Australian Tumbleweeds

Australia's most opinionated blog about comedy.

White Fever all through the night

Not quite a sitcom and not quite a drama, White Fever, categorised on ABC iView as ‘Comedy’, ‘Offbeat’ and ‘Feel-good’, is lots of things but not really a comedy. Co-written by and starring Ra Chapman (Wentworth), White Fever is inspired by Chapman’s experience as a South Korean-born adoptee, raised in Australia by white parents. Chapman is one of more than 3,500 people adopted from South Korea to Australia, and White Fever draws on her experience and those of other South Korean adoptees she has met.

As Jane Thomas, Chapman explores the identity and sexuality of a Korean adoptee with issues. Jane is only attracted to big, hairy white guys, kind of like her adopted father Jack (Greg Stone) and worries that her “type” is problematic. Should she try dating Asian guys, or is that, as a fellow South Korean adoptee suggests, “like kissing yourself.”

As the show proceeds, it becomes clear that Jane’s preference for white guys comes from her childhood spent in the country town of Mount Whiteman (geddit). Internalised racism is a strong theme in White Fever, and there are some pithy scenes involving big, hairy white guys Jane dates, and Jane’s adoptive family, in which both their fetishisation of and racism towards Asians are brought to the surface. A birthday meal, at which Jane’s adoptive family are shown as both loving and caring but also insensitive towards her heritage and her search for her birth father, is indicative of the internal conflict driving Jane throughout the series.

Hera (Cassandra Sorrell), a fellow Korean adoptee and vlogger/influencer, who discusses the concept of “white fever,” a preference for white boyfriends and white culture, in her videos, becomes a sort of mentor for Jane, but Jane finds confronting her inner demons hard.

Jane’s “white fever” plays out as a fever dream. Hyper-real, fast-paced scenes in which multiple friends and associates throw potential or actual home truths at Jane, drive her into a sort of mania, leading to some questionable romantic encounters with both white and Asian guys, an episode where her cute, blonde-haired childhood doll Cindy (Susanna Qian) comes to life, and some not entirely necessary K-Pop sequences.

A Korean-Australian woman glares at a blonde doll which has come to life
Ra Chapman as Jane Thomas with Susanna Qian as Jane’s childhood doll Cindy

Along the way, Jane loses her long-standing friendship with Edi (Rosehaven’s Katie Robertson), after she knocks over her wedding cake, and recalls suppressed memories of participating in an egging of Mount Whiteman’s Chinese restaurant, owned by the mother of the only Asian guy she genuinely seems to fancy, childhood friend Yu Chang (Chris Pang).

White Fever does include some elements which suggest a comic intent – puns like Mount Whiteman, some hyped-up performances, a cast which includes Mad As Hell’s Roz Hammond as Jane’s adoptive mother but this isn’t a comedy. Its bigger influence is theatre, hence the multi-dimensional characters, and how Jane’s inner life and traumas often play out through monologues, or long, dialogue-heavy scenes. (Unsurprisingly, the idea from White Fever came from Ra Chapman’s previous theatre work.)

As for what we think of White Fever, it’s perfectly fine for what it is – a light, surreal, theatrical drama about identity. Our main beef is that White Fever occupies a timeslot which was previously for comedy. And this would be fine if lots of comedies were being made and screened on the ABC at other times…but they’re not. Drama has always been and continues to be well-funded by the ABC. But where’s the money and the timeslots for sitcoms, sketch shows and topical programs which aren’t The Weekly?

Finally Some Good News For Once

Press release time!

The Cheap Seats Returns To Cover The Important Stories.

Premieres Tuesday, 30 April At 8:30pm On 10 And 10 Play.

Some have said that The Cheap Seats hosts, Melanie Bracewell and Tim McDonald, took a superficial approach to news and current affairs last season.

This feedback has been taken seriously and is something season four plans to rectify.

Melanie Bracewell said: “Despite Tim and I not being on speaking terms, I’m willing to fake it for the 2024 season of The Cheap Seats. I’m hearing whispers that “Across The Ditch” will be returning, bigger and better than ever! I am the one doing the whispering.”

Tim McDonald said: “We’re so excited to be back for Season 4! New year, new stories, but the brief remains the same – Media Watch meets Love Island. 2024 will be a year of big events, from the Olympics in Paris to the US Election. I think there’s even a pickleball tournament in Launceston. We’ve got it all covered.”

