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.