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139 responses to “At Home with Julia: didn’t fail to disappoint”

  1. Charlie

    It seemed to be very, very slight and not all that well written.

  2. adrian

    It managed to exceed all my worst expectations, but hey the SMH TV critic thought it was great, the Crikey TV critic thought it was “wry, funny, and filled with humanity” and half the commentator’s on the SMH web site thought it was a cunning attempt by the ABC to get us to all like ‘Julia’.

    Maybe this country is getting dumber than we realise, or everyone’s forgotten what real satire looks like.

  3. tigtog

    It strikes me that this ‘sitcom’ was commissioned simply because there were dozens of comediennes polishing up their Gillard impersonations in the wake of #spillgate, and somebody thought that this shouldn’t go to waste.

    I agree, nearly everything about the first episode was gender-policing, with Tim and Julia guilty as charged. The rest was superficial caricatures of various political figures.

    They’d have been better off simply doing a redux of Rubbery Figures.

  4. Pavlov's Cat

    My only query about this lovely and perceptive post is the word ‘disappoint’, which suggests that it came below one’s expectations. I expected the worst, and in that, the ABC did indeed fail to disappoint me.

  5. David Irving (no relation)

    I’m glad I missed it.

  6. Chris

    Will be interesting to see how it rates next week. It did quite well this week – around a million viewers, but many were probably just checking it out. Not surprising at all that its polarising and the analogy of Kath & Kim in the Lodge is quite fitting so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it keeps a reasonable audience share – only 4 episodes though and there won’t be any more if Gillard gets rolled.

  7. Steve at the Pub

    It was funny, the first 25 or so minutes of it anyway.
    Some people have no funny bone, or perhaps see everything through the prism of how “heavy with messages” the show is.

    It was funny, I had to pause it at 2 or 3 times so I didn’t miss anything from laughing.

  8. Jacques de Molay

    I watched Sons of Anarchy and then Rizzoli & Isles, didn’t bother with this rubbish.

  9. silkworm

    I missed it – and I’m glad I did – but I did catch Amanda Bishop being interviewed on The Drum about it. She tried very hard to defend the show as satire in the tradition of Rubbery Figures or Max Gillies, but these seemed to be rehearsed lines. I became increasingly suspicious that the show was written by a clever Liberal hack and was designed to embarrass an already poll-failing Gillard, but Bishop gave the game away when she said she was consciously imitating Gillard’s “duck bum.” Putting the sexism of this phrase aside, it is a term I have only seen used by Gillard-hating righties on the web.

  10. Kerrie

    I thought this would be terrible – so I was thrilled it turned out to be great. very funny, lovely gags (the “Bob Katter’s mad” line was particularly nice) and a nice sense of pathos. Was amazed Julia & Tim were presented in such a loving way, I had expected it to be a bit nastier. I’m sorry you missed the point of it, and clearly the sophistication of using sitcom tropes against a political backdrop went over your head, but your loss. As for the rest of you who are slagging it off without even seeing it, grow up.

    But congratualations to all involved.

  11. adrian

    So glad you were ‘thrilled’ by AHWJ, Kerrie. Maybe a touch hyperbolic, and you also don’t seem to understand quite what pathos means, but perhaps you were watching a different show to me.
    Either way, you shouldn’t really be instructing others to “grow up”!

  12. Wood Duck

    I loved reading the condemnations from those who didn’t watch it – very Australian.

  13. Moz

    Thank you for watching it for me. I about 5 minutes in (to the date discussion) and turned it off. It sounds as though it didn’t improve.

    Instead I finished reading the New Scientist, listened to some calming music, then got woken briefly by she of the icy hands and went back to sleep. I think I got the better deal.

    Why does the ABC feel it’s competing in a race to the bottom?

  14. Helen

    I think, since it’s Friday, we need a drinking game. One drink for every claim that critics of AHWJ
    *need to get a sense of humour
    *Are not intelligent enough to get it
    *Are oversensitive and “looking to be offended”.
    Mature and intelligently argued comments taking the opposing view to my post will be warmly welcomed!

  15. Joseph.Carey

    I didn’t watch it and I hated it for all the reasons Helen gave.

    Very insightful post.

  16. Robert Merkel

    You could try to make the case that the show is trying to comment on/satirize society’s sexist reaction to a couple where a man has a lower-powered job.

    That claim might be more sustainable if the Tim character was depicted as comfortable in his own skin.

  17. kymbos

    This post made me want to see it. I’d wager it it had been about Janette Howard wearing the pants at home with John, you’d be more receptive. It’s just comedy – lighten up.

  18. Patrickb

    Yes, well as a first year undergrad media studies essay you’d probably have scrapped through on effort. It is parody and thus the jibes at masculine failure because of feminine success have to be seen as ironic. As to the quality, it was patchy but the independents saved the day.

  19. FDB

    “I’d wager it it had been about Janette Howard wearing the pants at home with John, you’d be more receptive”

    Equivalency FAIL. Grand scale.

  20. Patrickb

    @15
    “Mature and intelligently argued comments taking the opposing view to my post will be warmly welcomed”

    “patriarchy-fellating little show”

    Get down off your high horse for gogs sake.

  21. Pavlov's Cat

    ‘It is parody and thus the jibes at masculine failure because of feminine success have to be seen as ironic.’

    Total non sequitur, soz. You lost it at ‘and thus’.

  22. Helen

    Yes, well as a first year undergrad media studies essay you’d probably have scrapped through on effort.

    Well, if we’re goint to be that petty, at least I wouldn’t lose marks for poor spelling.

    For Gog’s sake

    One of these mythical figures, I guess?

  23. Eric Sykes

    One does not need to watch a full episode; the trailers have provided enough information. Embarrassingly awful writing that reinforces the worst kind of gender stereotypes.

  24. Eric Sykes

    ps: Australian satire that is actually funny:

    http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2011/s3313602.htm

  25. adrian

    Yes Erik Sykes, but 5 minutes a week is all we can manage.

    What Pavlov’s Cat said @22. Is Patrickb having a joke at his own expense?

  26. dylwah

    From the adverts and such, i expected it to be much worse, so i was pleasantly surprised. it suffered a fair bit by not knowing whether it was supposed to be about JG and TM or about Canberra politics, ie parliament, in general. The whole Tim saving the day bit at the end grated a fair bit, but I can’t figure out if it was lazy or a pointed reference to the fact that JG cannot act like that without falling into a heap of gender traps.

