Wake up: Time to Buy

Time to Buy is a half-hour comedy special currently being serialised on SBS’s yoof news program The Feed (you can also watch the whole thing on SBS On Demand). It’s a musical about a young couple who decide it’s time to dive into the housing market. Yes, that’s the joke.

Let’s say some positive things first because honestly? At a basic level this is a perfectly okay way to spend just over half an hour (or five or so seven minute segments). Let’s start with the two leads: they’re charming and likable! We’d happily watch their further adventures in some kind of lightweight drama. Their deadshit roommate Calvin; clearly a deadshit, but not a totally generic one – best comedy character in the show.

In fact, almost all the character stuff was well observed and relatively nuanced. There was even a non-evil real estate agent, which was a brave move for something ostensibly a comedy. There was a firm sense here that they wanted to avoid the obvious cliches, and when they couldn’t – enter the rich boomers* looking to buy the same property as our heroes – we at least got a musical number from their side of things and a semi-decent joke about not understanding WhatsApp.

But was it funny? Let’s look at it this way: no.

Taking a boring, mundane subject and making a musical out of it was funny once and may very well be funny again, but if Time to Buy is any guide it is currently not funny at all. The musical numbers themselves weren’t bad**; the scenes around them were also not bad. But the juxtaposition of the two did not, in any real way, create comedy.

Still, points for trying. No points for the actual story, which [SPOILER] goes like this: sick of their crap house, crap roomate and rising rents, our two young people decide to buy a house. A mortgage broker arranges a loan – easy! They love the first house they see – easy! But some evil boomers also want it – then there’s an auction! The results will shock you, the end.

With only a half hour to work with and a bunch of musical numbers to fit in, the plot clearly couldn’t afford to be too complex. But who thinks the big stress point in house hunting for first home buyers is the auction and not, say, trying to save a deposit? Or finding a house they like? Or finding a house they like that they can afford? Or finding a house they can still afford two weeks later when prices have gone up fifty grand?

There’s a lot of moving parts when it comes to buying a house. This could have mined those issues for comedy instead of rushing to a big dramatic ending that didn’t really pay off. Though from what broad comedy there was on display – notably the jogger who horned his way into the framing sequence and proceeded to be annoying in a way that was clearly intended to be funny but was really just annoying – maybe getting laughs was never going to be this special’s big strength.

Remember last year’s run of millennial comedies that were just low-key dramas with occasional bitchy comments? Pretty much any non-murder story about anyone under thirty is going to be filed under “comedy” no matter what. So a half hour drama about house hunting? Not going to happen.

A mildly exasperated, FML tone might be accurate for millennials’ lives, but it doesn’t automatically make a story into a comedy. But hey, if you don’t have a load of decent jokes about house hunting maybe pick a different subject, just add a bunch of songs and hope the contrast between the form (a musical) and the content (buying a house) generates laughs.

Usually when it comes to Australian comedy it’s all too easy to see the reasons why it’s not funny. Not here: a one-off half hour musical comedy special has no excuse for not being hilarious from start to finish. What’s holding it back? Not the subject matter, not the talent involved, not some requirement to be a “dramedy” for overseas sales. This should have been a full half hour of solid laughs.

Instead we got a well-meaning real estate agent and a jogger we wanted to slap.

*okay, we did laugh at the Leunig reference

**just in musical terms,”weren’t bad” is underselling the songs. If we were a musical review blog instead of a comedy review blog we would have rated this a lot higher

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