Vale Aftertaste series 2

As we farewell Aftertaste series 2 it’s worth asking: Who was this for?

It’s not for people who expect a sitcom to be funny, that’s for sure. At least not in the multiple-gags-a-minute style of, say, Fawlty Towers, Frasier, or All Aussie Adventures. In Aftertaste, the occasional funny moment is about the most you can expect.

Warwick Thornton was usually the source of these occasional funny moments. He brought an innocent gormlessness to the character of Brett that was both funny and a welcome contrast from the other characters, who largely spent the series arguing with and insulting each other. And while families who argue with and insult each other can be very funny (Fawlty Towers, Frasier), it quickly gets annoying to watch unless they’re arguing in a funny way.

So often in Aftertaste, someone on the production team assumed that a young person-sounding insult directed at an older person (“cock womble”, “douche biscuit”) would be hilarious. It wasn’t, it was grating, and sounded like something a middle-aged person thinks a young person might say.

The other mistake the makers of Aftertaste frequently made was to assume that high-energy performances and pratfalls could make up for any gag deficits in the script. And again, no. The sequence in the series finale, in which Easton (Erik Thomson) got annoyed with how Diana (Natalie Abbott) was doing a U-turn, was a classic example. Exasperated shouting at people is only funny if the things people are shouting are funny.

Still, who needs laughs when there’s food and scenery? This is a show about two chefs who live in the lovely Adelaide Hills town of Uraidla after all. Well, the plot in which Diana and Easton were forced to work together and ended up creating a bunch of new dishes based on ingredients they found in a bin was interesting, but if you tuned in for the food, that was kinda it.

Erik Thomson and Natalie Abbott standing in a bin full of rubbish dressed in chef's whites

There were also a few swipes at TV cookery and reality shows (i.e., War on Waste), with the success of Diana and Easton’s work with the homeless charity leading to the pair being offered a series. However, given that much of the footage shot by filmmaker Frog (Nic Krieg) consists of behind-the-scenes arguments between Diana and Easton, this won’t be much of a cooking show.

This brings us to drama. Maybe Aftertaste is a show for people who like drama? And again, not really. The romance sub-plot between Easton and winemaker Margot (Rachel Griffiths) didn’t really go anywhere, nor did whatever’s happening between Diana and her mates Nayani (Kavitha Anandasivam) and Kwame (Justin Amankwah).

As for the main thrust of the plot, its problem is it’s incredibly predictable. The first series featured a character who looked like he’d die any second and duly did in the fifth episode. The first series also featured frequent mentions of a character (Grandma June) who’d mysteriously left decades ago and was clearly going to return at some point. She duly did in series 2.

Now we’ve reached the end of series 2 and it’s time to lay the groundwork for series 3*, hence Frog shooting Diana and Easton’s show like it’s Keeping up with the Kardashians. This will presumably result in some kind of scandal involving the characters and another family bust-up in series 3.

So, who was Aftertaste for? It’s trying to be a lot of things to a lot of people – people who like comedy, people who like drama, people who like romance, people who like cooking and nice scenery – and it’s not really succeeding at any of them. To use a cooking metaphor, there are too many ingredients when a few simple, well-chosen ones would make a tastier dish. Maybe with a bit more focus, and a greater commitment to quality, Aftertaste would be a Michelin Star show rather than the mismatched mix of leftovers that it currently is.

* The third series of Aftertaste has yet to be announced.

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1 Comment

  • Dergus says:

    The level of glacial, teeth-grinding, disconnected contrivance involved in that episode’s script was absolutely gobsmacking. And it was the finale! Traditionally the final episode of a season is where you reap the dramatic and comedic rewards of the season. It should be where all the payoffs are. But that seemed like a desperate scramble to fill 25 minutes, as if they were filming it scene by scene and choosing to improv the narrative as they went. Awful, awful, drearily colourless writing – it resembled a script from a distance, but embodied the worst of that kind of writing where creators say “oh let’s do trope X, the audience love trope X, they lap that business up” and don’t realise it’s the character stuff and variation *around* trope X that makes it work, and if you expect an audience to fawn because you do a basic narrative moment like a traditional bottom-feeding sitcom does, that is setting the bar SCREAMINGLY low AND THE AUDIENCE KNOWS IT. And if you then mess up trope X in the process – whether it’s “turns out they actually love the show and the chemistry between you two” (at which point the viewers of Aftertaste itself say, um, pardon? and also, what footage are Matt Preston et al watching?) or “Mum’s selling/not selling the house” (an absolutely stakesless conundrum in this case – do we remotely care?) – it’s, well, embarrassing. This is genuinely Fat Pizza / Housos-level plotting.

    Erik Thomson is not a good or funny enough actor to overcome his largely repellent and unimaginatively-scripted character; Nat Abbott’s natural lumlnosity is doing a *hell* of a lot of the heavy lifting in that show, but her character also whips around on the whim of any given week’s plot, so it all goes to waste.

    If that gets a third season, what a damning indictment of the ABC’s commissioning and approval process. PLEASE spend our money better, Aunty.