ABC Summer Comedy Binge
To find any new comedy on Australian free-to-air channels these days is like looking for love on Tinder. You will spot a lot of dicks before striking gold with a talking vagina in a red sequinned dress.
That sassy lady garden belongs to Nakkiah Lui's character in Kiki and Kitty, one of seven new short-form shows commissioned for the ABC's new comedy channel.
They are not all gold - more on that later - but what they are is original content at a time when comedy on the commercial channels seems to be an endless stream of panel, quiz and reality shows, plus the unintentional comedy that is Channel Nine's cricket commentary team.
Whereas the Brits and the Americans are able to pump out sitcoms at a steady rate, our commercial channels seem to have lost their taste for them, instead wallowing in endless Big Bang Theory repeats and self-flagellating with Matt LeBlanc's latest effort (Man with a Plan - just don't).
So it's through that darkness that most of these new short-form comedies - Aussie Rangers, #CelesteChallengeAccepted, Kiki and Kitty, Other People's Problems, Mychonny: The Chinaboy Show and Virgin Bush, plus new episodes of Fresh Blood - should be viewed. Yes, they are not perfect but they are new - new ideas, stories and faces. And they are worth watching.
Lui's Kiki and Kitty is the perfect example. Not all of the jokes work, but where else will you find a talking vagina (the give-her-all-the-shows-now Elaine Crombie), a passionate ice-skating instructor (Rob Carlton), and a show's writer and star, Lui, in bondage gear? Throw in barbed jokes about race (top marks to Harriet Dyer who plays Lui's co-worker Cherise) and you have a comedy that wouldn't get past the front door at Nine, Ten or Seven, but is the most original show seen in a long time.
Coming in a close second is the delightfully silly Aussie Rangers. Jon Bell (best known for Black Comedy, but he also wrote the under-appreciated Gods of Wheat Street) plays Wally Wilson, the head ranger of Black Stump National Park, who is on the hunt for the rare quokkacoot. Bell manages to cram more quality gags into each episode's roughly six-minute running time than most long-form comedies.
Of the other new shows - Mychonny: The Chinaboy Show is great and features an unknown (to me) cast, and Other People's Problems gets by on the strength of its star Maria Angelico.
The most disappointing is #CelesteChallengeAccepted, which turns Celeste Barber's witty and original Instagram account that parodies ridiculous photos of celebrities into a fairly dull four-minute show.
That leaves Virgin Bush as the biggest dud. The premise is simple enough - city boy goes to regional Australia, meets the locals and cracks a few gags.
Unfortunately said city boy - comedian Neel Kolhatkar - is dead on arrival. His jokes are about as original as a photocopied piece of paper and his gormless mugging to camera only deepens the irritation. In the first episode (one of of four) he heads to the shearing sheds of Carinda in far northern NSW, where he (rightly) fails to impress the hard-as-nails boss Bronco.
A cringingly awkward trip to the pub is the icing on an undercooked cake. In the interests of fairness I pressed play on the second episode but lasted only two minutes.
As I said, it's not all gold but it is an investment in Australian comedy, something the ABC should be applauded for and something the other free-to-air channels should try sometime.