    The Hollowmen it wasn’t.

  27. Jenny

    I didn’t watch it but then again, which doesn’t mean much since I’ve been ignoring all non-sport telly for some time now. But I feel positive about the show on the grounds that JG hasn’t been cutting through and this could be a circuit breaker for her. For instance, the mocking of her voice, walk and partner for the purposes of comedy could actually get some people to consciously or subconsciously put that stuff aside and reevaluate her on the basis of performance.

  28. Lefty E

    Apparently John Howard isnt going to watch it – as he thinks it demeans the office of the PM.

    Thats should confuse a few Tories.

  29. Link

    Interesting point Helen, on the effect that this will have on their real life as a couple, which is probably a lot funnier and more poignant than the flippant stereotyping this show made of it. It seems advertisers, tv writers etc are a socially conservative lot, playing always to the lowest rung.

    I thought it was pretty stupid overall and made less interesting because of the focus on how Julia’s position affects her partner. And while not terribly clever there was a certain pathos to her having to get up out of bed and pack for an O.S trip. No doubt back in the good old days, Janet packed for John, but obviously that’s a bridge to far for this sort of ‘socially (in today’s climate (still) inverted’ relationship.

    Without emasculating her partner there is no ‘funny’ story-line –apparently.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the average man could pack a suitcase for his partner with everything she needed for a high level diplomatic trip. It clearly works the other way.

  30. su

    You could try to make the case that the show is trying to comment on/satirize society’s sexist reaction to a couple where a man has a lower-powered job.

    Yes, this same explanation has been advanced to describe the function of stereotypes in other prominent oz comedies. I think, if I understand correctly, the idea is that when you apply the stereotypical attributes so thickly the stereotype sort of collapses and is revealed as ridiculous. My trouble with that is that these stereotypes are so resilient that they can accomodate all possible extremes and people will say “yep, I know someone just like this” without any self-reflection whatsoever. To take an example that won’t look like stoush-bait, how can you collapse racial stereotypes through exaggeration of stereotypical traits when those stereotypes already accomodate things like the blood libel and black men as ultra-violent, sexually rapacious savages? I mean, it can’t be done and I really wish comedians would stop trying.

    Why oh why can’t we see more of John Clarke, I really think the last time I found Australian satire funny was his show about the Olympics. Thank the gods for the Kiwis, the only source of antipodean hilarity recently.

  31. John Edmond

    Ugh, The Hollowmen was just as bad – received wisdom masquerading as cheap cynicism. The show only has some sort of afterlife because journalists need help being bad writers.

    The ABC is essentially humourless and this has been born out by the British comedies it choses to promote and the Australian comedies it choses to produce.

  32. Helen

    Interesting point Helen, on the effect that this will have on their real life as a couple, which is probably a lot funnier and more poignant than the flippant stereotyping this show made of it.

    It’s a worry. I know there will be some people that think fiction is fiction and real life is real life and never the twain etc, but putting myself in their shoes, I can’t see that being told week after week (I don’t know how long the show is set to run) that his life is miserable and wrong and he’s not a “real man” can have no impact on a person. And given the starring role played by guilt in the social control of women – even though I suspect JG is less susceptible to it than the average – if I were her I’d be constantly taking my partner’s emotional temperature and worrying that he is concealing unhappiness and resentfulness.

  33. Howard Cunningham

    Does it say more about the incredible low point of Australian humour on television?

    Tim’s rank about tea or coffee to the independents was hilarious. The Bob Katter impression was first class.

    The storyline gave one a strong indication why they only made four episodes. Considering the comedic offerings on free-to-air TV this year (Ben Elton, Gap Year), this was a little above expectations.

    Hopefully the ABC spend their (our) cash next year on a second series of Rake.

  34. Roslyn Bourne

    Lighten up, people! This is a simple, unpretentious, light-hearted comedy, for goodness sake! (Unlike several of the comments on this website I might add.)

    There is no hidden agenda or ‘message’ or conspiracy to belittle or bring down Julia, her partner or her government. This is part and parcel of being in the public eye. I thoroughly enjoyed it for what it was and found the impersonation of Bob Katter utterly hilarious. Unfortunately there is precious little to laugh at in the world and medicine and science tell us we should laugh more for the sake of our health. I’ll be tuning in next week for this very reason and hope to see more of the eccentric Mad Hatter!

    I wonder how many critics of this series were outraged when John Howard was being pilloried a few years’ ago. Not many, methinks.

  35. Chris

    Howard @ 34 – a second series of Rake has already been commissioned – I loved the first series!

  36. Link

    @Howard. Yes ABC, Rake was good. As was the Katter character in AHWJ. Looking forward to seeing Abbott’s.

  37. Mr Denmore

    I thought it was mildly amusing in parts – the send-up of the independents being the best of a bad lot.

    It struck me as a sketch spun out too thinly – definitely not enough to sustain a series.

    The whole four-episode edifice appears to be built on two jokes – ‘sad housebloke’ castrated by successful career woman and bogan-sounding woman stumbles into the country’s most powerful position – a sort of ‘Kath and Kim (Tim?) go to Canberra’.

    The assumption underpinning the thing is that Gillard’s living arrangements and devotion to her job are so unusual that they are deemed worthy of mirth.

    I’m not sure what circles the scriptwriters move in, but I have a number of friends in a similar position – where the female partner has the more high-powered career and the male looks after the domestic stuff. Doesn’t appear that funny to me.

    As to a series of Janette Howard wearing the pants at home, while Johnny runs the country – I probably would have reached the same conclusion – sketchworthy, not seriesworthy.

