The new Netflix dramedy Wellmania is a glossy, fast-paced dramedy about screwing up, thwarted ambitions and having to make changes to get what you want. To be honest, it’s not the kind of thing we usually get excited about. And having seen four episodes, we’re definitely not excited about it. But alongside We Interrupt This Broadcast, it’s the only Australian comedy-ish program currently on TV which isn’t an imported concept (Taskmaster, Would I Lie To You), a show which should have been axed years ago (The Weekly) or a revival of an old favourite (Rockwiz)*. So, yay?!
As food and lifestyle journalist Liv Healy, who’s on the verge of making it big in New York but finds herself trapped in her hometown of Sydney due to health problems, Celeste Barber is perfect casting. You can absolutely buy her as a hard-drinking, hard-drugging party girl, schmoozing her way around the Big Apple’s hottest dining establishments. And when Liv finds that she has no choice but to stay in Sydney, go to the gym and eat right, Barber simply uses the physical comedy skills she perfected in her mocking impressions of models and influencers on Instagram to get a laugh.
Sadly, though, a laugh, or, more accurately, several decent laughs per episode, is about all we get, as Wellmania is largely a drama about a woman, her best friend, her close family, the guy she fancies, and all of their issues.
Liv’s best friend Amy (JJ Fong) and her husband Doug (Johnny Carr) can’t get sex right anymore, leading to Amy going on a journey to get the spark back. Liv’s brother Gaz (Lachlan Buchannan) is planning his wedding to Dalbert (Remy Hii), and seems like the sensible, together one of the Healy siblings. But is Dalbert really the right man for him? Then there’s Liv’s Mum Lorraine (Genevieve Mooy, who older readers will remember as PR woman Jan in Frontline). She’s just retired and doesn’t know what to do with herself. Is the Boomer retirement dream she’s been sold all it’s cracked up to be? And finally, there’s Isaac (Alexander Hodge), a former addict who’s now teetotal and celibate that Liv falls for at the gym? Can she get him into bed?
All this allows for a wider range of explorations of self-help, self-improvement and just generally dealing with stuff, just don’t expect them to be deep ones. And definitely don’t expect there to be much in the way of comedy. Wellmania gets laughs from the odd sharp line or isolated moment of slapstick. If you want something where the focus is on the funny, you need to make your peace with Wellmania and move on. Namaste.
* Thank God You’re Here is also returning soon!