Comedians Melanie Bracewell and Tim McDonald, alongside their Cultural Correspondent Mel Tracina, will return to cover all the important stories. Plus, all new instalments of Mel’s Markets, Timfomercials, Across The Ditch and What’s On What’s On In The Warehouse.

So… still no regular sports reporter? Eh, we’ll live with that.

An Environmental Decline

So yeah, things have been pretty dry around here of late. There’s only so many weeks you can watch The Weekly expecting to see something new (or funny). Other options? They’re somewhat slim. What’s going on? Don’t people like to laugh any more?

We’re a comedy blog, so don’t expect any great insights here. But in our search for things to watch, there are a couple of things we’ve noticed in recent months. Yes, despite the lack of posts we have been working behind the scenes to try and find fresh televisual comedy content. We’re slack, but we’re not that slack.

The first point is pretty obvious: there’s no money out there. Australian television doesn’t really have non-ratings periods like they used to, where everything went on break and a bunch of weird US imports filled the schedules from November to February. But there’s not enough money for year-round programming either, so at some stage the plug has to be pulled. And that stage is now.

From around mid-November through to sometime after Easter, Australian television largely assumes you’ve got better things to do. There’s the occasional new program or returning regular, but they’re few and far between. The ABC isn’t putting to air their first sitcom of 2024 until next week – a third of the way into April. Sure, The Weekly was back at the start of the year, but that proves our point. We’re currently in a dead zone where garbage rules.

On the one hand, this slow start to the year makes sense from a comedy perspective. Right now the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is in full swing, and a lot of Australia’s prime comedy talent is hard at work trying to make a year’s worth of cash in a month. Telling them nope, they’ve got day jobs to go to wouldn’t be popular; this way everyone wins.

On the other, this makes zero sense from a television perspective. You suddenly have Melbourne jam-packed full of primo comedy talent with ongoing shows to promote. Any half-decent talk show* – or format that uses live performers – would be swamped with quality guests. And you do see them cropping up where they can. It’s just that if there was a decent, respected show currently on air where they could appear, it’d be handy for them and great for audiences.

(this, however, would require Australia to have comedy talent under the age of 60 who didn’t make a living from stand up)

The other big problem facing Australian television comedy right now is that a lot of people out there just aren’t as funny as they think. We have a bit of a reputation for going hard on shit television shows, but it’s not like we’re grabbing stuff you’ve never heard of and dangling it in front of your face before giving it a good kicking. Once you get a profile, then we’re interested in your quality. If we’re not talking about you, it’s because we’ve got nothing useful to say.

And just quietly, in recent months we’ve had our attention directed towards a lot of shows about which we’ve decided to keep quiet. It’s never been easier to put together a semi-professional product, but putting together something that’s funny? Yeah, keep at it buddy.

Partly this is the fault of the way the attention economy currently works. People are encouraged to start putting things out there early and often, because you never know what will work. Have an idea, bang it into some kind of shape and get it out in front of people. Either it works or it doesn’t, and when it doesn’t just do it again.

The idea of developing into someone who’s good at comedy has become kind of pointless. You do it until you start getting attention, then you just keep it ticking over while you figure out how to turn that attention into money. If you somehow hit really big with a clip, you can just live off that (for a while). And if you have talent but it’s going to take a while to figure it out, don’t worry. You’ll burn out long before then.

People who want to be funny are off doing stand up. People who see comedy as a means to an end make comedy clips. Australian television is the result.


*so obviously not The Weekly

Nuts to This

The Nut Farm is an Australian comedy movie, which means you might want to hurry if you want to see it on the big screen. You know, so in a decade or so’s time when the youth start asking questions like “What’s an Australian comedy movie?” and “What’s an Australian comedy?” and “What’s an Australian movie?” you’ll be the life of the party.

Here in 2024, The Nut Farm feels like something that could have been made in 2004. This is not automatically a bad thing. Unlike more recent Australian comedies, which largely don’t exist, this is content with being a comedy. The jokes are silly but there are plenty of them, while everything else comes a very distant second. Which, and we can’t stress this enough, is what you want in a comedy.

Arj Barker isn’t exactly our favourite comedian, but he is a comedian. Putting him in the lead of a comedy? Makes sense because – lets say it again – this is a comedy. And not the kind of “comedy” where the premise is a bit out there so the marketing team are hedging their bets. Jokes require someone comfortable around jokes to make them work. Barker is by no means a great actor, but a great actor wouldn’t be seen dead in this.

