If everything else on commercial television wasn’t already a local remake of some successful show from America or Britain or South Korea, you might wonder why Network 10 was bothering to make a local version of the British comedy panel show Would I Lie To You? Australian commercial television has rarely succeeded at comedy panel shows. This blog is littered with reviews of shows like Can of Worms, which was hosted for two series by Would I Lie To You? Australia’s host Chrissie Swan, or The Unbelievable Truth, which featured one of Would I Lie To You? Australia’s team captains Chris Taylor.
The real reason Would I Lie To You? Australia exists is probably because Have You Been Paying Attention? isn’t back yet. And 10 wants to make Monday nights on 10 the year-round home of comedy. If true, it’s a worthy aim, but Would I Like To You? Australia will have to sharpen up a bit to be worthy of keeping Have You Been Paying Attention?’s seat warm.
The British original of Would I Lie To You? is fast-paced and, crucially, lasts only half an hour. Would I Like To You? Australia has its moments, comedically, but goes on for far too long. We get it, a commercial TV half-hour isn’t enough time to do this show justice. Yet a commercial TV hour really out-stays its welcome when it comes to this format.
In case you don’t know the concept, host Chrissie Swan asks team captains Chris Taylor and Frank Woodley, and guests Ross Noble and Carrie Bickmore (on Chris’ team) and Zoe Coombs-Marr and Luke McGregor (on Frank’s team), to tell us a series of tall tales. The opposing team then has to say if the story is true or a lie. If the opposition is right, they win. If they’re wrong, the storyteller team wins.
Or something like that because who actually cares? We tuned in for laughs, and what with the need to stretch out the show to fill the timeslot, we got less than we should have. Having said that, Ross Noble’s story about making sandcastles with Rod Stewart had its moments, as did Luke McGregor’s unbelievable claim that he’s highly skilled at taekwondo. McGregor was probably the best on the night, also claiming that he’d once serenaded a woman called Vanessa with an original composition – part of which he played. Points also go to Frank Woodley for his story about guest-hosting Hey! Hey! It’s Saturday, which led to some fun gags about Daryl Somers.
The problem with Would I Lie To You? Australia, though, is the pacing: there are too few gags and it goes on way too long. Even the faster pace promised by the ‘Quick Fire’ round was a disappointment, with things seeming to drag on for as long as they did for all the other rounds. Sort out the pacing and up the gag rate and this could be decent, but that may also mean reducing the timeslot, and will 10 really want to go there?
Press release time!
ABC is pleased to announce that filming is underway in Adelaide on the second season of ABC’s food-filled comedy Aftertaste. Embraced by audiences and critics alike, the series features the much-loved Erik Thomson as celebrity chef Easton West, and rising star Natalie Abbott as his niece and pastry chef extraordinaire Diana.
They’ll once again be joined by an exceptional ensemble cast including Rachel Griffiths (Total Control, Finding The Archibald), Wayne Blair (The Sapphires, Irreverent), Susan Prior (Glitch, Frayed), Remy Hii (Harrow, Spider-Man: Far From Home), Kavitha Anandasivam (The Tourist, The Hunting) and Justin Amankwah (Fat Pizza vs Housos), while Lynette Curran (Cleverman, A Few Less Men), Julian Maroun (The Secrets She Keeps) and Syd Brisbane (Stateless) join the cast for season two.
Erik Thomson said: “I’m so thrilled to be heading back to the beautiful Adelaide Hills for another season of Aftertaste. It’s a privilege to work with Closer Productions and the ABC, as we deconstruct our relationship with food and fame, through the antics of the dysfunctional West family.”
Season two picks up with Easton West (Erik Thomson) living his life out of the public eye and concentrating on being a better man, until his new-found peace is shattered by the return of his niece Diana (Natalie Abbott) to Adelaide, flaunting her successful career and love life in London. But both must put their troubles aside when a secret from the past throws the West family into more chaos than ever.
