“We are all interested in the future,” someone once said, “because that is where we shall be spending the rest of our lives”. But what if the future looks really shit? Welcome to the magical world of Australian television’s plans for 2024.
In recent weeks the commercial networks and streaming services have been holding their upfronts – the events where they let the media and public know what they have planned for the coming year. The only holdout left is the ABC, which in recent years has been the main focus when it comes to local comedy. But could 2024 be the year that comedy makes its big comeback on ah fuck even we can’t say that with a straight face.
Let’s start with the one network we know will be showing local comedy in 2024: Network Ten:
Returning in 2024: Thank God You’re Here, Have You Been Paying Attention?, The Cheap Seats, The Inspired Unemployed (Impractical) Jokers
New shows: None.
Verdict: Considering the usual approach over the last decade or so is to axe even decent comedy shows, we’re not going to complain when Ten decides to stick with the winners they already have. Must kind of suck to be someone wanting to do comedy outside of Working Dog when the only network that does comedy only seems to want to work with them, but it must kind of suck to be someone wanting to do comedy in Australia in general.
Oh, and RIP the local version of Would I Lie to You?. It hasn’t been confirmed dead or alive, but now that TGYH is back… yeah, it’s dead.
Now for the former home of Australian comedy: The Seven Network:
Returning in 2024: Nothing – bad news for We Interrupt This Broadcast.
New shows: The Australian Roast of John Cleese, Outback Comedy Outlaw (7Mate) which we guess is at least somewhat comedy related.
Verdict: Look, comedy goes in and out of style at the commercial networks, and after a few years of half-heartedly giving it a go (remember Australia’s Sexiest Tradie?) the fizzle that was We Interrupt This Broadcast at the start of the year seems to have killed off Seven’s drive to reclaim their Fast Forward-era comedy crown. Daryl Somers is gone; they’re not even bothering with those best-of specials any more. And what happened to Paul Fenech?
(we should probably point out here that comedy is often a relatively last-minute addition to a network’s line-up. It’s cheap, it can be made in a hurry, and it’s not something that gets a lot of pre-launch hype. The overall picture here is pretty grim today, but there’s probably going to be a few surprise comedy arrivals in 2024)
Then there’s the network that doesn’t give a stuff about comedy, which is why they have a lock on Hamish & Andy (just kidding): The Nine Network:
Returning in 2024: Does The Hundred with Andy Lee count? Lego Masters definitely doesn’t.
New Shows: Stephen Fry is hosting a local version of Jeopardy, if that’s your thing.
Verdict: Nine doesn’t do comedy as such – they do entertainment that contains trace elements of comedy. If you laugh at something, great; if you don’t, it doesn’t matter. Somewhat related, there’s a documentary coming up looking back at the AFL Footy Show so hopefully there’ll be a few good lines from Trevor Marmalade someone will cut out and put up on YouTube and save us the trouble of fast forwarding through all the racism and sexism.
And finally (for now), in 2024, Australian commercial television isn’t just the free-to-air networks. Remember Foxtel? They have a streaming arm – Binge – and they’re back to being almost relevant: Foxtel / Binge:
Returning in 2024: Colin From Accounts. Because the first series left so many questions unanswered.
New Shows: Yeah, nah.
Verdict: We can understand not bringing back RocKwiz, and Upright didn’t need its second season so no problem here with not giving it a third, but where’s The Back Side of Television? Or The Last Year of Television? If you have Mitch McTaggart right there hosting your upfronts – and they did – surely you can do him the common decency of giving him a show on your network?