Barker plays a San Francisco crypto bro who inherits a macadamia farm in the middle of nowhere when his uncle (Roy Billing, always welcome) vanishes. He comes out to try and sell it to cover his losses (his latest cryptocoin melts down while he’s spruiking it live on stage), only to be told by his uncle’s lawyer and lover (Tiriel Mora, always a pleasure) that first he has to bring in a nut harvest. Uh oh.

While the rest of the film isn’t entirely nut jokes, don’t worry. There are a lot of nut jokes, including a neighbour (who also has a nut farm) named Dee. We’ll wait. Oh, and Madeleine West plays another nut farmer, so technically this is a romantic comedy. Technically.

There’s also a subplot about an evil fracking scheme involving a lot of underground digging and New Zealand accents. It’s pretty silly, but not so silly that it wrecks the film, which was pretty silly to begin with. Much like the nut harvest, it’s more about quantity than quality here. There aren’t a lot of classic gags, but the overall strike rate gets it over the line.

A big problem with a lot of recent comedies is that they struggle to maintain a consistent tone. Here’s a funny bit, now here’s a dramatic bit. They don’t really go together but hey, that’s modern storytelling for you. The Nut Farm is pretty broad and not exactly highbrow stuff, but across the 90 minutes it holds together because each scene and character and subplot feels like they fit in with everything else. It’s consistent; that’s not something to be laughed at.

Unfortunately there’s also a fair bit here that’s also not to be laughed at. This may not be a shocker like, oh, let’s say the last Wog Boy movie, but it’s no classic either. Here’s the poster quote: it’s a reasonable way to pass the time if you’re in the mood for some local comedy.

Are people still in the mood for local comedy? You’d have to be nuts to think so.

Stand (up) In The Place Where You Live

Earlier this week 10 broadcast a stand up comedy special from Aaron Chen, If It Weren’t Filmed, Nobody Would Believe. It’s ok. One of the best jokes is hidden in the opening title; Chen also undergoes a mystery costume change halfway through that is never (directly) commented on.

The show is pretty good, not amazingly great. It’s worth the price of entry for a live experience, probably not something you’d purchase to watch again and again. But that’s where we are with comedy on Australian television. Not quite a dumping ground, not exactly a showcase.

Stand ups don’t record their shows when they’re exciting and new. That’s when they’re out there milking their new jokes for all they’re worth. A decent show can generate a year’s worth of work, maybe more if they can tour it overseas. You’re not wasting that on television.

But while recording a show at the end of the run makes financial sense – now you can flog it to the people who’re interested enough to watch you but not interested enough to go see you live – artistically we’re getting a dead fish. Fresh new work from a comedian engaged with the world around them? Nah, just the last gasp of a bunch of ideas they had eighteen months ago.

When someone’s clearly on the way up and getting better all the time – ie Aaron Chen – this kind of show is a time capsule. Nothing wrong with that; we laughed a lot. Drowning during a boring story: so good.

But the more Australian television puts to air stand up specials, the more it stops being the place to go for the best in Australian comedy. If only because the best stand-up comedy is always going to be out there, live on stage.

Well, unless you’re going to see Dave Hughes.

The Australian Roast of John Cleese with leastest

The Australian Roast of John Cleese, which aired recently on Seven, had a few decent laughs in it, but, mostly, it was a slapdash affair. You’d think you could expect better from a show with 15 credited writers[1] and a group of comedians and entertainers roasting the British comedy legend which included Joel Creasey, Lehmo, Damien Power, Lawrence Mooney, Tom Gleeson, Christie Whelan Browne, Alex Lee, Rhonda Burchmore, Steve Vizard and Stephen Hall.

But as each roaster delivered their bit, it became clear that the 15 writers had all gone off separately to write their assigned speeches and had produced roughly the same set of easy gags. We lost count of the number of fat jokes directed at host Shane Jacobson. We’re not saying some of them weren’t funny, but man, it’s not like he was the guy being roasted. Similarly, how many gags did we need about Mooney’s substance abuse and firing from Triple M? Or Gleeson’s red/bald head and Gold Logie win? Or Burchmore’s age and plastic surgery? Write some different material for each person, guys![2]

But even when the speeches eventually got around to roasting Cleese, each one of them felt pretty much the same. It’s almost like the writers had a series of dot points to work through:

  • Cleese has had a lot of wives. CHECK!
  • Cleese must be really broke from his divorces if he’s doing this show. CHECK!
  • Wow, almost every film Cleese made after A Fish Called Wanda was total crap. CHECK!