    Talking about sketch comedy, Fast Forward still holds up well…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP0c-pQYy-E&feature=related

  38. FFranklin

    When “At Home With Julia” was first reported in the newspapers ABC breakfast had the odious Heather Ewert on to review the days newspapers including an article announcing the show. It was mentioned that someone in the article had been upset about the program and had asked why we hadn’t seen similar satire about the Howards. The odious HEwert gave that nasty sneering laugh that appears to be a family trait and said that apparently they didn’t lend themselves to satire. WTF!! What with not just Mrs Bucket but Mr and Mrs Bucket and their nasty snobbery and social climbing. Plenty of potential for laughs there I would have thought. What about the silly walks in the silly tracksuits set against the total lack of any sporting prowess. Geez I would have watched every week just to see a replay of Johnnies’ attempt at cricket in Pakistan. Then there’s the knee-trembling fealty to his pimps in the media some of whom lent themselves to being portrayed in an over-the-top camp manner reminiscent of a 70’s pommy sitcom. More potential for laughs there. Then if they were really being ‘adventurous’ they could have explored those rumours that Mungo MacCallum raises in his first election book that the real reason Johnnie had to fly back to Sydney when parliament was sitting was that Mrs Bucket knew he had a ‘piece on the side’ in Canberra (MM actually names her in his book!). Plenty of potential here for that classic sitcom standard of “in one door out the other” hilarity. They didn’t lend themselves to satire MY ARSE.
    When the last attempt at political satire by the ABC “The Hollowmen” was about to be broadcast The Age had an article on the show in their media section. In it SantoC said that the show was originally pitched to the ABC in 2001 but remained dormant until 2007. It was then rushed into production which involved SantoC et al working 14 hour days. Now what happened in 2007??

  39. Joseph.Carey

    Neither of the two main characters are intrinsically interesting or compelling on a personal level. A major problem from the get-go. I wouldn’t watch it for that reason alone. Aside from everything else neither of them would be people you’d want to spend time with either one-on-one or in company.

    Mr Denmore is correct. It’s not unusual for men to be full time child rearers and house husbands, by choice, and because the female partner earns more money. Nothing comic or demeaning about that set-up at all. What an old-fashioned premise.

    Helen: “patriarchy-fellating” is gold.

  40. Fine

    I haven’t seen it so I don’t have a direct comment. But, I suspect that Mr. Denmore is correct that you can’t spin out what is essentially someone’s stand-up act into a comedy series. Structurally you’ve set yourself up to fail. Add in the fact that it was rushed into production very quickly and I can see the problems without seeing the series.

  41. Fran Barlow

    I think it unfortunate that the program redux that famous and hilarious catchcry from The HoneyMooners perhaps as follows:

    One of these days Tim, … one of these days … pow! … right in the kisser!

    In those days, the interweaving of stereotypic gender roles and domestic violence was seen as a fit for laughter. That it doesn’t adorn this show is PC gone mad …

    Mind you, the inclusion of ‘duckbum’ should ensure at least that this is indeed a favourite with the Alan Jones crowd. Politics as body image is something that crowd can get their heads around.

  42. tigtog

    @Roslyn Bourne, I somehow missed any sitcom fully devoted to PM Howard’s life at home.

    Of course every PM (and most opposition leaders) will be impersonated by comedians on stage and in radio/TV skits – always have been, always will be. But these short and pointed bits of business are rarely turned into sitcoms for the very reason that sitcoms need to sustain the characters’ “situation” and relationships while still churning out those punchlines. Skit characterisations can rely totally on caricatured visual quirks and catchphrases worked around the topic-of-the-day and know that they’ve got solid material in their hands for skits spaced out over months/years, because the personas only have to be sustained for 2-3 minutes at a time.

    Historically Aussies have been very hit and miss with sitcoms, and this one looks like it mostly goes in the the miss column to me. The performances in AHWJ are much better than the material they’ve been given to work with, and I always find that painful to watch.

  43. Jacques de Molay

    John Edmond @ 32,

    The ABC is essentially humourless and this has been born out by the British comedies it choses to promote and the Australian comedies it choses to produce.

    It is now but it wasn’t always like this. The Micallef Programme was a highlight and CNNNN (The Chaser) in 2002-03 was pretty funny and took the piss out of the whole “Newstainment” their mock ‘A Current Affair’ ads were good:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHso1e6NY90

    ‘The Firth Factor’ on Executives:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STTu2lzsbHA&feature=related

  44. Fran Barlow

    Pavlovs’ Cat said:

    My only query about this lovely and perceptive post is the word ‘disappoint’, which suggests that it came below one’s expectations. I expected the worst, and in that, the ABC did indeed fail to disappoint me.

    Indeed. There’s a paradox in that if it hadn’t been quite as bad as you had expected, that ought not to be a source of disappointment, but relief — a failure of sorts. Clearly though, it was as bad as you’d expected — “the worst” — and so it didn’t “disappoint” but rather matched your expectations.

    The problem is the benchmark. Had it somehow been worse than you’d anticipated — worse that what you’d expected the worst could be — would you then have been disappointed? Perhaps not, because you’d then have a new floor for “the worst” and retrospectively, the standard would have been met. So in practice the only way you could have been disappointed for it not to have been the worst, which, following the above means disappointment and modest relief are nearly the same thing.

    At this point we probably need to recall the subtle difference between what we hope might happen in a world not that much different and better from the one we than the one we have, and our anticipation of what will probably happen in the world as we find it each day. Disappointment refers to our unrealised hopes and relief attaches to unrealised negative anticipation.

    I think Helen’s formulation makes my head hurt less. 😉

  45. tigtog

    wrt the the British comedies that the ABC gets now, it no longer gets first crack at the cream of the BBC crop as it once did, and they don’t have the budget to compete with the higher bidders for the latest hits.

    Auntie’s light entertainment budget has been gutted, as has the budget for home-grown programming generally. They’re getting by on the smell of an oily rag. It’s amazing that they manage to produce what they do on that budget.

  46. Jacques de Molay
  47. adrian

    Well isn’t it great that they put so much money into the raging success that is News24.

    Seriously though, not sure if money is the only problem. They can afford shows like Dr Who which wouldn’t come cheap.
    On the other hand most of the formulaic (?) and tedious documentaries that they regularly air would probably come in job lots that would practically be given away.

  48. jules

    It was boring and not really funny.

    The only similar thing I can think of was a show that hasn’t been seen since 2001. The South Park writers had a show called Thats My Bush – it was probably alot better. Its been a long time since I’ve seen it but I remember laughing at it. Quite a lot.

  49. Fine

    adrian, I can tell you how much they pay to acquire a documentary; about $10,000 per hour. Much cheaper to buy than to make. Multi-channeling is making life difficult for all broadcasters. Audiences fragment and the ABC, as tigtog says, doesn’t have the buying power anymore. They would have loved to have purchased ‘Downton Abbey’, but were outbid by 7.

