It’s been a big week for comedy on Seven – unfortunately that week was from twenty years ago, as the network continued to ignore producing anything new in favour of saluting shows old enough to vote and performers old enough to be excused from voting.
Seven knows audiences won’t tune in these days for regular old repeats, which is why both Kath & Kim: Our Effluent Life and The Roast of Paul Hogan – much like those Best of Hey Hey specials earlier in the year – threw in some new footage to space out the old. Could they have stood alone without the old clips? Well…
To be fair, in the case of both Kath & Kim specials the old footage pretty much was the point; over two big nights we got two hours of corpsing and outtakes and promotional appearances and celebrity guests talking up Gina Reily and Jane Turner. Seems Tony Martin’s wig fell off during his big pash scene with Magda and he made a joke about how only hardcore nerds would notice a continuity error like that: good to see him staying in character.
There was also some newly filmed “where are they now” clips, which largely served as a reminder that Kath & Kim as characters and as a series ran out of steam a season or two before they left our screens. And speaking of screens: green screening them into their old (and now demolished) locations did not look good. The settings were a big part of Kath & Kim. With them gone it’s not the same.
(pointless speculation corner: was the idea to do one new episode and one clip show and then they were asked to pad out the new episode with clips when they only scraped together ten minutes of new scenes? It just seemed weird to have two clip shows back to back, only one of them had some new footage mixed in)
Meanwhile, the Hogan Roast was mostly new footage that just felt old, as a bunch of fresh faces, former greats and Shane Jacobson sat around poking fun at Hoges, a man who was once very funny and still remains somewhat likable, if possibly not quite up to sitting on a couch being insulted for a hundred minutes or so.
We don’t have much of a tradition of roasts here and Hoges is not a young man, so the nasty edge required was only rarely in evidence (mostly from then Covid patient Tom Gleeson, doing his usual gear). On the positive side, this did contain more jokes than the last two years worth of ABC panel shows, even if most of them were clunkers.
Tax jokes? Yeah, we got them (“”Hoges knew he was in trouble when the tax office sent him two letters – F and U”). Jokes about how his TV work was sexist? Sorted. Calling him Australia’s greatest ever drug dealer for his work promoting ciggies and booze? It’s a fair cop. And yet, the whole thing still felt like a comedy version of This Is Your Life – another nostalgia-heavy show Seven has recently brought back from the dead.
But at least this was trying to make people laugh, which set it apart from around 90% of current Australian “comedy”. Australia tends to be extremely precious when it comes to much-loved celebrities, many of whom have notoriously thin skins anyway (good luck even imagining a roast of Daryl Somers), so for Hoges to sit there and take even this somewhat toothless series of (clearly read from cue cards) insults from a bunch of near-strangers (and former co-star Ernie Dingo) reflected pretty well on him.
(there was much cheering at Casa Del Tumbleweeds when Rob Sitch took a swipe at Flipper, truly one of the low points of Hogan’s career and cinema in general)
Shaun Micallef was something of a surprise guest, though knowing his interest in and reverence for Australia’s comedy icons we probably should have expected he’d pop up. Unsurprisingly, his off-kilter performance was a highlight; we can only wish we also remembered all those brutal murders committed by Crocodile Dundee.
(pointless speculation corner: when exactly was this put together? Some of the pandemic-era jokes seemed a year old, while other references seemed a lot more current. “An epic production over a year in the making”? Oh wait, seems it was filmed back in April)
There’s been more successful comedy characters on Australian television, but a roast of, say, Norman Gunston seems unlikely (Garry McDonald, even less so). Plenty of Australian actors have had more illustrious big screen careers, but… well, come to think of it, a Roast of Russell Crowe isn’t all that unlikely.
But Paul Hogan managed to combine both, then made a whole lot of shitty movies that truly deserve open mockery – and on that level, The Roast of Paul Hogan delivered.
For once, Seven’s obsession with nostalgia paid off.