Written by Julie De Fina, Matthew Bate and Matt Vesely, produced by Closer Productions (The Hunting, F*! #cking Adelaide, Animals) and directed by Reneé Webster (How To Please A Woman), Aftertaste will film across Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills region and will premiere later this year on ABC TV and ABC iview.
“Embraced by audiences and critics alike”, you say? Interesting.
Which is more than we can say about the plot, as it sounds very much like the traditional “let’s do the same thing all over again only now the lead roles are reversed” storyline that time and time again has failed to be embraced by audiences and critics alike.
Bet the Adelaide Hills will look like a great place for a holiday though.
When Nine tapped Hamish & Andy on the shoulder and hired them to bring their knockabout larrikin hijinx to the nation’s premier commercial network, it seemed like a vote of confidence in the future of Australian comedy. A decade later and the duo are now each hosting their own generic gameshow. What went wrong?
“They got old” is the most obvious answer. Sure, Hamish & Andy’s mix of light-hearted pranks and quirky curiosity possibly could have sustained a media career. Just not at Nine, where the “younger audience” are interested in talent shows and home renovations, not oddball overseas adventures. Their last joint project for Nine, True Story with Hamish & Andy, was more often than not a light-hearted delight; it’s also most likely the last half hour scripted comedy we’ll see on Nine for the foreseeable future.
Now Hamish Blake gets to host toyetic smash hit Lego Masters. And Andy Lee? He gets what feels like the consolation prize in The Hundred with Andy Lee, a show that combines the boring parts of Family Feud with a Zoom call for a full hour of what the kids call “content”.
There’s honestly not a lot more to it than that. The old Family Feud used to survey a hundred faceless people to get their quirky and unusual responses; The Hundred has them up on a video wall where occasionally one gets asked to explain their answer – or just tell a story – in more detail. It’s like a Vox Pop, only nobody has to leave the house.
As for the competition angle – because of course there’s a competition angle, we’re talking about the network that turned making stuff out of Lego into a competition – there are three celebrity guests who are either comedians or can be loosely defined as “comedians”. Thus explaining why we’re talking about The Hundred.
They try to guess the Hundred’s response to mildly edgy questions – “what percentage of The Hundred are hiding their sexuality” was one, though “what is Australia’s favourite emoji” was the one they used on the promos – and… Look, it’s a comedy game show, there are scores and stuff but nobody cares.
Unfortunately nobody really cares about being all that funny either. That became clear long before the arrival of special guest star Dermot Brereton (who?). Everyone is really just there for a casual chat and the occasional shocked expression / witty one-liner. Weirdly, the show as a whole is positioned as something of a cultural experiment – a way to find out what Australians really think, only as a game show.
(though it seems likely that the answer to the question “Are the Hundred really representative of Australia as a whole?” is “it’s just a bit of fun, okay”)
Unfortunately the surprises weren’t really all that surprising to anyone with access to the internet. People make sex tapes? Who knew? Probably not the average 60-something Channel Nine viewer, which explains why comedy and commercial television will be an increasingly difficult fit until someone comes up with a reboot of Mother & Son that’s on the side of the mother.
Though to be fair, the show did leave us with one question:
What was going on with the woman wearing the cat burglar mask?
Thursday night satire is back! Oh, alright, it was back four weeks ago when Mark Humphries did that RAT sketch, but now Sammy J’s back so SATIRE BOOM!
Not that Sammy J’s sketch looked promising, what with Scott Morrison and Hawaii seeming to be the premise. As tone-deaf and awful as Scott Morrison’s 2019 Hawaiian getaway was, gags about it are starting to seem hack in 2022. As bad as ones about Engadine McDonalds. Seriously, Scott Morrison’s done nothing else in the past couple of years for you to make gags about. Are you sure?
Anyway, Sammy J’s 2022 debut turned out to have a bit more bite than your average ScoMo/Hawaii gag. In the sketch, we meet Scott and Jenny Morrison’s forgotten son, ScoMoMo, who has been tracked down by an interviewer…
INTERVIEWER: Well, as the son of Australia’s Prime Minister, the country needs to know whether you think your dad should be re-elected.