    But, to give them all their credit, they’re still commissioning really good programming. ‘The Slap’ is a major commission which starts soon and which is excellent. It comes from a specific Federal Budget allocation in 2010, directed to drama production. ‘Rake’ also came out of this allocation and there’s a few more good drama series to follow.

  50. Jacques de Molay

    Well isn’t it great that they put so much money into the raging success that is News24.

    Yes and no. It hasn’t been and I suspect never was intended to be a ratings success but I saw it as a defensive move so as not to allow Sky News too much of a foothold in news.

    Sky is owned by News Ltd (who run the channel), 7 and 9 and as we all know is currently trying to get the Australia Network contract off of the ABC and the existence of News 24 might be playing a part in the ABC keeping that contract. Supposedly the internal battles have been Conroy (ABC) vs Rudd (Sky).

    You could argue whether ABC News 24 has been worth it financially but really I think they had to do it to continue to make sure the ABC keeps it’s title as #1 for news & current affairs in this country.

    Sky does the whole 24 hour thing better than the ABC but News 24 is starting to get there. There are some decent political chat shows on there like The Drum and Capital Hill which although not that deep I think are the best going around on a day to day basis. When I had Sky News I remember Agenda not being much chop.

    I’m suprised too that there are plenty of people out there who like to have News 24 on in the background if they’re not watching something else at the time, I do it myself a fair bit too so if some breaking news story pops up you’re on to it.

    The channel has certainly had it’s teething problems but I think the operational & structural issues will get better over time and think it will in time become a part of people’s TV watching diet (especially as the analogue switch off approaches).

  51. PinkyOz

    Hmm, Ok I’m feeling a bit novel today….

    I haven’t seen it yet and had no real intention to see it either, mostly because bad political satire is like nails on a chalkboard (I should know, I’m pretty bad at it). But after this wonderfully pleasant take I am now a little more than curious to see exactly why it deserved this level of panning, so off to IView I go.

    brb, as to say …

  52. Dave

    What a waste of taxpayers’ money. If we are to have an ABC, its role should be primarily to inform and educate the Australian public – eg 7:30 report can be justified on the basis that the commercial current affairs shows are too tabloidish.

    Can’t wait till Abbott gets in and slashes that ABC Budget…..

  53. tigtog

    You have a much narrower view of the role of the ABC than various legislation has had over the years, Dave. The Charter has always mandated comprehensive programming, not just earnestly informative programming.

    AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION ACT 1983
    – SECT 6
    Charter of the Corporation

    (1)The functions of the Corporation are:

    (a) to provide within Australia innovative and comprehensive broadcasting services of a high standard as part of the Australian broadcasting system consisting of national, commercial and community sectors and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, to provide:

    (i) broadcasting programs that contribute to a sense of national identity and inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of, the Australian community; and
    (ii) broadcasting programs of an educational nature;

    (b) to transmit to countries outside Australia broadcasting programs of news, current affairs, entertainment and cultural enrichment that will:

    (i) encourage awareness of Australia and an international understanding of Australian attitudes on world affairs; and
    (ii) enable Australian citizens living or travelling outside Australia to obtain information about Australian affairs and Australian attitudes on world affairs; and

    (c) to encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia.

  54. Nickws

    Utter shite, couldn’t make it through more than 5 minutes.

    Though I think the show’s weakness is really a result of the general poor quality of Australian TV situation comedy (and I say that as someone who thought Kath and Kim was well done, if not exactly a programme on my must watch list.)

    However, I’m not at all certain about the show’s alleged crimes against social values/gender relationships. From the bits I saw there’s no reason for me to believe there is anything deliberately hateful here vis-à-vis the personal circumstances being skewered.

    By all means attack the subtext as you see it, just don’t say the producers are guilty of political dirty tricks.

    (So, on matters closer to home, anyone notice much crossover between this thread and the ‘get rid of Gillard please faction leaders’ thread? Yeah. Think about it. It’s no longer axiomatic that socially progressive supporters of the government want to protect Gillard from any perceived slings and arrows, seeing as that only helps that narrative in favour of her staying as PM. Politics, baby, politics. Trumps even cultural criticism.)

  55. PinkyOz

    Well … That was just poor.

    Yeah, there was quite a bit of sexism in there. But more to the point, It really wasn’t all that funny, save a few laughs here and there. Just very flat, disinteresting and just a little bit patronising as well. There could have been plenty of good smart humour to be had to mix in with say an ironic use of an old fashioned format, but they never find that humour or even attempt to send up the genre. One star (Hat tip to Mr. Barlow)

    I really don’t think there is much to worry about, If this survives beyond the 4 eps they have mad I would be very surprised.

  56. Dave

    tigtog: I don’t dispute what you are saying. I am just stating that I believe that there is no reason for using taxpayer’s money to produce drama or comedy unless it has informative/educational value or provides some other type of unusual public benefit.

  57. Fran Barlow

    Dave said:

    I am just stating that I believe that there is no reason for using taxpayer’s {taxpayers’} money to produce drama or comedy unless it has informative/educational value or provides some other type of unusual public benefit.

    As a matter of general principle, I tend to agree, but then again, taxpayers’ money funds the arts and I’ve no particular reason to pick and choose between comedy or music or any other form of them

  58. Fran Barlow

    Now elite sport OTOH …

  59. Jacques de Molay

    I don’t dispute what you are saying. I am just stating that I believe that there is no reason for using taxpayer’s money to produce drama or comedy unless it has informative/educational value or provides some other type of unusual public benefit.

    Oh how I miss Shaun Micallef’s Newstopia on SBS:

    Newstopia explains the Reserve Bank:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIfH0vY2ANA

    Liberal vs Labor (and some Australian Democrat):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LL9Nvv56i9o

  60. drsusancalvin

    Recorded it but couldn’t watch. In our house we have moved with the times, and whatever happens, if it’s bad, we say, “bloody Julia!” A banged finger, a failed souffle, a red light….”bloody Julia!”

