Pop Culture #637

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Pop Culture #637

Over the last few years the ABC has really gone hard on the idea of online comedy. It’s actually a little depressing if you think about it: for the national broadcaster, the one network that shows even a basic commitment to the idea of comedy television, the best place for comedy programming isn’t on television. The counter-argument is that the comedy audience (read: the kids) are increasingly watching television on their computers and phones, so online is the best place to put shows for them, thus freeing up valuable on-air time for various UK murder-themed viewing that the older ABC audience loves.

So while the ABC’s idea of comedy that’s worth putting on television is Luke McGregor chatting to an endless array of sex therapists in Luke Warm Sex or the “consumer affairs with laughs” approach of The Chaser’s series The Checkout, most of their new scripted comedy has been online-only in the various Fresh Blood series. And while this effort has thrown up a couple of halfway decent shows – and reveals a lot of talent that could go something better than halfway decent if they were given more than a few minutes to work with – it’s hard not to think that what we’re seeing is a basic reluctance at the ABC to show any guts with their comedy programming. It took two years and two separate Fresh Blood series of pilot to get the two shows that are going to series this year, both of which are sketch shows (which again displays a lack of commitment – it’s a lot easier to tweak sketches than a sitcom). Meanwhile the big comedy push so far this year is, you guessed it, another series of comedy pilots in the Comedy Showcase series (which started Wednesday April 27th at 9pm, with all six pilots now available on iView). It’s being sold as a chance for the public to pick which show will go to series: the more cynical amongst us might think that the job of choosing which show is worth putting to air is one the ABC already pays someone quite well to do. But in the light of all this faffing about, the ABC has made one smart comedy decision in picking up and putting on iView the second series of The Katering Show, Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan’s snappy cooking show parody. The first series, which appeared on YouTube last year, was a rare example of an Australian online comedy series that wasn’t just someone shouting to camera: featuring actual jokes (largely around the clash between McCartney’s foodie tendencies and McLennan’s long list of intolerances) and some strong character work underneath the post-shots at our cooking fixation. It was the kind of quality comedy we’ve been told for years the internet would make possible. It’s exactly the kind of thing the ABC should be getting behind – though again, the more cynical amongst us might think they should be getting behind it by actually getting comedians to make multi-episode series rather than churning out pilots that are then forced to compete publically against each other. But Australians love competitions. These days they’re pretty much the only things we will watch on television…

Written by Anthony Morris