It’s taken us a while – okay, a full month – to get around to Housos: The Thong Warrior, but we’ve got an excuse: is this show even a comedy any more? And for once we don’t mean our usual hilarious “haha, this shit ain’t funny” take. After five weeks it seems increasingly clear that whatever Housos is aiming for, laughs aren’t it.
This season sees the Housos hitting the road, as the thong-wielding deadbeat dad Frankie Falzoni (creator Paul Fenech) is now somehow a crypto millionaire (hope he cashed in his bitcoin before now) and “thong terrorist” who has fled Sunnydale and is currently hiding out in some kind of Mad Max set-up in the desert to avoid various angry mobs.
Looking to cash in, a bunch of the Housos cast have stolen a van and are driving out to confront him, which will no doubt be hilarious as they stagger through the desert bashing people and seeing UFOs and so on. Also, the government is… bad? And sex is funny if it involves a dwarf? At least they haven’t forgotten their classic catchphrase “fucked in the face”.
Australia has a long, if hardly stellar, tradition of quasi-comedy series that are basically live action cartoons where the “comedy” comes from the general over-the-top nature of things rather than anything specific like jokes.
There’s a fairly unique set of circumstances in Australia that have led to this kind of television. Most countries across the globe have television industries: if you want to make television, there’s a career path you can follow. Go to Harvard then write for SNL, have a parent who wrote sitcoms, etc etc.
In Australia, despite having multiple networks that occasionally show scripted local programming, that career path doesn’t really exist. So if you want to make television you can just go out and film your mates doing dumb shit and maybe it’ll lead somewhere.
So good news, right? Australia – the land of can-do initiative! Well yeah, except that one of the things people – okay, almost always guys – who want to make television (or movies) gravitate towards is a certain kind of loud, shouty, “check out these crazy stunts!” effort that’s maybe a couple notches above a gang of teens filming themselves doing dumb shit.
And so you get everything from Double the Fist to The Wizards of Aus to Danger 5 to a bunch of community television shows we couldn’t figure out how to watch. They’re shows where the scenario is the entire point, the kind of thing that in the rest of the world would be a clickbait article with the subheading “the headline is the joke”.
Fenech started out making wacky short films, but his first series Pizza (and then Fat Pizza) had a bit more going for it. Even Housos started out as something like a traditional sitcom, with various distinct characters and subplots and running jokes and so on. Not a great sitcom, but you could see what he was aiming at.
Now? Most of his collaborators have bailed, leaving Fenech dicking around while the few remaining regulars pop up occasionally to screech the same lines again and again. It’s the closest thing to a vanity project Australia has seen since Daryl Somers’ last Hey Hey special.
Throw in a bunch of scenes where people get hit by thongs, a few more scenes that involve the kind of sex once championed by Picture Magazine, and recaps that seem to assume the audience is hitting the bongs pretty hard – insert “Bong Warrior” joke here [no- ed] – and you’ve got something that’ll keep on turning up on 7Mate until the end of time.