  61. alfred venison

    dear Fran Barlow & Dave
    the correction to:-
    “there is no reason for using taxpayer’s {taxpayers’} money to produce drama or comedy unless … ”
    could also be:-
    “there is no reason for using {the} taxpayer’s money to produce drama or comedy unless … ”
    or:-
    “there is no reason for using {taxpayer} money to produce drama or comedy unless … ”
    many apostrophe “problems” can be obviated by re-casting the sentence. 😉
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  62. Patrickb

    @22
    I’ll see your non sequitur and raise you …. umm … I don’t know such … a choice … pedant.

  63. Patrickb

    … and christ on a cruskit I’d hate to think how you’d all critique Blackadder.

  64. Patrickb

    @60
    .. and bah! Newstopia! Witness “The Day Today” or” Brass Eye” or “Jam” you shallow postmodern pastiches you …. In fact I have recently discovered “Tim and Eric”. I’m probably well behind the game but this is really interesting …

  65. tigtog

    … and christ on a cruskit I’d hate to think how you’d all critique Blackadder.

    You don’t see a difference between satirising/parodying living people and people long dead?

    I *love* Blackadder.

  66. FDB

    Patrick would be at the Old Bailey watching the hanging?

  67. John Edmond

    Also Blackadder is well written.

    I’d come down harder on At Home with Julia, but I can’t outdo people attempting to praise the show by singling out the Bill Shorten dog joke.

  68. FDB

    Although PatrickB, if you’re getting into Tim and Eric then more power to you.

    SPORTS!!!

  69. tigtog

    Also Blackadder is well written.

    Exactly.

  70. John Edmond

    In regards to the ABC’s light entertainment budget. The problem is not with the shows that they don’t purchase, it’s with the ones that they do. The ABC’s typical reaction to having accidentally bought a successful (or at least critically lauded) comedy such as The Office*, Spaced, Party Down or The Thick of It, is to panic and then stick it in the arse-end of their schedule. Obviously there will be no promos and preferably the shows will be protected from audiences by lions.

    *Yes, The Office’s second run did get a better time slot, but only after the ABC was shamed into it thanks to its popular overseas success.

  71. Dave

    Also Blackadder is well written.

    Correction – Blackadder II, III and IV are well written. I thought the first one was pretty mediocre.

  72. John Edmond

    There was a season one? Next you’ll be telling me that there were one-off specials starring Kate Moss. And I see no point in believing that.

  73. Nickws

    Okay, so there are differences in style between Curtis-only and Curtis/Elton scripting.

    But the first series of Blackadder has Brian Blessed in a leading role, and a cameo by Peter Cook performing what was just about his last memorable comedic role for British television.

    To hear you guys say it one would believe those six episodes were as bad as a Peter Sellers movie pieced together from outtakes and released after his death.

  74. tigtog

    Also Blackadder is well written.

    Correction – Blackadder II, III and IV are well written. I thought the first one was pretty mediocre.

    I suspect the first series was aimed at a BBC2 timeslot rather than a BBC1 slot, and therefore the OxBridge smuggery was allowed full rein. Once it moved up in the schedule, it was treated with more rigour, the behind-scenes team expanded hugely, and it was generally given more time and attention in the pre-production stage.

    Mind you, Blackadder I still had its moments. The subsequent series had not nearly enough Brian Blessed, definitely.

  75. tigtog

    P.S. The sketch from the Rowan Atkinson stage show that was the origin of most of the ideas for BlackAdder I (the straight man is Angus Deayton): Pink Tights and Plenty of Props.

  76. tigtog

    @Nickws – methinks you and I are on the same page on BlackAdder 1. It was more parodic while those later 3 seasons were more satirical, but as a parodic sitcom I thought it kicked arse.

  77. tigtog

    btw, earlier this evening I watched an episode of Top Gear with the family. Trite and predictable in its opinionating as it was, this particular segment ( a “serious” review of the Ford Fiesta in response to a viewer complaint about the laddishness of the show) was much better written than AHWJ.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7e7R3y-qwZ0

  78. Tom R

    Jessica Grose, “The New Girls: Fall TV is full of emasculated men. Does that mean it’s also full of empowered women?” Slate (8 Sept 2011), http://www.slate.com/id/2303271/pagenum/all/

    – cites Hanna Rosin, “Primetime’s Looming Male Identity Crisis:
    Assessing fall’s crop of sitcoms about men who are unemployed, underemployed, or in desperate need of a makeover”, The Atlantic (8 Sept 2011), http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/09/primetimes-looming-male-identity-crisis/244692/

  79. Mercurius

    Derail alert:

    Can we have a moratorium please on the word ’emasculating’?? Having one’s social license to behave like a pig temporarily suspended, and having one’s penis and testicles cut off are not the same thing. Not even metaphorically.

    So relax, TomR. Your balls are safe. Your willy too. Over here in Australia, we’re not watching ‘fall TV’. We’re still watching your Spring TV from a couple seasons back (House, Big Bang Theory, 3 and Half Brain Cells, Mad Men etc.) — and these are chock full of men who have a license to do any of the following:

    a) have few or no social graces
    b) dress and appear as slovenly as they wish
    c) talk as boorishly and be as inconsiderate as they like
    d) commit any number of borderline criminal acts of harrassment and/or bullying

    All because they are:

    a) brainy, or if not brainy, at least cunning
    b) good at their jobs
    c) aggressive
    d) white
    e) heterosexual
    f) male!

    It’s like the ultimate hall pass! C’mon over to Oz, where men can act like pigs and still be considered men!

    /derail

  80. John Edmond

    I exaggerate regarding season one of Blackadder. I’m still haunted by my attempts to introduce a partner to Blackadder in chronological order – should have just skipped to season two. Just one more episode, just one more episode.

    That’ll teach me for trying to show that Hugh Laurie was famous for being a blithering imbecile before he appeared in House.

    And yes, Brian Blessed improves everything.

  81. dylwah

    Fran B, thanks, I think, for that intro to The Huneymooners, not exactly edifying but I do enjoy that cascading effect in my brain as a set of pop culture references sort themselves out.

    Tigtog, thanks for the tights and props link, took me back to a tiny cinema in north sydney that used to play obscure English comedy.

  82. Fran Barlow

    Dylwah said:

    Fran B, thanks, I think, for that intro to The Honeymooners, not exactly edifying but I do enjoy that cascading effect in my brain as a set of pop culture references sort themselves out.

