Betooting in the Back of the Ute

Once again we return to what seems to be increasingly familiar territory: new Australian series that you’d think would be comedies, but are not. And not in the “because they’re not funny, geddit?” sense either. The Betoota Advocate Presents is a perfectly well made and successful program that just… isn’t really trying to be all that funny.

Hosted by those two guys who’re the public face of the Betoota media empire – they even make a joke about peddling merch – with new episodes weekly on Paramount+, episode one of their big step into the world of television is basically just a snarky documentary looking at the rise and fall of the Hillsong Church. Facts? Loads of them. Jokes? Well… maybe a couple here and there.

They’ve clearly put in the effort to make a decent documentary. There’s plenty of interviews and archival footage, animated inserts to fill in the gaps (they’re often smirk-worthy) and a script that covers all the bases in an informative and occasionally quippy fashion. It’s just not a comedy program – it’s a recap.

Which is a little surprising. Their website is largely comedy-focused (at least, when it’s not secretly advertising stuff). Australia hasn’t had a shortage of comedy takes on true stories and issues over the years either – even that version of Drunk History 10 tried wasn’t all bad. Couldn’t they call up John Safran for some tips? Have we all forgotten True Story with Hamish & Andy?

We weren’t expecting the second coming of Brass Eye or anything, but we did hold out hope that this would contain more comedy than just a few snarky comments here and there and a loose attitude that’s happy to play up the quirky side of the topic.

Again, and clearly we can’t say this often enough because this is still a show worth checking out if you’re interested in the subject matter, this is a perfectly decent slice of documentary programming. Even better, there’s just enough attitude to make it more than just a retrospective news report that goes on a little too long. It’s just not a comedy.

At a guess, we’d assume that the Betoota crew realised that four solidly funny mockumentary takes on big issues was more work than they wanted to put in (or required more talent than they had on hand). Comedy, let’s not forget, is hard work: recapping the recent past in an entertaining way is a lower bar to clear.

Also, the final episode of The Betoota Advocate Presents – there’ll be four in all – is supposedly about the Fine Cotton affair. Those interested in some kind of comedy compare & contrast might want to revisit this beforehand:

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