To be fair, the above-mentioned things are all true – especially the gags about Cleese’s recent terrible film work – but why wimp out in mentioning The Very Excellent Mr Dundee? Or even better, why not roast Cleese about his dodgy recent TV work, like his plan to resurrect Fawlty Towers.

There were a few highlights, though. Rhonda Burchmore singing an original song called “John Cleese is Dead,” in which Cleese pretended to die halfway through, was pretty funny, in a The Producers sort of way. And Stephen Hall (also one of the credited writers) recounting how he’d played the Cleese role in the 2016 stage adaptation of Fawlty Towers, alternately impersonating and ribbing Cleese, to Cleese’s obvious delight, was also good value. But then it was back to the divorce gags, including some from surprise guest Camilla Cleese, John’s writer and actor daughter. Although, hers, were at least a bit more pointed, like how Cleese’s current wife is 18 days younger than Camilla’s elder sister.

But eventually, after more than an hour of this, it was time for the man himself to get a right to reply, which he did in typical John Cleese style. He may be old, and he may be problematic, and he may not be great at picking films to appear in, but somewhere within him, he still has it.

P.S. Was it just us who noticed that no one on the production team seemed to have a clear idea as to what the show was called? Throughout the show, host Shane Jacobson held a card reading “John Cleese Roast Live!” but the podium which Jacobson and the various roasters stood behind had “John Cleese Roast” on it, while the titles sequence and advance publicity had “The Australian Roast of John Cleese.”

[1] Or you would if you’d never seen an average episode of Saturday Night Live, which employs a great many more writers. And is always average.

[2] And the writers pretty much were all guys.

No Comedy Stans

Press release time!

March 12, 2024 Stan, Australia’s leading local streaming service and unrivalled home of original productions, announced 25 Stan Originals across television, film and documentaries during an intimate Stan Originals Showcase held at the iconic Sydney Opera House. 

We know what you’re thinking: comedy is back baby! After all, with 25 Stan Originals heading our way, there’s got to be a bunch of comedies in there, right?

And that’s the biggest laugh you’ll get here. Oh sure, there’s stuff like this:

comedy crime thriller Population 11 starring Ben Feldman premiering Thursday

Which, as we all know, really means “crime thriller where people act like dickheads”. But otherwise the line-up is full of this:

psychological drama series

And this:

gripping psychological thriller

Plus this:

A psychological thriller

And of course, this:

10-episode LGBTQIA+ drama

(presumably there’s a psychological angle there somewhere)

The closest we get to a local comedy in the whole 25 shows announced is this:


Starting production in 2024, darkly-comedic drama series Sunny Nights is about how a little bit of sun, a change of scenery, and a touch of violent crime can help a person find their true self. The series follows two siblings who venture to Sydney determined to grow their struggling spray tan business, but when they get caught up in the city’s criminal underworld, they must figure out how to stay alive, out of prison, and in the black. Directed by Trent O’Donnell, with writers Ty Freer, Nick Keetch, Marieke Hardy, Lally Katz, Clare Sladden and Niki Aken. A Jungle Entertainment (Stan Original Series Population 11) and Echo Lake Entertainment Production (The Great), with major production investment from Stan in association with Screen Australia.

Hey, Marieke Hardy’s still getting work! Guess that’s the second laugh here.

You might not want to hold your breath waiting for a third.

Old News is No News

As previously mentioned, currently Australian television is serving up one (1) new Australian comedy series: The Weekly with Charlie Pickering. One show. Across all of Australian television. Real solid foundation we’ve got for a blog there.

This perhaps wouldn’t be quite so big a problem if The Weekly was any good at its job. As we’ve detailed in the past, across the show’s nine year history that job has remained somewhat unclear. Charlie’s in a suit, he’s out of a suit, first there’s a team of co-presenters, then suddenly where’s Briggs? You get the idea.

One thing that has remained the same is the title: The Weekly. It’s a show that covers the week in news. One week’s worth of news, one episode of The Weekly. We thought that was fairly clear. Seems our mistake was in assuming the week in question was the week just past and not, oh, any old random week from a few months back.