    I first recall seeing the show when I was about 6 or 7 or maybe 8, and even then I found it incongruous (though I didn’t have that word!). I found it hard to reconcile the laughter with the apparent impulse to violence of the man. I asked “Zia” — “why is that man so angry all the time?” my aunty, to her credit, answered, because he doesn’t think he’s a real man unless people think he bosses his wife about. Alas, when I asked why that was funny, aunty had no answer.

    There was nothing like domestic violence in my household, at least in the senses we usually understand the term, I’m glad to say but it did strike me as telling, after watching some more of the show how much my (anglo) grandfather liked it. I wondered how someone who supposedly loved his wife would want so often to hurt her, and wondered whether he had ever loved her at all. When I put that to Zia later she just shrugged her shoulders.

    It had occurred to me that if kissing someone on the lips meant you loved them, then punching them on the lips had to mean the direct opposite and that really people were laughing at two people together despite the fact that the man hated the woman and the woman feared the man. I recall feeling glad that my parents were never like that, but wondered if that’s how it was supposed to be. For me in my tender years, The Honeymooners was not comedy but cautionary tale.

    Ok … I’ve digressed enough …

  83. Fran Barlow

    No wonder Tim has to hang out in sheds, Helen. 😉

  84. Paul Burns

    The dialogue did not sparkle. Not very witty. In fact it was a pretty lazy cliched piece of writing. The set was substandard. The second butcher shop scene was a little funny. The portreayals of Oakeshott and Katter worked, but again didn;t go much further than the obvious.
    OTOH, it did have a certain poignancy, (which I like in comedy) but one does have to wonder whether it was intentional. Very hit and miss.
    Part of the problem, obvious from the whole look of the show. was that it was a bit of a rush job, which is why it lacked any subtlety in its portrayal of Tim. These guys just want to get a show out. There;s no time for thinking

  85. Peter

    I didn’t have high expectations, but did not expect it to be anywhere as near as bad as it turned out to be. I watched 12 minutes of it and the only chuckle that I had was a pun on Ahmadinejad’s name, which wasn’t particularly funny. It singularly fails to be funny and is incredibly badly written. This could be one of those shows that is a contender for “worst TV shows ever”.

    I find it incredible that the ABC would think that producing or screening this show was a good idea. What sort of decision making could lead to this outcome?

  86. Mercurius

    @84 Yep, thanks Helen.

    My exasperation (another e- word!!) was directed at the random derailing linker @79…

    Peas out.

    (Pun intended — but which pun?)

  87. Tom R

    Mercurius @80: “emasculated” isn’t my word. I was quoting Grose and Rosin. It’s them you need to reassure that their balls are safe.

    If it’s any consolation, “Spitting Image” was making the same sorts of jokes about Dennis Thatcher thirty years ago. (Hor hor hor! He’s the housewife – no, wait; that makes him… the “househusband”!! Because it’s his wife who’s the breadwinner!!!”). But that was thirty years ago. – And it was Margaret Thatcher.

  88. kingsley

    I sat down to watch it with my brother-in-law both of us pretty rusted on liberal voters but we were struck by how much it was about Tim and his lack of purpose. He isn’t strictly speaking a public figure. I could have forgiven one gag maybe even two but by the end it was pretty remorseless. It reminded me a bit of the incident where that US comedian did a whole series of Chelsea Clinton jokes. Not exactly apples on apples given she was just I think barely a teenager and Tim is a middle aged bloke but I think the principle still stands. The “convention” of “hands off” family and partners should be maintained I believe.

    I think the Bob Katter character was dynamite. Indeed the other 2 independents were pretty good too but Bob was a stand out and I think he may even be pretty happy with how he was portrayed ie some very one-eyed nationalist constantly going into bat for the Aussies he sees as his core constituency.
    Makes me wonder if a show more based on Katter might not be more interesting and have more material to work with. Might even have overseas appeal as Bob probably is pretty close to a Aussie stereotype foriegners would have of us I suspect.

    Maybe the fundamental flaw is it is “at HOME with Julia” when it should have been “at the OFFICE with Julia” and left Tim out of it.

  89. Dave

    I see some mixed opinion on Blackadder Season 1 – but for the record Rowan Atkinson appears to agree it was not as funny as it could have been. A dumb Blackadder and a clever Baldrick just don’t do it for me.

    From Wiki, Atkinson is quoted as saying:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Adder

    The first series was odd, it was very extravagant. It cost a million pounds for the six programmes… [which] was a lot of money to spend…It looked great, but it wasn’t as consistently funny as we would have liked.

  90. su

    Your not wrong about the scheduling John Edmond, one of the D-Gen team (can’t remember his name) has been making this point for some time. Spaced is pretty much my favourite slacker comedy of all time, I caught it at 2pm on Friday afternoons. I couldn’t believe I’d missed it first time round but maybe that was the first time or, as you say it had been carefully secreted away in the 1 am timeslot. How Do You Want Me, with the late, lovely Charlotte Coleman was on at 11.30 pm from memory.

  91. tigtog

    I think the wrong turn in decision making was identified by Tigtog – building an entire sitcom on one person’s comedy skit.

    To be scrupulous, it was probably based more on many comedienne’s skits, but they were all mining pretty much the same vein. I’m pretty sure that at least a dozen different women who’d been polishing their impersonation skills on stand-up/impro stages would have auditioned for this show. I’ve seen some of the competing videos they were putting up on YouTube!

    Sure it’s been done, but I guess there are pitfalls which weren’t adequately taken into account in this case.

    There have been whole shows built off one person’s legendary character comedy skit, but usually when they’ve been doing the character for years to general acclaim. Norman Gunston started as a character that popped up here and there on various shows, and gradually became his own show. Hoges started as a stand-up persona, and he ruled the light entertainment slot for how many years?

    I don’t think it’s at all easy (perhaps not even possible) to create a successful comedy persona like that from scratch (not in time for a rapidly upcoming TV season anyway) just because one thinks one has a brilliant concept.

  92. John Edmond

    Sadly I can remember this. The 2pm Friday slot was the second run of Spaced, it was first shown IIRC* around midnight on a Wednesday night with the 2pm Friday shot immediately following as if the ABC wanted to purge the show from their schedule as quick as possible.

