Fresh Blood 2024: A new hope

Over the years, the various incarnations of the ABC’s new comedy talent initiative Fresh Blood have thrown up some shows of variable quality. But in 2024, things are looking, well, a lot better than we expected. Whether any of the 10 three-part Fresh Blood pilots recently released on YouTube will catch the eyes of the powers that be is yet to be seen, of course. But here’s what we thought of them…

Ruby Rai P.I.

What’s it about?

Vidya Rajan (Aunty Donna’s Coffee Café) plays Ruby Rai, an up-and-coming private investigator trying to find the Monstera Murderer, who steals monsteras from people’s homes and kills them, documenting their crimes on social media. As part of her investigations, Rai interviews an annoying polyamorous trio who are more interested in speaking their truths than helping her solve the crime, appears on a commercial radio show hosted by Gobbo and Chi Chi (a spot-on parody of Kyle and Jackie O), and tracks the Monstera Murderer to a local variety store.

Would we like to see more of it?

Absolutely. Even if the crime is maybe a little dumb, Rai is an engaging and likeable central character, and the show gets plenty of laughs from the idiotic people she has to deal with.

I’m So Sorry For Your Loss

What’s it about?

Comedian Annie Louey (perhaps best known for presenting the ABC’s China Tonight) plays Annie, who works as an assistant for disorganised funeral business proprietor Sal, whilst mourning the death of her father. As in Ruby Rai P.I., Annie finds herself having to interact with various idiotic but funny characters through her work. The mad/racist uncle of a deceased dirt biker and a misogynist tyre repairman obsessed with building his social media following are particular highlights.

Would we like to see more of it?

Again, absolutely. Writers Annie Louey and Joshua Ladgrove have created a solid and funny central premise, and these pilot episodes demonstrate their ability to create recognisable and entertaining characters.

Day Job

What’s it about?

Day Job is a documentary about the staff at a bowling alley, most of whom are struggling graduates who don’t want to work there. Boss Rico is an annoying bully who thinks he should get a promotion, while the staff are so underpaid that some of them are living at the alley.

Would we like to see more of it?

Not really. This show leans into the documentary style too much, having characters talk over the top of each other to the point of the show being incomprehensible at times. Worse, it sacrifices potential comedy for realism. The end result is some recognisable but not especially funny characters and situations.

Westerners

What’s it about?

Three young adults of the diaspora, who grew up in Sydney’s western suburbs, move to the inner west and try to make it in art, fashion, and life in general. We see the characters deal with racial profiling, clueless white people, and their traditional older relatives’ expectations.

Would we like to see more of it?

This has potential, although it’s hard to see how the three characters fit together (apart from that they’re non-white and grew up in Western Sydney). While this has overtones of dramedy, there is some funny and pithy commentary on both people from the diaspora and inner-city white people, as well as some joyous moments of triumph, liberation, and celebration throughout.

Urvi Went To An All Girls School

What’s it about?

In this comedy about juggling traditional parental expectations with your own desires, girls school attendee Urvi (Melbourne comedian Urvi Majumdar) is desperate to date Ryan, the hottest guy at Beaumont Boys.

Would we like to see more of it?

For these pilots, we follow the plot of Urvi trying to get a date with Ryan. In a full series, we’d presumably learn more about Urvi’s parents, sister, school friends, teachers, and the boys from Beaumont. And from the brief glimpse we get of the other characters, there are plenty of opportunities for laughs in this show. The School Principal, who appears all too briefly in one of the episodes, is particularly funny.

Bad Ancestors

What’s it about?

When best friends Norah (played by the show’s writer and creator Wendy Mocke) and Charli (Preppers’ Joseph Althouse) die in a freak accident, they find themselves in Ancestral Headquarters, a blackfellas afterlife, where they’re assigned to help young Black people in crisis. Their first case is Erik, a talented young rugby player about to be signed by the Brisbane Bronchos, who actually wants to be an actor. Can Norah and Charli help Erik get into the school production of Macbeth?

