Surfing the Dark Web

Aunty Donna spin-off Grouse House is currently featuring Hot Department: Dark Web on its YouTube channel. This series, written by and starring Melbourne-based comedy duo Hot Department (Honor Wolff and Patrick Durnan Silva), with additional writing by Liam Fitzgibbon, parodies pop culture consumed online – TikTok dance videos, Netflix, porn, film clips, YouTube ads – but with a dark spin. It’s sort of what Black Mirror would have been like if Aunty Donna had made it.

Of the six videos released so far (at the time of writing there are two more to come), the best are Hot Singles, Sad Women, Jamantha Greene – My Lamp ft. Mikey T and TikTok. Pizza Ad and Stepmom Blues are less successful.

Hot Singles

Hot Singles, which guest stars Aunty Donna’s Broden Kelly, concerns a man (Kelly) who interacts with an online ad featuring a “hot single in his area” (Wolff) but gets more than he bargained for. Along the way, there are good parodies of various genres of online porn, as well as the invasive advertising for them, all in the style of a cinema thriller. Kelly gives his usual stilted-but-funny performance, while Wolff displays a lot of range as her character evolves from an invasive advertising character to a homely mum.

Sad Women, while perhaps a bit long, is a decent parody of a Netflix historical drama. In this case, one that bears a lot of similarities to Call the Midwife. Two nurses (Wolff and Durnan Silva) find themselves unable to sleep and start talking about how they’re tired of nursing and want adventure. Being based in a convent-run hospital in the 1950s, their options are limited, but then they find a way to both have an adventure and satisfy themselves. Watch out for the cameo from Rhys Nicholson.

Jamantha Greene – My Lamp ft. Mikey T is a parody of a film clip aimed at teenage girls. Jamantha (Durnan Silva) is hosting a sleepover and singing about her lamp, but her mum (Wolff) keeps interrupting as she has an important job interview in the morning. Watch out the enjoyable cameo from Mark Bonnano as rapper Mikey T.

TikTok features two twenty-somethings who also TikTok together. Zane (Durnan Silva), the entitled, attention-seeking son of a man who invests in oil, complains that his housemate (Wolff) is constantly mourning the recent death of her Nana June. Following an unsuccessful attempt to connect to June via séance, Zane films his ill-advised TikTok dance tribute to June but fails to notice that the séance wasn’t quite as unsuccessful as he’d thought. There’s plenty to enjoy here, particularly Durnan Silva’s ridiculous TikTok moves.

Pizza Ad starts off as a parody of a YouTube ad that you might mistake for a real one if it didn’t go on for far too long. The son of a pizza shop owner (Durnan Silva) fronts an ad for the shop but proves himself to be an incompetent presenter. This eventually segues into the son becoming a successful musician. There are some decent ideas in this, and it’s hard not to enjoy the punchline, but overall, it’s a bit of a mess, relying on weak gags to prop up the flimsy storyline.

Stepmom Blues, a parody of an eighties porn video in which a young man (Durnan Silva) gets it on with his stepmother (Wolff), should also be a lot better than it is, and suffers from some of the same problems as Pizza Ad: it’s too long and the storyline’s a mess. Even the creepy cameo from Zachary Ruane can’t save this one.

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