The (F)art Of…

ABC arts programming has been rubbish for years and new effort The Art Of… is no exception. Just how bad is it? It manages to make Josh Thomas seem good.

It doesn’t make him seem funny mind you because haha, they’ve got him on the episode about “heartbreak”. Why is a program about the arts doing an episode on heartbreak? Welcome to today’s ABC, where everything is about feels and personalities and the feels of personalities. For fuck’s sake, the other local shows on a Tuesday night are “Tony Robinson looks at things” and “Myf Warhurst has emotions”. Presumably “Sammy J pats cats” is on hold until 2025.

So yeah, the new ABC arts program is a show where the ABC invites a bunch of their mates on to talk about how feelings have inspired them to come on an ABC arts program. Remember when the ABC would air shows that actually reviewed books and films? The ABC sure hopes you don’t.

Obviously, Josh Thomas is here to remind the audience of the heartbreak they felt when they tuned into Please Like Me expecting it to be funny. Just kidding. Slightly more seriously, was Please Like Me an especially heartbreaking show? It had a rock-solid formula where the second-last episode each season featured a death / near-death so the final episode could be sombre. But so did that show about the cranky out-of-touch chef and his cool niece (Aftertaste – Ed) and that wasn’t exactly a classic of heartbreak. Or anything else.

While there’s a bunch of other people in this episode, none of them are technically comedians (though Clem Ford seems like someone who possibly gives lectures that get a lot of clapter?). Again, insert your own Josh Thomas joke here. Research reveals his appearance here is even more of a sick burn as there actually is an episode coming up about comedy (featuring amongst others, Shaun Micallef). Didn’t even make it into the funny episode, damn.

But in a twist, Thomas gets to make a bunch of reasonable and even occasionally interesting points. He explains that mining his own pain to inflict it on his viewers was tricky because (on the one hand obviously, but on the other nobody else seemed to mention it) heartbreak involves two people. Plus, in fictionalising his mother’s mental illness he was constantly aware that she’d be watching the show (also, she had script approval… and yet didn’t demand more jokes). And so on and so forth.

It’s not that Thomas says anything more than the usual weekend newspaper supplement interview platitudes. It’s that pretty much all of the rest of this arts show is so basic and stunted and bad at being interesting. Though if you haven’t been to Melbourne in a while (or ever), there are a shitload of pointless establishing shots of the CBD to enjoy. Arty!

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