SCOMOMO: No, they don’t. Like, I’m just his son. Why should that matter? You know? Vote for my dad based on his policies. OK, don’t do that. Vote for my dad based on what he stands for. Yeah, OK, I don’t know what he stands for. Just… Can you ask me a question about his curry or something so we can get this over with?
INTERVIEWER: What’s his curry like?
SCOMOMO: It’s OK. Like, it’s tasty. But I wouldn’t use it to choose a government.
INTERVIEWER: You haven’t seen the 60 Minutes interview, have you, ScoMoMo?
SCOMOMO: Wasn’t invited, didn’t watch it.
INTERVIEWER: So, you don’t know what your mum was talking about when she says she felt sick to her stomach?
SCOMOMO: No. Was it about trans kids being discriminated against at school?
SCOMOMO: The Bilolea girls who grew up in detention?
SCOMOMO: Allegations of sexual assault in Dad’s workplace?
SCOMOMO: Aged care crisis?
SCOMOMO: Not that? Oh, is it Dad’s close friendly with Brian Houston? Uncle Brian.
SCOMOMO: Gee, what made Mum sick to her stomach? Was it one of Dad’s curries?
Like we said, there are plenty of things other than a Hawaiian holiday that you bag Scott Morrison for in 2022. And while you’re at it, a swipe at the tabloid media’s a good idea too.
But for those of you watching Mark Humphries on 7.30, there was less bite on offer. In his sketch, also referencing Scott Morrison’s recent 60 Minutes appearance, Humphries plays music producer Robert Woodstig*, coaching Morrison on his ukulele playing.
The sketch isn’t dreadful but it’s more fan fiction than satire, simply working famous footage of politicians singing pop songs badly into a mockumentary about music production. There’s no bite or commentary here, just some half-hearted gags. See also that RAT test sketch where Humphries, in search of a RAT, finds himself in an action movie trailer.
Isn’t the real problem with RAT tests that the government has massively screwed up ordering enough for everyone? So, why is this a tale of a hero battling the odds rather than a sketch sticking the boot into incompetent bureaucrats?
Hitting the target, or at least getting near it, should be a base level requirement for a satirical sketch, so it’s amazing how often Humphries fails to do it. At least in his sketch from two weeks ago, in which he gives Scott Morrison a performance review, we get some commentary on Scott Morrison’s failings.
With the number of failings Scott Morrison has, it really shouldn’t be so hard.
* One for the Boomers and music nerds.
Well this was interesting:
Sadly for us, because like everyone else in the Australian media we are little more than ravenous black holes of hate that require everyone else to suffer in order to even slightly relieve our pain, this wasn’t some massive scandal involving government interference or the ABC caving to outside interests. Instead, the finance segment hosted by Tosh Greenslade (in glasses and a wig) had used the analogy of a shark attack to describe the Australian economy.
Unfortunately, around three hours before the episode (recorded the day before) went to air, this happened:
Which made the segment a fair bit less funny for a lot of people.
So into the bin it went, and fair enough. But what to replace it with for the numerous repeats plus its eternal life on iView? Turns out the crack editing team at the ABC slaved away for a couple of hours to replace it with an earlier Tosh Greenslade finance segment from the first episode of the year. Seamless!
Especially as they actually used some footage from the original:
… but with the background from the new (that is to say, old) segment green-screened in so Shaun Micallef’s outro still made sense:
The bad news is, they’re going to have to re-do this segment all over again once they find out the current Jackass movie has a pogo stick stunt in it.
Hey, where’d all the scripted comedy go?
When we started this blog the basic idea was to do two or three posts a week, because each week there was usually two or three shows on television we could talk about. There’d be something new, something in the middle of its run, maybe a press release or two, the occasional DVD release of some archive material. Life was good.
