Just when you thought only the ABC could make dull, unfunny dramedies about self-indulgent young people along comes SBS with Iggy & Ace. Although, to be fair to SBS, Iggy & Ace isn’t also a parody of woke culture. So, points for having an original take on people in their 20s!
Iggy (Sara West) and Ace (Josh Virgona) are two gay besties who spend most of their spare time drinking heavily. But while we get hints as to why Iggy chugs it down (her Mum threw her out when she was a teen, she’s struggled with her sexuality), Ace seems to drink with Iggy more because he’s been swept along by her tide. So, when Ace starts having chest pains because of his boozing, he very sensibly joins a local AA chapter. But will his decision, which makes Iggy angry and jealous, mean the end of their friendship?
This sort of premise, about a psychologically damaged young woman who can only deal with the pain by drinking, might work better as a dramatic film or literary fiction, where the reasons for Iggy’s poor decisions and bad behaviour could be better explored. But across six 15-minute episodes, we don’t really get the full picture.
We can’t sympathise with Iggy because we don’t find out enough about her backstory, we can’t care about her because 99% of the time she comes across as a selfish, irredeemable fuckwit, and we can’t laugh at her because there are almost no funny moments in this show. Not that you can wring a lot of laughs out of “people get pissed and stuff up” without going down the Absolutely Fabulous route of slapstick.
The one or two gags we do get per episode are largely incidental to the main plot, such as the running gag about the members of the AA group calling token straight member Rachel (Megan Hollier), Jessica. This is funny, but for a show sold as a comedy, it’s pretty unsatisfying that this is the limit of the laughs.
Even solid comedy players like Roz Hammond (Mad As Hell) as AA group leader Gwen and Dalip Sondhi (Frayed) as Iggy and Ace’s dealer and gay mentor Otto, don’t get much funny to do. Which seems like a waste of their talents, really.
Also, what’s Ace’s deal? He’s one of the two most important characters in the series yet we find out almost nothing about him.
Overall, Iggy & Ace feels like it needed to go through another couple of drafts. Some of the fundamentals were there – a solid premise, interesting incidental characters, people in crisis, a good cast – but it lacked that extra polish that would have made this a better drama and a funnier comedy.