How else to explain why the latest episode of The Weekly – which went to air March 6 – featured a segment collecting Scott Morrison’s ten “greatest” media appearances. Scott Morrison, you may recall, stopped being Prime Minister in 2022. So these clips? Almost all of them were over two years old. Topical! Even more topical considering he stopped being relevant two years ago! Next week: former PM Malcolm Fraser caught with his pants down in 1986.

But hold on, The Weekly had an excuse: Scott Morrison just quit Parliament. Perfectly reasonable to take a look back at his greatest hits, right? Well, Scotty from Marketing announced his departure January 23; he finally hauled arse Wednesday Feb 28 – the same day as last week’s episode of The Weekly.

Remember, this was just a collection of old clips cobbled together to commemorate an event announced well ahead of time. Was there any reason they couldn’t have aired it on Feb 28? Was there just too much comedy gold that week to fit it in? Is it just another sign of a show that might as well be retitled Can’t Be Arsed?

Guess we’ve got the whole week to think about it.

Where has all the comedy gone? Part 3,671

Here’s some not-very-surprising news courtesy of TV Tonight:

A study into first run Australian content on ABC, outside of News programming, has found a 41% decline over the past decade.

Dr Michael Ward of the University of Sydney, a former ABC Television Head of Policy, assessed data for first run Australian content on ABC from 2013 – 2023.

The results, published by ABC Alumni show a 41% decline, or 430 hours in the past decade, of non-news and current affairs content (news caff) on ABC’s primary channel.

The article includes a line chart and some figures which illustrate that the decline started sharply under the Abbott government and has never recovered:

A line chart showing a steady decline in non-news-caff first release content over the past decade
Figures showing the decline in hours of first run programmes in various categories

The article also notes that:

The biggest drop was in Sport followed by Entertainment, Factual, Drama and Arts.

However there were also changes in definitions over the period. For example, ‘Drama’ hours now include scripted Comedy, which was previously a category of its own.

The near-total replacement of proper comedies (e.g., sitcoms, sketch shows) with dramedies over the past decade means comedy doesn’t even get its own category anymore. That figures.

Finally, there’s a challenge to the ABC to be more honest about the situation it’s clearly in:

“It is true that the ABC, like every other media organisation, is grappling with the consequences of the digital revolution,” the report stated. “But delivering new Australian made content across a range of genres remains crucial to the ABC’s role as a publicly funded national broadcaster. If it doesn’t have the funds to do so, it should be saying so, loudly and clearly. It is to be hoped that the new Chair Kim Williams will begin to do so as soon as he begins his job in March 2024.”

And, yes, some honesty would be nice, but would it do any good?

Either way, this is worrying stuff. The only comedy currently on Australian TV – not just the ABC – is The Weekly. Do you feel well-served by broadcasters and streamers? We don’t.

But maybe there’s cause for optimism? Screen Australia has just announced development funding for 23 feature films and 6 TV dramas, including some comedies. They are:

Desert Fish: A comedy/drama feature film following Aboriginal man Alfie Munns, a lost soul burdened by a turbulent past, who seeks salvation in the remote Kimberley when he stumbles upon the visionary Frances Nerrima, a respected Elder determined to empower her people by building homes together. As they face setbacks, legal troubles, and bitter adversaries, Alfie must confront his demons and embrace his roots to bring hope, unity and a sense of purpose to a community. Attached is director Wayne Blair (The Sapphires, Top End Wedding), writer/producers Victor Hunter and Melanie Hogan (Kanyini), producer Lisa Scott (The Tourist), script editor Keith Thompson (The Sapphires) and script editor/executive producer Mark Coles Smith (Mystery Road: Origin).

Going Troppo: On the run from authorities, Bernadette, a tax avoidance accountant, escapes to her estranged and apparently wealthy father in tropical Darwin, in this eight-part comedy/drama series. Along the way she discovers that her father is actually a destitute tempestuous drag queen – unimpressed by her sudden arrival, emotionally immature, and who is as good a liar as herself. In an effort to reinvent herself and find a common ground with her infuriating father, she embarks on a turbulent mission to win his admiration and turn his bankrupt gay bar into a spectacular success. Going Troppo is from writer/producer Kate Wyvill (The Wardrobe), script consultant Katherine Thomson (A Place to Call Home) and story consultant Kamahi D’Jordon King (Koori Gras – Sydney World Pride, 2023), with Nadine Lee attached as a First Nations consultant.

