fisk.

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