It’s always a risk to talk up a new comedy series for fear of over-hyping it.
What amuses me doesn’t necessarily amuse you, and vice versa. It’s much better to let you discover something for yourself without expectations.
With that in mind, True Story with Hamish & Andy is one of the brightest new formats we’ve seen in some time. The cleverness of this concept is that each episode features a different cast bringing to life a true blue Aussie yarn. Think Enough Rope meets Drunk History, or Australian Story meets It’s A Date. Take your pick.
Central to the success of this format is that our trusty hosts have never met the guests nor heard the yarns until they sit down face to face in a studio. All casting was done by producers, independent of the boys. There’s nothing quite like hearing a story for the first time, and the reactions from Hamish & Andy give this real authenticity. It’s one of the reasons Don Lane never liked to meet his guests prior to his show.
The first episode centres around Aussie mum Rachel whose work trip to Hong Kong with her family turned into a comedy of errors.
As Rachel starts to explain her story of arriving at a HK hotel we see actress Emily Taheny assume the role in a separately-filmed sequence. Naturally everything is played for comedy ….it’s just a little bit more colourful, more exaggerated than that of our chief storyteller. Cleverly, as Rachel’s memory wavers and shifts, the vision matches it, even erasing family members who may or may not have been there.
Rachel’s work in Risk Management leads to a business dinner invitation by a HK government official “we’ll call her Sophie” (Fiona Choi). But a friendly family Yum Cha in a Chinese restaurant turns into a formal, ritzy dinner in Lan Kwai Fong. Upon arrival, an under-dressed Rachel, hubby Mark (James Saunders) and two bored kids are now dreading dinner with Sophie and her tycoon husband (Keith Brockett).
With Hamish and Andy on the edge of their seat as Rachel’s elaborate tale unravels, things go from bad to worse in dinner scenes. There are awkward Chinese customs, and rare local delicacies including a thousand year old egg. I won’t reveal too much more other than to say a battle with the egg turns Rachel’s hubby positively slapstick, with the kids bringing up the rear. Literally.
The casting here is on point. Taheny beautifully endeavours to save face while Saunders goes for broke as embarrassing dad. Fiona Choi (The Family Law) again proves impeccable comic timing, ably supported by a dour Keith Brockett.
Director Wayne Hope (Upper Middle Bogan, The Librarians) proves playful with the story, including the interchanges from filmed drama to studio narration. Producers are also to be commended for the photography and art direction here. There is depth to the colour which means the script by Blake, Lee and Ryan Shelton never looks like it has been filmed on the cheap.
Another episode surrounding an eager primary school teacher outwitted by one of his pupils was equally a joy. Its cast features Shelton, Glenn Robbins, John Wood, Madeleine West and Julie Nihill. Trust me, there’s a who’s-who of Aussie showbiz faces to come.
The ability of the subject to tell their tale is central to the success of the format. The five episodes have been chosen for contrast. Some are big yarns, others much smaller, but all told with the ability to laugh at one’s self, as pure Australiana.
True Story with Hamish & Andy is a cheeky delight, and unlike anything else on screen right now. I suspect it will be one of those shows rival network execs say they wish they had commissioned. But let’s not over-sell this. You can make up your own mind.
7:30pm Monday June 5 on Nine.