Yesterday saw the ABC’s upfronts for 2022, their big opportunity to wow us with all the exciting new series and much-loved old favourites we can look forward to in the coming year. There were at least five deliberate mistakes in that previous sentence – can you guess them all?
The big caveat here is that these upfronts don’t cover everything. Fingers crossed there’ll be another couple of scripted comedies turning up in the second half of next year. There better be: even for fans used to the ABC’s ever shrinking output, there was little to celebrate in what we’ve been told we can expect in 2022.
Maybe we’ve been coddled by the effect of Covid – a couple of rush job series in 2020 and the arrival of delayed shows like Aftertaste in 2021 gave the impression of a healthier comedy line-up than was probably the case – but next year looks bleak AF. Here’s what we’ve got:
Mad as Hell coming back: good.
The Weekly coming back: bad.
Charlie Pickering maybe or maybe not hosting the second season of Annabel Crabb’s Crazy Hypotheticals or whatever it’s called (oh right, Tomorrow Tonight)? That’s good – it means we don’t have to pretend to be interested in it. Likewise Julia Zmerio’s Home Delivery, which is back but is in no way comedy.
Question Everything coming back: here’s a question – why?
Fisk back: yay.
Aftertaste back: meh.
This is basically the ABC just fulfilling their contractual obligations as far as comedy goes. Fisk and Aftertaste were both in their first seasons so a second was pretty much a lock. Same goes for Question Everything, plus maybe Gruen won’t be back and Wil needs new shoes. Otherwise, Mad as Hell is good and The Weekly is cheap.
As for new series, there are two:
Stories From Oz: It’s billed as “the world’s first documentary you can dance to”. This isn’t true because this is a local version of Stories From Norway, in which topical news stories are re-told in musical form to hopefully amusing effect. Not quite a Chaser production though Chris Taylor and Andrew Hansen are involved, it feels like the kind of show where just existing is half the joke. Though the Norwegian version (as seen on SBS a couple of years ago) was pretty good so here’s hoping.
Summer Love: An eight part anthology series overseen by Wayne Hope and Robyn Butler (yay!) and written by a lot of people who don’t have a lot of amazing credits to their names (hmm), it’s set in a beach house where a different group of characters each week will pretend this isn’t just a new talent showcase based on It’s A Date. Part of the ABC’s mission is to nurture new talent, sure. Still, this kind of thing should be a bonus on top of a promising line-up, not half the new comedy content for the year.
Just to underline why we’re so glass half empty about all this, let’s examine just how half empty next year’s glass promises to be. At a guess, these are the numbers: Mad as Hell (13 episodes), The Weekly (13 episodes), and Question Everything (8 episodes). That’s 34 weeks of half hour “light entertainment”.
With Aftertaste (6 episodes), Fisk (6 episodes), Stories from Oz (6 episodes) and Summer Love (8 episodes), that’s 26 weeks of half hour scripted comedy.
For roughly half the year the ABC can put to air one hour of local comedy a week. Of the seven shows, two are new. Does that sound like an industry that anyone could conceivably describe as being in any way healthy?
Oh wait, we forgot Hard Quiz is coming back. That’ll double the ABC’s “comedy” output all on its own.