Now we’re looking at what lies ahead for 2022 and… yeah. There’s maybe a handful of new scripted series; a lot of the year’s comedy content is coming from series that have been around for close to a decade now. Ok, there’s online content out there, but much of that barely needs more coverage than “hey, so this exists”. We are in the middle of a drought, and the only way it could be worse is if we were a blog covering Australian TV drama.
(hands up who’s excited about Troppo? Hands up who became a lot less excited about Troppo once they realised having a comedy title didn’t actually make it a comedy?)
To be fair, the many and various streaming services are occasionally serving up scripted content, which almost sorta kind of balances out the massive drop off in ABC comedy. Remember when the ABC’s Wednesday night comedy line-up was almost always three local comedy shows – at 8pm, 8.30pm and 9pm, with 9.30pm not out of the question – and the 8pm show wasn’t a shithouse no budget revamp of The Einstein Factor?
And yes, the ABC is still coming up with exciting new formats like, uh, Question Everything and Win the Week, so comedy isn’t completely dead so long as you’ve already spent the last decade being unfunny at a professional level for the ABC. Can a Randling reboot be far off?
Commercial television can’t look smug either as we stare down a year where the only fresh comedy content from them is Ten’s upcoming version of Would I Lie To You?– hosted by Chrissie Swan with team captains Chris Taylor and Frank Woodley, if you weren’t excited enough already. So Peter Helliar was too busy?
Any way you dice it, times are tough out there if you’re trying to get laughs. The days of getting exposure and practice on high profile sketch shows is over (did Ten ever officially announce Kinne wasn’t coming back?). If you’re lucky you might get to provide “satirical” content for a youth news show where laughs are fine just so long as you make sure they’re the right kind of laughs – you know, the ones that aren’t funny unless you follow #auspol on twitter.
So why are things so shit? Don’t people want to laugh any more? We’re no experts, but it’s not like there’s a shortage of reasons why comedy in Australia is struggling – everything from “reality TV has taken over from comedy as far as cheap content goes” to “there’s no path for new talent on television in this country now that sketch shows are dead” to “content is an international business and comedy doesn’t sell overseas” to “the ABC refuses to clear out dead wood and gives their panel hosting gigs to the same people over and over again” to “today everything has to be a dramedy where comedy comes last”.
And that’s just off the tops of our heads. Increased funding to the ABC won’t kick-start the old formula – where up and coming comedians get their TV start on the ABC, then move to a commercial network – because even the ABC’s big comedy guns haven’t moved on in twenty years or more. And at best, international streaming services are going to want the kind of rom-coms and dramedies where polish and charm far outweigh genuine laughs.
There’s still a lot of decent comedy to look forward to in 2022. The real problem is, it’s pretty much the same comedy we were looking forward to in 2021, and 2020, and… you get the idea. Coming up, we’ve got a handful of winners, a bunch of shows nobody’s excited about, and not enough in between.
Guess we’d better get to work researching our review of Troppo.
The concept of VHS Revue is simple: Green digs out some old VHS tapes containing films or shows taped off the TV and reviews them. Except he doesn’t care about the main feature, i.e. the film or TV show that’s been recorded, he cares about the ads in between.
Ads from the past often look pretty weird to contemporary audiences and that is certainly true of the ones Green’s selected, which date from the early-1980s to the mid-2000s. Ads for building societies that no longer exist, ads for car dealers who ended up in court, ads fronted by enthusiastic discount retailers with no acting ability, and ads that are utterly shocking in the era of #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. There are also some ads from products that just seem insane now. What was the deal with families in the 80s driving around in cuboid-shaped vans, for example?
But VHS Revue goes beyond making obvious cheap shots about how things were really weird/funny in the past. It digs into what was wrong in the past and why, plus there are lots of surreal and creative side gags about camera angles, TV technology and politics to enjoy. It’s exactly the level of quality and inventiveness you’d expect from a Mad As Hell-adjacent program. There are even cameos from Mad As Hell’s Shaun Micallef and Stephen Hall (and not Mad As Hell’s Rex Hunt and Andy Matthews).