The Black Talons: A feature-length horror/comedy following a teen-girls netball team, The Black Talons, who defy the odds against mostly all-white competitors with more money and more resources. Just as their main rivals cheat them out of a Grand Final win, a flash flood hits – leaving them to take shelter in a Captain Cook-themed public housing tower. Forced to fight for their lives in a Colonial haunted house of horrors against reptilian monsters, The Black Talons have to work together if they’re going to survive the night. The Black Talons will be directed by Shari Sebbens (The Moth Effect, The Moogai) and written by Maria Lewis (The House That Hungers, The Phantom Never Dies).

The Golden Ass: A six-part family drama/comedy about a mixed-Cypriot family descending into chaos when its patriarch, Mazhar, has a spectacular meltdown in the fruit and vegetable section of the local supermarket. The resulting notoriety lures his adult children home but, instead of dealing with the mess, they are drawn into a desperate plan: to create a viral cooking show with Mazhar and his delinquent pet donkey as the stars. Their goal is to reach 1 million followers, if death and dysfunction don’t stand in their way. The Golden Ass will be written by Lâle Teoman (The Palace That I Live In) and produced by Rosemary Blight (Black Snow) and Kylie du Fresne (Five Blind Dates), with Polly Rowe attached as development producer.

Willy: From Ludo Studio, Mad Ones and Sad Man Studio, Willy is a 10-part coming-of-age fantasy set in 2003 Far-North Queensland, which follows 15-year-old barely-closeted Willy Davis as he struggles to navigate puberty in the farming town of Toee, (mis)guided by a private cast of imaginary friends. As if things weren’t sticky enough, the arrival of hot new neighbour Jack threatens to bust Willy’s vibrant but carefully constructed inner-world wide open, changing the lives of Toee locals forever. Willy is created by Samuel Leighton Dore (Showboy) and Bradley Tennant, with a proof-of-concept animation featuring voices from Judith Lucy, Anne Edmonds, Reuben Kaye and Danielle Walker. The series will be also written and directed by Leighton-Dore, produced by Liam Heyen (Erotic Stories) with development producer Chloe Hume, and executive produced by Daley Pearson (The Strange Chores season 2) and Charlie Aspinwall (Bluey season 3).

Also mentioned under TV development funding approvals are:

8 x 30 mins
Nondescript Productions
Comedy, Drama
Writers Celeste Barber, Belinda King
Producers Celeste Barber, Alexandra Keddie
Synopsis Marriage counsellor, Darcy, is forced to face her own relationship demons when her husband of 15 years leaves her for someone new.

8 x 30 mins
Makes You Think Pty Ltd
Comedy, Drama
Writers Ben Manusama (aka Ben Abraham), Liam Maguire
Producers Ben Manusama (aka Ben Abraham), Liam Maguire
Executive Producer Debs Paterson
Synopsis Inspired by real events, Are We Good? is a dramedy about a young Christian leader who, on the eve of being announced as a new pastor at his parents’ church, confesses to his fiancée that he cheated on her with a man off craigslist. What follows is the messy, heartening, darkly-funny story of a man trying to reconcile the person he is with the religion he’s devoted his life to.

8 x 30 mins
Christopher Squadrito
Genre Comedy, Drama
Writer/Producer Chris Squadrito
Script Editor Blake Ayshford
Synopsis After outing himself as bisexual, 30-year-old personal trainer Max Morello strives to keep his engagement afloat and his sense of masculinity intact – only to find his newfound evolution shifting the very nature of his relationship, his family, and his group of all-too Australian mates.

8 x 30 mins
Chemical Media Pty Ltd
Genre Black comedy, Drama
Creators Beth Knights, Tony Jackson
Writer Beth Knights
Producers Tony Jackson, Lucy Maclaren
Executive Producer David Collins
Synopsis When newly pregnant Olivia fakes her own death to escape a dangerous marriage to a criminal in Ireland, she re-surfaces with a new identity as a single mum in the suburbs of Perth – the most remote city on earth. Resourceful, ambitious, and not entirely averse to illicit activity, Olivia soon realises she can earn a decent living helping all sorts of desperate people fake their deaths too. While her black-market business is booming, Olivia’s hard-won new life is about to unravel with disastrous consequences.

8 x 30 mins
FremantleMedia Australia Pty Ltd
Genre Comedy, Drama
Writers Nikki Tran, Simon Trevorrow
Development Producer Anna Curtis
Synopsis A sharp-tongued, headstrong asylum seeker, Nesrine, bends the rules of a chaotic and insular Melbourne market to claw back her former standing in life.

