Remember when the end of television ratings meant the end of first-run television? Someone must have forgotten to tell the current crop of television programmers that when summer starts, local television stops, because these days the longer the day the greater the chance there’s going to be some new release Australian comedy showing.
Over the last few years the ABC has made a habit of stockpiling comedy series to release in a rush towards the end of ratings, presumably so they can finish up the year on a high note in the hope that we’ll all forget those four months when they struggled to show anything past repeats of Q.I.
This year the third season of Upper Middle Bogan and new series Rosehaven are currently skidding towards the finish line while Please Like Me’s latest series (final ever? The US network keeping it going shut up shop earlier this year) will run well into December.
Depending on your tastes – it seems expecting to laugh at a comedy is a controversial opinion these days – this is either a bumper crop of local comedy or a pile of fairly average stuff, though Upper Middle Bogan is at least a firmly reliable series when it comes to raising a smirk. But that’s hardly the end of the ABC’s run of brand new comedy for 2016, with two new sketch comedy series starting up on iView and ABC2 in December – you know, when ratings have actually finished – spinning out of their earlier Fresh Blood initiative.
Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am is an all-girl series, which based on their past efforts means loads of jokes about periods and what life would be like if women sexually harassed men, while Fancy Boy supposedly skews a little more “dark”, which often means sketches that are creepy and go nowhere. But it only takes one good sketch for a show to become a smash hit, so fingers crossed for both of them.
And the list still isn’t over: Foxtel’s Comedy Channel has three new local comedy series starting up this weekend (Sunday the 27th), including the return of stand-up showcase Just For Laughs Australia, the long-awaited local version of improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway, and the even longer awaited animated series from Working Dog Pacific Heat.
That’s more Australian comedy than we’ve seen for months during the ratings period – way put all these shows on during a period when Australians are traditionally outdoors doing just about anything but watching television? Blame, as always, the Americans: pretty much all these shows (well, Pacific Heat and the two iView sketch shows at least) are co-productions made with American networks, and for them this time of year is prime viewing time.
So in a desperate attempt to avoid piracy, they’re being released here roughly in line with their overseas debuts, and if that happens to mean being broadcast to empty rooms here… well, at least they tried. And with overseas money increasingly propping up more and more of our local industry, you can expect to see more of this, especially with more disposable stuff like comedy. Guess it’s time to put that beach cricket game on hold until April.
Written by Anthony Morris