Well, we knew it had to end sometime.
For a bunch of years and slightly more seasons, Mad as Hell has been an island of quality in a sea of mediocrity, the rare Australian comedy that was both Australian and a comedy. Times changed; it changed with it, going from a thinly veiled Newstopia rip-off to that show that was on when The Weekly wasn’t. We’re going to miss it, especially early next year when it’s not back and the ABC is showing some quasi game-show where smug comedians make up rumors designed to discredit government policies because they might possibly benefit the poor. Fun times ahead for sure.
Looking back over the final season of Mad as Hell, the change in government sharpened a lot of the comedy, while (presumably) the ever-shrinking budgets meant the pre-recorded sketches became special treats rather than a regular part of the diet. Mad as Hell was never a show to throw away a decent running joke before its time, but this season most of the classic characters were quietly put away well before the finale. We never got to say goodbye to Lois Price; a nation weeps.
The ratings were up slightly on last season, which is bad news for those commentators who said ABC audiences wouldn’t want to see their new leftie government being mocked. Possibly the news that this would be the final season kept viewers on board; whatever the excuse, they got to see Mad as Hell go out on a high.
The political sketches had bite; the show as a whole seemed more focused than in previous years. The audience knew their place, and Micallef played to them without drawing things out. Any long running show is going to orbit around a sweet spot rather than hit it week after week, but this final season of Mad as Hell got things right pretty much every episode.
The cast were great, but you could say that (and we usually did) about every season. It’d be unfair to single anyone out, especially as there was no Scott Morrison bobblehead or Malcolm Turnbull portrait around to force everyone else to lift their game. At least now Stephen Hall is finally “that guy from Mad as Hell” not “that guy from Romper Stomper“.
It’s unlikely we’ve seen the last of Micallef – he’ll be promoting his latest book for a while yet, and there’s already talk of working on more dramatic projects – but you never know. By the early 00s he seemed like a rock solid fixture in the Australian comedy firmament; a few years later he was doing breakfast radio in Melbourne. Nobody wants to see that again.
Unlike Mad as Hell, which was taken from us too soon. At least the ABC has been nurturing a new generation of comedy talent, as shown in the final ever scene where Micallef was finally unmasked as simultaneously being both Mark Humphries and Sammy J.
So yeah, we’re completely fucked.