Plenty of people have made cheap programs laughing at clips of old television, but VHS Revue is a cut above. It’s smart and witty, there’s a genuine passion for the material and an assumption that the audience wants more than “LOLZ THE PAST”.
First out of the blocks and we’re off with a bang. Australian comedy needed a kick up the bum after a lacklustre 2021 and Mad as Hell was just the show to do it. Or just possibly we were starved of a good laugh over the Summer of Omicron and we’re wildly overreacting. You be the judge!
Any way you slice it, this weeks Mad as Hell was a strong return. Sure, we were promised an even handed look at Australian federal politics in the lead up to the looming election. But with the LNP busy exploding like a burning kitten in a fireworks factory – and with a legacy of incompetence, corruption, and general malevolence it’s difficult to imagine anyone intentionally accomplishing, let alone being proud of – it’s hardly surprising they bore the brunt of the comedic attack.
(Though that photo of a chunky Albo did inspire those at Tumbleweeds HQ to use the phrase “Chunky Albo”. Let’s move on)
One of the things Mad as Hell does well is keep the tone varied. That’s a fancy way of saying it can be funny in more than one way. One minute you’ve got a grim montage of the LNP’s failures set to a Scott Morrison voice-over talking about how important it is to make the right choice in a government. The next, Darth Sidious and a teenaged Enid Swink are battling using hand electricity and eye lasers. It’s all funny; it all works.
(and the bit on the Zero Chance film festival was really just pointing out that the Zero Chance film festival is a thing that exists. Guess we’ve finally reached the stage where the current government is beyond parody)
There was a bit of house-cleaning going on in this episode too. While there were plenty of classic characters back on screen – including the portrait of Malcolm Turnbull complete with “smooth operator” soundtrack – at least two long-running gags were cut short with “we’re not doing that”. Sorry Kraken: guess you’ve got to go away before you can come back
At the moment, long running Australian television comedy is either firmly focused on a formula that works (HYBPA?) or flailing about so much it might as well be a new show each year (The Weekly). Mad as Hell has the best of both worlds.
Each year it returns refreshed, still doing the hits while throwing in enough new angles to keep the whole package well within its use-by date. It’s always good to leave the audience wanting more; we’ve got to say twelve episodes a year isn’t nearly enough.
Industry awards are a crock, right? Take a look at the comedy winners and nominees of the 2021 AACTAs and the 2021 AWGIE awards. Do these winners and nominees represent the best of Australian comedy in 2021?
Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun
Dom and Adrian 2020
The Moth Effect
Spicks and Specks
All My Friends Are Racist
A Life in Questions: Wisdom School with Aaron Chen
Hug the Sun
Why Are You Like This: Season 1, ‘The Pressures of Late Capitalism’ – Mark Bonanno, Naomi Higgins and Humyara Mahbub
Aftertaste: Season 1, ‘The Beauty and the Terroir’ – Matthew Bate
Fisk: Season 1, ‘Portrait of a Lady’ – Penny Flanagan with Kitty Flanagan
Retrograde: Season 1, Episode 3 – Declan Fay
Why Are You Like This: Season 1, ‘The Pressures of
The Feed: ‘Comedy Sketches 2020’ – Ben Jenkins, Alex Lee, Jenna Owen and Victoria Zerbst
Gruen: Season 12, ‘Tools and Boots for Tools’ – James Colley and Sophie Braham
Reputation Rehab: Season 1, ‘Nick Kyrgios – The Bad Boy of Tennis’ – Sophie Braham with
Kirsten Drysdale, Zoe Norton Lodge and Melina Wicks
Whatever you think of these winners and nominees (and, yes, we know some of them are from 2020), we know you’ll want to give us your views on comedy in 2021. So, vote now in the Australian Tumbleweed Awards.
Voting closes on Friday 7th January at 11.30pm AEST. We’ll announce the winners on or about Australian Day.