Australian situation comedies

With the launch of Here Come the Habibs, and the news from Denise Scott that her sitcom pilot did not get picked up (no idea what network) I thought a topic on local sitcoms was warranted. ABC has some success with them, notably Kath & Kim, the Librarians and Working Dog’s productions.

Why are networks so worried about doing them? Sure there has been some doozies, but the number of bad sketch shows outweigh the good, and we seem to get those every now and then. K&K was a blockbuster, surely networks can see Australian’s love comedy, and when a show is done right leap upon them.

Cost per hour is always the reason. A network can do five 90 minute episodes of a reality format (MKR, Masterchef, The Block), or they could blow that money on a single hour of scripted drama or comedy. And of they do scripted content, drama is often chosen over comedy because, comedy, especially in an underdeveloped and undertested comedy environment like Australia, is much harder to get right. There simply is no set formula for success.

The ABC has a number of failed comedies for every Kath and Kim or Summer Heights High that hits all the right notes. The reason the ABC isn’t deterred is because ratings don’t matter as much and they don’t lose millions of ad dollars for a flop.

Nine is giving it a go, and good on them. I strongly doubt, however, that Nine will create a new wave of commercial comedy. The economics simply don’t give commercial networks enough incentives to burn cash on only 30 minutes of content per week.

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Sitcoms from proven sources (RIley/Turner, Hope/Butler, Working Dog, Chris Lilley) get a good run, but they consistently deliver successful shows.

To be honest, a lot of our attempts at Comedy are pretty terrible

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Quality script and acting :grin:

see I disagree, many have worked. The hit rate would be on par with drama. I understand cost rationalisation, but there is a untapped market for it, and in the current TV landscape surely risks need to be taken.

Sitcoms are extremely risky, mostly because our networks and producers just don’t have the budgets to match the resources (e.g. a room full of writers) needed to churn out a good sitcom. And so when a sitcom does get off the ground, more often than not, it becomes a dud. For every Kath & Kim, Hey Dad or Mother And Son there’s a Hampton Court, Bingles, Bligh, Late For School, Wedlocked, Family Business, The Bob Morrison Show, My Two Wives, Daily At Dawn… etc. A few others, such as Col’n Carpenter, Newlyweds or All Together Now have managed to scrape together a second or maybe third series but they are the lucky ones. (Let The Blood Run Free was one that got a bit of a lucky break mostly due to overseas sales, not so much for its performance here)

Good luck to Channel Nine for Habibs but the odds are not in its favour.

I’m struggling to think of an Aussie sitcom that I’ve enjoyed.

We’ve had far more success with satire and skits - shows like Full Frontal, Mad as Hell, Comedy Inc, Life Support, Ronne Johns…

I do like a good satire!

Kingswood Country was extremely popular, as was All Together Now. Acropolis Now did quite well too.

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Upper Middle Bogan is the most recent comedy I’ve enjoyed the most. Can’t think of any recent memorable comedies on commercial TV. Mr and Mrs Murder is probably the closest to a commercial comedy that I can recall in the past couple of years.

we’ve also had way more sketch than sitcom, and Life Support and Ronnie Johns were hardly mainstream hits.

I think Here Come The Habibs will grab some initial interest but the joke will wear thin and viewers will drop off. Pretty much like The Moodys did.

I don’t think anything will ever get to 291 episodes of Hey Dad, 89 episodes of Kingswood Country, 63 episodes of Acropolis Now or even 39 episodes of Frontline.

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Quite right. I should have clarified that those were shows that, in my opinion, were very well done.

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Newlyweds wasn’t bad for the time, Hey Dad proved popular, ABC has had recent success with them post Kath & Kim. Mother & Son another example of ABC doing sitcoms well.

While these ones admittedly weren’t mainstream hits, could Pizza/Swift And Shift Couriers/Housos be classed as successful Australian sitcoms at least for SBS standards?

I also liked Col’n Carpenter, the spin off series from The Comedy Company.

Absolutely there’s plenty of room for a few sitcoms in the schedule but the current crop of executives don’t seem to know what funny is and even if they find something, lack of programming power these days makes it so much harder. I’m of the opinion if you’re gonna try, it better be a proper effort or don’t bother. Why waste money and embarrass yourself. No point executives guessing and failing when they surely get it wrong.

I’m trying to think the last commercial sitcom that worked or even the last good one?

Most of those shows had a ‘laugh track’. That’s what missing lately in Australian comedy.

Habibs needs a laugh track.