Would we like to see more of it?

Bad Ancestors is a premise with a lot of potential, as there are endless possibilities for the young people Norah and Charli could help in each episode. Although based on this pilot, a full series might lean further towards “feel-good” rather than out-and-out comedy. Having said that, we really enjoyed the parodies of pretentious inner-city white people, from Erik’s audition panel asking him to “channel his ancestors,” to Norah and Charli’s yoga-obsessed white alter egos.

Going Under

What’s it about?

Katie (Gold DiggersDanielle Walker), a journalist based in the city, returns to her rural hometown, Gowa. She spends time with her parents and best friend Renae (Walker’s co-writer Lauren Bonner), and documents what the people of Gowa are going through before it floods due to global warming.

Would we like to see more of it?

In this pilot, you don’t get much sense of the looming catastrophe of the flood, it’s more about your parents being weird and annoying when you spend time with them as an adult. While there are some laughs here, this is not one of the funnier or better shows in this year’s Fresh Blood.

Fine Art

What’s it about?

In this parody of a late-90s/early-00s kids show, host Emma (Emma Holland, as seen on Have You Been Paying Attention?) tries to teach children about art with the help of a talking Renaissance torso, pancake artist Chef Gina and a local postman who fancies her. Whilst similar to Shirty The Slightly Aggressive Bear from The Late Show, this is far more surreal, psychopathic and creepy, particularly when some of Emma’s backstory is revealed.

Would we like to see more of it?

Definitely. This is weird and disturbing but it’s also very funny. And while it seems like the kind of premise that would work better as a series of sketches, the hints that Emma isn’t presenting the show voluntarily and is somehow being manipulated by the show’s producer could make for an interesting plot.

Starship Q Star

What’s it about?

The six all-woman and non-binary crew members of a spaceship blame themselves for blowing up a planet they’ve come to explore. But was it them, or something else?

Would we like to see more of it?

Maybe. This is based on an existing podcast series, so there’s already plenty of material to turn this into a full series. Having said that, the pilot TV shows weren’t hugely hilarious in comparison to some of the other shows in this series of Fresh Blood.

Kingsland

What’s it about?

According to Screen Australia’s press release

Reg, a hot-headed animated First Nations man living in real-world Redfern, gets evicted from his home and goes in search of his place of belonging (which he can’t remember) guided only by the spirit of his late wife Agnes and Wiiny: a little gum-stoned furry flirt who he can’t understand.

Would we like to see more of it?

Yes, but we can’t see any of it, as Kingsland hasn’t turned up on the ABC’s YouTube account yet. According to this Instagram post from co-creator Josh Yasserie, the “live action side” has been filmed, suggesting there are animated elements to this show.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a Fresh Blood pilot has been announced and then hasn’t appeared. Remember 2014’s Pet Quarantine?

This show mocks Australian racism and provides a commentary on the state of Australian attitudes towards ‘other’ cultures. It is a show built on stereotype that doesn’t seek to judge or condone but highlights the hilarity of the different values and desires of cultures from around the world. By creating a microcosm of the Australian multicultural landscape in a Pet Quarantine Station (perhaps the least invasive risk of infection into white Australia) and concentrating on attitudes towards immigrants and ‘new’ Australians onto fluffy, childlike puppets, Pet Quarantine seeks to highlight the nation’s dirty and unspoken sentiment of fear, mistrust and ignorance of all ‘others.’ The creators of Pet Quarantine have their own fan bases. The original Beached Az YouTube video was viewed more than 8 million times and spawned a successful series for the ABC and merchandise. Nick Mattick, who plays the title character Swabby, is part of the comedy duo Smart Casual, who have played at comedy festivals around the country and overseas.

If/when Kingsland (or Pet Quarantine) get a release, we’ll update this post to include a review.

Update, 22/02/24

According to TV Tonight, Kingsland “will be available to view on ABC TV and iview soon”.

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