What We Talk About When We Talk About Not Having Anything to Talk About

Hey, where’d all the scripted comedy go?

When we started this blog the basic idea was to do two or three posts a week, because each week there was usually two or three shows on television we could talk about. There’d be something new, something in the middle of its run, maybe a press release or two, the occasional DVD release of some archive material. Life was good.

Now we’re looking at what lies ahead for 2022 and… yeah. There’s maybe a handful of new scripted series; a lot of the year’s comedy content is coming from series that have been around for close to a decade now. Ok, there’s online content out there, but much of that barely needs more coverage than “hey, so this exists”. We are in the middle of a drought, and the only way it could be worse is if we were a blog covering Australian TV drama.

(hands up who’s excited about Troppo? Hands up who became a lot less excited about Troppo once they realised having a comedy title didn’t actually make it a comedy?)

To be fair, the many and various streaming services are occasionally serving up scripted content, which almost sorta kind of balances out the massive drop off in ABC comedy. Remember when the ABC’s Wednesday night comedy line-up was almost always three local comedy shows – at 8pm, 8.30pm and 9pm, with 9.30pm not out of the question – and the 8pm show wasn’t a shithouse no budget revamp of The Einstein Factor?

And yes, the ABC is still coming up with exciting new formats like, uh, Question Everything and Win the Week, so comedy isn’t completely dead so long as you’ve already spent the last decade being unfunny at a professional level for the ABC. Can a Randling reboot be far off?

Commercial television can’t look smug either as we stare down a year where the only fresh comedy content from them is Ten’s upcoming version of Would I Lie To You?– hosted by Chrissie Swan with team captains Chris Taylor and Frank Woodley, if you weren’t excited enough already. So Peter Helliar was too busy?

Any way you dice it, times are tough out there if you’re trying to get laughs. The days of getting exposure and practice on high profile sketch shows is over (did Ten ever officially announce Kinne wasn’t coming back?). If you’re lucky you might get to provide “satirical” content for a youth news show where laughs are fine just so long as you make sure they’re the right kind of laughs – you know, the ones that aren’t funny unless you follow #auspol on twitter.

So why are things so shit? Don’t people want to laugh any more? We’re no experts, but it’s not like there’s a shortage of reasons why comedy in Australia is struggling – everything from “reality TV has taken over from comedy as far as cheap content goes” to “there’s no path for new talent on television in this country now that sketch shows are dead” to “content is an international business and comedy doesn’t sell overseas” to “the ABC refuses to clear out dead wood and gives their panel hosting gigs to the same people over and over again” to “today everything has to be a dramedy where comedy comes last”.

And that’s just off the tops of our heads. Increased funding to the ABC won’t kick-start the old formula – where up and coming comedians get their TV start on the ABC, then move to a commercial network – because even the ABC’s big comedy guns haven’t moved on in twenty years or more. And at best, international streaming services are going to want the kind of rom-coms and dramedies where polish and charm far outweigh genuine laughs.

There’s still a lot of decent comedy to look forward to in 2022. The real problem is, it’s pretty much the same comedy we were looking forward to in 2021, and 2020, and… you get the idea. Coming up, we’ve got a handful of winners, a bunch of shows nobody’s excited about, and not enough in between.

Guess we’d better get to work researching our review of Troppo.

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