    *I remember this because I first discovered Spaced while changing tapes to better record Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore on SBS – a four hour film which started at 10pm. I pressed the wrong button and there was Tim and Daisy in a mock gun-fight in Camden. So I only encountered Spaced 9 episoded into its run, despite being on lookout for it after hearing raves from various overseas friends and relatives. Irritation and all that.

  93. su

    Ha, yep the shoot out over the bag of not-marijuana. I shouldn’t be so rude – it was Tony Martin (another Kiwi) who has been banging on for years about the comedies we never get to see and the appalling timeslots they are relegated to when we do. Thanks to Tony I have a bit of a hit list of what to look out for on DVD. One is The Snuff Box with Matt Berry, my favourite actor from the The IT Crowd. Anyone seen it?

  94. Helen

    I think, Su et al, that the programmers at the ABC think that their edgier comedies will be watched mainly by 20somethings who can stay up all night. It couldn’t be further from the situation in my suburb: the younger hipsters, many of whom are at the exhausting pointy end of young parenthood, and the ageing Gen-Jonesers and some baby boomers, all grew up with stuff which was far edgier than “The Good Life” or similar – I mean, people older than me grew up with Robert Crumb and Frank Zappa and Oz magazine, etcetera. So put the edgier stuff on earlier already!

  95. John Edmond

    I think there is an element of truth in that, as well as the fact the show’s classification limits the hours they can be shown. That’s why I referred to promotion in my original complaint – there is no attempt, whether by press or preview, to alert people that there may be something interesting later on. As always there is an inverse relationship between the amount of promotion a comedy receives and its quality. And obviously this is not just the case with British imports – see At Home with Julia (duh) and Angry Boys. It’s easiest just to presume the ABC is humourless and that anything decent that slips through are accidents and the result of buying in bulk. Healthier even.

  96. Fine

    ‘The Mother and the Whore’! Now you’re talking John. That’s an amazing film. I remember seeing it when I was 18 and I was never quite the same again.

  97. Russell

    I think it was Club Troppo that had a link to the promo, and it was nothing to make me turn on the TV.

    Fran – I’m surprised the way you saw the Honeymooners. Alice was by far the stronger character – that was the joke. He wouldn’t have dared.

    ATWJ and Rob’s link to the army band at the tattoo – what a level we’ve sunk to! But then, I’ve just started reading Gail Jones’ new novel, and it’s looking very good – what different Australia’s we inhabit.

  98. Russell

    Sorry about the last apostrophe.

  99. John Edmond

    The Mother and Whore is extraordinary. Pity my taped copy is missing 20 minutes from the middle.

    Apparently there is meant to be a 7 disc Eustache set released in France this year, but we’ll see – they’ve been rumoured for years.

  100. su

    Don’t trouble about the tribbles Russell, I have lost count of the spelling and puncutation mortifications I have sent into the ether. I am torn between demonstrating that I do, in fact, know better, and letting them go unmarked as doing the former also marks one as intellectually vain : ) Of course the very best option is to read carefully and never make an error but that is a level to which I cannot aspire and so I don’t expect anyone else to do so either.

    You must be right Helen, there are all kinds of assumptions programmers make upon the basis of generic target audiences that will not match up with the particulars. I still think that relegating new comedies to the graveyard shift, a timeslot that is usually reserved for the umpteenth repeat of ’30s moves or series that have already aired at least twice in the pre-10.30pm slots, smacks of cowardice or extreme conservatism or a little of both.

    Oh don’t, Fine, my budget is already stretched. I have gradually been working my way through cinematic history on DVD and I’ve only just managed to see some of the Italian realists. TV Comedies are my mood-stabilizers of choice, films in general my priest-confessors slash therapists.

  101. Fine

    su, I think Eustache’s work is currently unavailable so you don’t have to worry about it. But a seven disc set – wow!

  102. John Edmond

    Yep, organised by his son Boris.

  103. Chris

    With iview, VCRs, hd recorders and bittorrent does it matter what time of the day programs are shown anymore? I wonder what percentage of the population even still watches tv live anymore?

  104. alfred venison

    dear Chris
    “I wonder what percentage of the population even still watches tv live anymore?”

    just for the database, my partner & i get most of our “serious tv” from the information super highway. for example, last night we saw the 1st episode of “sons of anarchy” season five, and 2 “colbert report” & 3 “john stewart” this afternoon. in the past we’ve seen “madmen” this way & “white collar”, too. and “supernatural” & “being human” (british version).

    its just more reliable than trusting local networks to do the right thing. their scheduling shenanigans, more often than not, show a level of regard bordering on contempt, for both the endeavors of the people who worked to produce the product & the expectations of the people wanting to watch it.

    most of our “live tv” is recorded to view at times convenient to us & skipping the ads. haven’t had murdoch for ten years or more, no regrets.

    and, on another note, i’d welcome sbs reviving “lexx”: up the brunnen-g!
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  105. Marisan

    Lefty E @ 29

    “Apparently John Howard isn’t going to watch it – as he thinks it demeans the office of the PM.

    That should confuse a few Tories.”

    Well what does he think JuLiar, Ditch The Witch and Bob Brown’s Bitch do to the office of The Prime Minister?

  106. Fran Barlow

    Apparently John Howard isn’t going to watch it – as he thinks it demeans the office of the PM

    I’m not watching it because it demeans the notion of politics as an exercise in the specification of public policy, the notion of humans as capable of insight into their relationships with observable reality and of course, the idea of inclusion and equity in the organisation of contemporary life, but I will grant that Howard may also have a point here, to the extent that the standing of The Office of Prime Minister is an expression of these things.

  107. Helen

    With iview, VCRs, hd recorders and bittorrent does it matter what time of the day programs are shown anymore? I wonder what percentage of the population even still watches tv live anymore?

    Some people still can’t be bothered – and it’s not a function of intelligence – I spoke yesterday to a doctor who hadn’t learned to Google search! That was the point made by the Slate article, that there might be different viewing populations looking at Network stuff and using the bittorrents/recorders/iView.

  108. Helen

    Fran, I thought Howard had already demeaned the office of the PM sufficiently himself.

  109. Fran Barlow

    Well yes Helen, but that doesn’t subvert his point.

