Time to Fix the Home of Home-Grown Laughs

Press release time! And this one’s a classic:

Comedy hits the highs on ABC

ABC is the undisputed home of exciting, new, original Australian comedy, with millions of viewers flocking to ABC and ABC iview for a fix of home-grown laughs.

In exciting news, Season 5 of Utopia has catapulted to the top of the charts to become ABC iview’s #1 non-kids program this year, as viewers lap up the exploits of the Nation Building Authority’s crack team of bureaucrats, headed up by Tony Woodford (Rob Sitch).

Season 2 of Kitty Flanagan’s award-winning comedy Fisk, available exclusively on ABC iview, was ABC’s most-watched comedy in 2022, and in 2023 it remains one of the most popular shows on iview, as the probate lawyer in the brown suit, Helen Tudor-Fisk, continues to garner a legion of fans across the country.

While launching last week, the feel-good comedy Mother and Son, starring audience favourites Denise Scott and Matt Okine, is proving an early hit, picking up a new generation of fans and notching up a total audience of over 1.2 million people watching the first episode*.  

ABC Head of Screen Content Jennifer Collins says “The ABC has a long and proud history of supporting Australian comedy and nurturing comedic talent both on screen and behind the scenes.  We’re thrilled to see our audiences enjoying our first-class, diverse comedy offering.”

ABC Head of Comedy Todd Abbott says “It’s always great to see home-grown comedy kicking goals, and we’re super proud that laughs are leading the way in showing people the on-demand delights of ABC iview.”

From the hilarious wild times in Gold Diggers and the madcap comedy of Aunty Donna’s Coffee Café, to the beautifully executed comedy-drama In Limbo, ABC is the home of Australian comedy.

Let’s just take a moment to let that sink in. “ABC is the undisputed home of exciting, new, original Australian comedy”. New? Original? Exciting? Maybe not words we’d use to describe Utopia, a show now into its fifth season. Maybe they mean the reboot of Mother and Son? Referring to In Limbo as a comedy is definitely new.

We’re not going to go to town on this. Nit-picking gets dull fast – though it is interesting that the ABC Head of Content would rather refer to comedy in an official press release as “diverse” over “funny” – and after the last few years any kind of recognition that ABC audiences want to watch comedy is a good thing.

But if a line-up that we’d definitely call “mid” (two winners in Fisk and Comedy Cafe, one solid mainstay in Utopia, and two fizzles in Gold Diggers and In Limbo) can pull in “millions of viewers”, imagine how well they’d do with a line up that was legitimately crowd-pleasing?

It’s not a secret that audiences love local comedy. The only time in recent memory the ABC was able to field an evening’s entertainment that could seriously challenge the commercial networks – that’d be Wednesday nights, though the glory days there are well over a decade ago – it was based on comedy. Not news or current affairs, not sport, not “hard-hitting local drama”. Comedy.

And yet for a generation at least, the ABC has treated comedy like an annoying obligation. It’s a big steaming pile of vegetables they’ve had to eat before they can get to the part where they take home a bunch of awards for a grim drama nobody watched and a news expose nobody gives a shit about. They’re serious broadcasters: comedy is just that little bit beneath them.

Of course, the justification for all that boring crap is that the ABC is meant to be filling the gaps left by the commercial networks. Fun fact: the commercial networks (10 aside) aren’t making comedy, and nobody’s making sitcoms. Making comedy is what the ABC should be doing. A bunch of reboots and revivals and “beautifully executed comedy-dramas” is a dereliction of duty.

After all, they really seem to like it when comedy brings in the viewers.

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