At Home with Julia

Amanda Bishop's Julia Gillard is a vernacular neighbour to Kath Day-Knight in her new ABC comedy, while Phil Lloyd steals the show as the hapless Mr. Julia.

Is Julia Gillard split from the same cell as Kath Day-Knight?

She sure was in ABC1’s new comedy At Home with Julia.

Amanda Bishop’s portrayal of the PM may have seen her living it up in The Lodge but she was a bogan fish out of water, rising above her Altona (or possibly Fountain Lakes) station.

As a premise it’s admittedly pretty cruel, but it’s also a tried and true concept that has served many shows very well. In this sense, At Home with Julia was The Beverly Hillbillies meets Kath and Kim and that’s not such a bad thing.

There was a lot to like here: some great one-liners, some terrific cameos, the capacity for the story to take aim at our political landscape and last, but by no means least, Phil Lloyd as Tim Mathieson.

Lloyd was utterly brilliant as the hapless, silent partner of the PM, giving a performance full of pathos and subtlety. Unrecognised at the checkout, dubbed Mr. Gillard by the newsagent, taunted for a Mr. Julia haircut by the kids outside the gate -he upstaged his profile partner by doing nothing at all.

The role as partner to a politician is dramatically fascinating -charged with being someone and no-one all at the same time.

The dinner date plot perfectly sets up Mathieson for an outburst in the episode’s crescendo scene in front of the Independents. Gillard’s inspired pet names for him, ‘T-Rex’, ‘T-Cup’, ‘T-Pot’ and ‘TV’ will become a running gag that will live beyond the show.

By contrast Bishop’s performance leaned towards the other end of the spectrum. As two-tone as her striped jacket this walking duck caricature may be better suited to a shorter sketch comedy or stage performance. It may have matched the supporting players, but is it right for the central character? It was so harsh that I felt like I was laughing at her rather than with her, which in a half-hour narrative is pretty important. But at least I was laughing.

Not for a minute do I susbcribe to the theory that to undertake this comedy is disrespectful. If the Greeks and Shakespeare could take aim at authority, so can we. In fact in this country, affectionate mocking is a national sport. Gillard can wear it like a badge of honour. Amanda Bishop might even deliver her a poll boost.

The cameos were great fun, especially Drew Forsythe as Bob Katter, huffing and puffing under his trademark hat. Paul Keating’s voice on the phone was terrific. The three independents were a wicked comic trio bickering over decafs and sugar (what, no Three Amigos gag?). I’m looking forward to seeing Kevin Rudd and Alan Jones soon.

Kudos too to Bill Shorten the dog. Nice to see he is getting more work since Frasier.

And any comedy that has enough nerve to take an 80s icon such as Craig McLachlan and put him back in the garden deserves some credit. The absolute hide….

The script wasn’t far from The Hollowmen in tone, with some timely gags such as the secretary offering Rupert Murdoch the mobile phone number of Tim Mathieson, the dig that Kevin will start the meetings without her if she’s late and the dozing Federal Police security.

Like Frontline, At Home with Julia is nicely poised to take the news landscape and put it through the comedy grinder. It’s not there yet but it’s a very good start.

Do they wear thongs in Tokyo?

At Home with Julia airs 9:30pm Wednesdays on ABC1.

63 Responses

  1. Epic Fail! Another peice of Satan’s garbage for the throwout bin.

    These pathetic nerdy producers should ask the guy with the vacuum cleaner for some talent :). Gotta love the ABC, especially 666 Canberra ABC radio.

    Just a delusional comment from an unemployed schizophrenic, don’t take too much notice, I’m sure you won’t.

  2. I was reminded of Spitting Image, which often depicted Dennis Thatcher as the down-trodden, hen-pecked, ineffectual (and often drunk) husband of the supremely insensitive Maggie. But at least Spitting Image managed to do that within the context of some biting political satire. It had some guts. At Home With Julia was, for the most part, pretty gutless, at least when it came to the PM. As a voter, I’m more interested in someone skewering JG for her politics and her fumbling attempts at running the country. I don’t much care about her date nights. It’s not relevant and the emasculating portrayal of Tim Mathieson isn’t particularly fair, since he’s made no real attempts to insinuate his way into public life. In short, a wasted opportunity.

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