If there are two words guaranteed to send a chill down the spine, it’s “internet sensation”. We all love the internet, but that doesn’t mean we love everything on the internet, and with the democracy of social media pushing audiences towards the short and the punchy, the world on online comedy is… well, anyone remember Beached Az? Because one of the guys behind that is also one of the guys behind the new ABC2 comedy series Soul Mates (Thursdays, 9.30 p.m.), and if the two leads look familiar that’s because you’re aware of “internet sensations” The Bondi Hipsters.
You’d think that a YouTube send-up of Bondi’s hipster culture wouldn’t exactly be the kind of thing to go big, but it turns out that most of Australia really hates hipsters, so seeing the piss extracted from them via jokes about the titular duo’s pretentious fashion label and kale rapidly became a hit too big for the ABC to ignore. And also they’d worked with the ABC before with Beached Az, which probably didn’t hurt (note to other YouTube comedians wanting a break on television: networking is your friend).
The idea behind Soul Mates is that all across history our two leads – Christiaan Van Vuuren and Nick Boshier – keep running into each other, whether as cavemen, Kiwi assassins in 1981, Bondi hipsters circa now, or time-travelling future dudes in, well, the future. So it’s not so much “all across history” as it is “the periods where we can get a bunch of cheap gags” – Blackadder this ain’t. But cheap gags aren’t to be dismissed so lightly either, as getting laughs out of Kiwi accents, bad ’80s fashion and the over-the-top clichés of action movies is still a whole lot better than getting no laughs at all. And the idea of running four storylines across each half-hour episode mean the guys haven’t strayed too far out of their comfort zones – it’s basically a string of YouTube sketches patched together to create a half-hour show, which means they generally keep it short, sharp and to the point.
Much of the appeal for longtime fans will be seeing the Bondi Hipster’s long-discussed fashion label finally make an appearance (whether finally seeing it adds to or subtracts from the joke is up to the individual), but all four plots are equally solid comedy-wise – unless you’re a big fan of dodgy special effects, in which case the future time travel-travel agents storyline does feature a lot of things that’ll make you think “wow, cheap special effects are actually not that bad looking these days”.
Whatever your opinion of the end result – and it’s hard to judge the series after one episode, because it does feel a little like the kind of show where every episode could just be the same jokes over again – this is exactly the kind of thing ABC2 should be doing more of. There are a lot of Australian comedians making an impact online at the moment, and there’s not like there’s anywhere else at the moment for sketch comedians (as opposed to stand-ups) to get a start in this country.
If television networks don’t start looking there for new talent, where else is it going to come from?
By Anthony Morris