  110. PinkyOz

    Hmm, Fran concedes a point to Howard, that’s Interesting. 🙂

    I wouldn’t say that any comedy program about a Sitting/Previous PM demeans the office (How Green is my Cactus, anyone), but this one does. But yeah, I have a feeling that Fran is right about this being an extension of the sideshow; the only saving grace being it’s supposed to be entertainment.

  111. Fran Barlow

    PinkyOz said:

    Hmm, Fran concedes a point to Howard, that’s Interesting.

    In my kitchen I have an analog clock that hasn’t worked since we moved in on October 14 1991. Yet twice every day, it displays the right time. The trouble is, that we don’t know when that is without consulting something more reliable.

    Of course, the fact that it’s almost always wrong doesn’t mean that we should assume it’s wrong at any moment in time. So is it with Howard.

  112. Helen

    Caught (sort of) the trailer for the next episode – it features Tim Mathieson being called the ‘First Lady’. Wot larks, eh! with this kind of coruscating wit, will it be too far over the heads of the usual audience, do you think?

  113. Fran Barlow

    I just posted a link about this thread on Twitter, including resident “TV guru David Knox” (Fran Kelly’s Breakfast) (@tvtonight) who declared himself a “thumbs up fan”.

    Curiously, even the egregious Kelly didn’t like it. Perhaps it did go over her head.

  114. PinkyOz

    Oh Fran, just teasin’, no need to tell me that Howard got it wrong on a great number of things. But even you must admit, it’s a novelty to see you in agreeance with him.

    And another thing, it’s not so much a broken clock thing. Howard is quite intelligent, he was right on some issues. Usually it was the approach he took that was the problem, often too tied up in vested interestes and the opinions of a handfull of electors.

  115. Fran Barlow

    Oh I had no problem with him introducing CFLs for incandescents. I was OK on the idea of a gun buy back and the associated levy. I wasn’t opposed in principle to a G&ST either. So yes, Howard wasn’t 100% wrong 100% of the time.

    I stand by the clock analogy though. When he was right, it was mere coincidence or worse.

  116. Fine

    Well, that was about as funny as a root canal job without an anaesthetic.

  117. adrian

    Shit, just when you think it couldn’t possibly get any worse, it does.

  118. tigtog

    I couldn’t be bothered watching it after last week. I shudder to think.

  119. Malcolm

    I decided to watch yesterday’s episode because I missed the first one and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. My verdict? This might have worked as a 5-minute comedy sketch on something like “Fast Forward”. To have actually comissioned a whole series based on this premise is bordering on the ridiculous, however.

    I found Amanda Bishop’s impersonation of Julia Gillard irritating and off target -and this is from someone who dislikes the real Julia Gillard. The jokes -with one or two notable exceptions -largely fell flat and were unfunny for the most part. I did like the actor who played Tim Matheson. The gender stereotypes surrounding Matheson and his role would have been funny in probably the 1950s or something like that but now they just seem outdated, sexist, cliched and quite mean-spirited

    I really do question the judgment of the ABC comedy department and the producers of this show that they somehow thought that something that really only would be sustainably funny as a 5-minute sketch comedy could be made into a mini-series. I think the results of this misjudgment are painfully obvious now

  120. Howard Cunningham

    I thought the second ep was better because the story was better.

  121. Pollytickedoff

    I thought it was worse then the week before because it was basically the same jokes as the first episode in a different setting.

    The “jokes” about the 4th school hall fell particularly flat with me because many schools have received school halls and facilities they didn’t previously have under the BER. I know of a number of schools who have excellent new facilities they didn’t have before.

    I didn’t find any of the “jokes about the useless security detail funny either.

  122. wilful
  123. adrian

    Yes, I agree Helen. Why is that even remotely funny? I don’t think I’d even find it funny if Howard wasn’t allowed on a bus.

    His bowling action OTOH is a different matter!

  124. Tim Macknay

    What wasn’t reported was that the driver of the spouse’s bus made a related gaffe by allowing several sheep on board. It apparently took some time to explain to the driver that none of the visiting dignitaries were, in fact, married to sheep .

  125. tssk

    So this week an episode will play where her and her partner will be portrayed in an intimate moment lying on the Australian flag.

    Nice.

    I can’t wait to see this spun out to the point where some old age pensioners believe she did this.

    I don’t mind satire. But this does seem to be more of a continuation of an attack on the Prime Minister or a lame attempt at ‘balance’ by the ABC.

    (Or maybe I’m just biased in a way I wasn’t when John Howard was kicked week after week by the comedians.)

  126. Helen

    The only possible saving grace of the flag episode will be the degree to which it’ll annoy Pauline Hanson and her enablers.

  127. tssk

    There’s been some criticism about bias in the program from Gerard Henderson. See here http://blogs.crikey.com.au/purepoison/2011/09/20/at-home-with-gerard/

    The problem with At Home with Julia is that it is not an equal opportunity political offender – because no Greens politicians make an appearance in any of the four episodes…

  128. Mercurius

    Trust Gerard Henderson be even more humourless than the show itself!

  129. Fran Barlow

    Re the sex scene in the latest AHWJ …

    Outraged opposition MPs debated the merits of At Home With Julia in a party room meeting today, with Nationals MP John Forrest urging the return of tasteful comedy shows such as the 1970s series Are You Being Served.

    Forrest thinks AYBS was more tasteful? Ok … I’m taking that to the bank on AHWJ, however dodgy the cheque looks.

  130. David Irving (no relation)

    That’s hilarious, Fran. All I remember about Are You Being Served was that it was full of single entendres. I would’ve thought they were blunt enough for even a National to get.

  131. adrian

    I think that we need The Young Ones does Tones and the Girls.
    I think I know who’d play Tones…

  132. Tim Macknay

    I’m pretty sure Are You Being Served is currently aired regularly on one of the “Freeview” channels. But perhaps John Forrest can only get 7, 9 and ABC on his B&W analog.

  133. AT

    I can’t believe you think the show could possibly affect Julia and Tim’s real-life relationship. You sound like one of those Neighbours fans who used to bail up Kylie Minogue in the street and gush about her fabulous wedding! Mathieson is a perfectly competent, intelligent man – the show is a sendup, folks! It’s fiction! Oh, and NO teenage girls are watching, so don’t worry on that score.