8 x 30 mins
Arenamedia Pty Limited
Genre Comedy, Drama
Writer Mararo Wangai
Producer Kate Laurie
Synopsis Kaka is an affluent Kenyan student living in Fremantle, attending a prestigious business school on family dime and barely passing. When his parent’s money inexplicably dries up, he is forced to work as a dishwasher in a volatile kitchen full of eclectic characters, each caught up in the labyrinthine Australian migration system that is built to keep them down.

8 x 30 mins
Tin Pang
Genre Dramedy
Director Tin Pang
Writers Tin Pang, Amy Stewart
Producer Tin Pang
Mentor/Executive Producer Linda Ujuk
Synopsis A group of advertising misfits from the minority bench are transformed into Mad Men for the woke age when their white bread agency forces them to give makeovers to ads that have been #cancelled. But will their newfound influence contort them into the very overlords that have constantly oppressed them?

And if none of that’s to your taste, Seven has just announced that The Roast of John Cleese, which was filmed last year, will finally air on 12th March. It features a host of Australian comedy and showbiz talent that the British comedy legend has presumably never heard of. So…expect some jokes about that?

Satire? You’ve Got to be Joking

Sometimes when you want to get rid of something, slowly whittling it down to nothing is the way to go. Other times, a big rug pull to get it over and done with works best. And when you’re the ABC looking to trash 50-odd years of satirical content, why not both at once?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Over the decades, the ABC’s track record when it comes to satire is spotty at best. BackBerner? Gillies and Company? Everyone trying to be satirical on 730 who weren’t Clarke & Dawe? Massive, years-long stretches of Good News Week and The Glasshouse? There’s a reason why most truly funny people run a mile from the term “satire”.

The important thing was that it was there; the door was firmly open just in case someone decent came along. And it gave the ABC an identity, something that set it apart and brought viewers in. If you were unhappy with the politicans of the day, the ABC presented something – usually of dubious quality – that stuck it to them. You know, the whole “giving an audience what they want” thing.

And they kept on doing it. When The Chaser finally staggered offscreen, having reduced the idea of satirical comment to “stupid stunts”, the ABC brought back Shaun Micallef and got him to do Newstopia for them only better. Over on ABC2 there was Tonightly (briefly). And just to keep the satirical ball rolling, The Weekly was there to fill in the gaps and oh wait we’re starting to see where the rot set in.

But for a while, things weren’t too bad. After John Clarke’s sudden departure from this mortal coil, Sammy J was given the Clarke & Dawe slot; meanwhile, Mark Humphries started turning up on 730. Neither of them were what you’d call “good”, but again, the point was to keep the door open in case someone good came along.

Then the doors started closing. Tonightly had already flamed out. Sammy J got the axe. Humphries left (jumped or pushed, who knows). And of course, Mad as Hell finished up. Being the kind of high profile satirical program that you’d think would require some managerial gesture towards replacing, the ABC made sure to say nothing and do even less.

It’s not like satire has gone out of style or anything. The internet’s full of the stuff; even local producers are doing pretty well out of it. But the ABC seems to have made a decision somewhere along the line that making fun of politicans? Yeah, that’s not for us. At all.

But what about The Weekly? Maybe once we might have said “well, at least it’s keeping the door open”, but after Mad as Hell ended and was not replaced it’s clear that there are no guaranteed timeslots for satire. All that’s left is to judge The Weekly on its merits, and… yeah, about that.

There’s really no reason why The Weekly couldn’t go hard on politicans. It’s just a man behind a desk saying stuff; maybe say something insightful or funny once in a while? Instead, it’s a clip of a news report calling New South Wales “the asbestos state”, then Pickering says “that won’t look good on a license plate” while they show us a picture of a license plate that reads THE ASBESTOS STATE and the audience goes wild.

That’d be fine if… actually, that kind of shit joke is never fine. But if it was the worst joke on the show, we’d live. Instead, The Weekly just stumbles around, barely aware of what comedy even is, using up its stockpile of Millionaire Hot Seat intros because eh, they already got the intern to compile them so might as well.

It wouldn’t be more difficult for them to make the same shit jokes only about shit politicans. It wouldn’t require any more effort to watch the actual news instead of Sky News. Their refusal to engage with politics on any level beyond “here’s a clip we saw on the news, wild huh?” is a conscious decision they’ve made: soft targets only, fellas.

Which seems to be ABC policy across the board these days.