Shaun Micallef gets a lot done in a year. Or at least he gets a lot done compared to the rest of Australia’s comedy industry, and it’s up to the individual to consider whether he’s really hard-working or the rest of the business is just full of slackers.
So Doctor Who has been back for a few weeks now and depending on your circle of friends either this new season has been a triumph or just more of the same … which makes it pretty much the same as every other season, or part-season, or Christmas Special of the last few years.
For over thirty years now, the Astor Cinema in St Kilda has been showing classic films. And by “classic” I mean “old”. The Astor is Melbourne’s last remaining repertory cinema (screening non first-run films) out of close to a dozen or more that flourished back in the days before DVDs or video tapes.
As far as Australian television goes, any way you slice it Working Dog is our number one success story. Santo Cilauro, Rob Sitch, Jane Kennedy, Tom Gleisner and (behind the scenes) Michael Hirsh have been making television for twenty years – longer if you count their work as part of The Late Show and The D-Generation – and they’ve been making a lot of different television at that, from the sitcom Frontline to the panel show The Panel to game show Thank God You’re Here…
Sometimes you get to be a success just by sticking around long enough. Josh Thomas’s first series of Please Like Me took a long time to make it on air – it was initially announced for 2012 but didn’t arrive until 2013 – and moved around a bit on the way (it’s the only show to date to be announced for the main ABC free-to-air channel which eventually debuted on ABC2 instead), and even then it wasn’t exactly what anyone would have called a smash hit, pulling in only average ratings on the digital-only network.
Remember the time when sketch comedy was meant to be the kind of comedy Australia did well? We may never have had a Golden Age of sitcoms in this country, but there was a long, long stretch – from the late ’80s through to the early 21st century – when sketch comedy was a permanent part of our television diet.
Whatever happened to Hamish & Andy? Obviously they’re still around; they have a prime-time television series on Channel Nine as you read this (so long as you’re reading this on a Tuesday night), which pretty much puts them in the very top tier of Australian comedians working on television – even The Chaser or Chris Lilley in his prime never managed to make the leap to commercial television, let alone had a long-running series of successful shows. And yet… what happened to them?
A funny thing happened a month or so ago: we had a week where no new movies were released. Well, there were new movies out there somewhere, if you were willing to travel to Melbourne to one of the smaller or arthouse cinemas, but as far as big new releases at the mainstream cinemas? Nothing. The plan had been for the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Sabotage to be released that week, but after a lacklustre box office performance in the USA distributor Roadshow decided to cut their losses and send it direct to DVD.
So it looks like the ABC’s attempt to revive Spicks and Specks is over. According to various reports, not only will the ABC be pulling the show after airing 20 of the 26 episodes – the remaining six will air later in the year, which is usually code for “the non-ratings period” – but the ABC has also confirmed that “there aren’t plans for the show in 2015”. While this is slightly sadder news than the usual demise of an ABC panel show – unlike both Randling and Tractor Monkeys, the revived Spicks and Specks was occasionally actually entertaining – this wasn’t exactly difficult to see coming.
When exactly did television stop being the low man on the entertainment totem pole? We’ve been talking for the last decade or more about how television is currently in a golden age, but part of the reason why television – the high-end drama side of things, at least – has been so golden lately is that people just aren’t going to bother watching anything that isn’t up to the gold standard.