The Moodys

ABC's dysfunctional family comedy is so effortless it puts the commercial networks to shame.

2014-01-25_2356Are The Moodys our very own Modern Family?

Not quite. But it’s probably the closest you’ll get right now: a dysfunctional, extended clan in a comedy of errors, underpinned by awkward displays of affection.

But the humour in The Moodys is less “gaggy” than those prevalent in American sitcoms, driven by characters who make us squirm in recognition. There’s a little bit of Moody in us all, which writers Phil Lloyd and Trent O’Donnell have captured so well.

The success of A Moody Christmas, in which the family gathered every year for the festive season, has now broadened out to regular family events in The Moodys: Australia Day, anniversaries, surprise birthdays, Easter, baby shower, weddings and more.

At the heart of the comedy is baby-faced Dan Moody (Ian Meadows), feebly trying to impress Cora (Jane Harber) whose social standing is ever-so-slightly higher than his. She loves Dan, despite having previously dated his cousin Hayden, and appears content to put up with whatever turmoil his family puts her through.

While Dan and Cora are setting up house (against the hopes of her brusque father), Dan’s brother Sean (Patrick Brammall) is devastated that his childhood home has been sold by parents Kevin (Danny Adcock) and Maree (Tina Bursill). He camps out in the vacant house like a squatter, clinging to both past and property before new owners can move in.

But the “event” of episode one is an Australia Day bbq on the beach, under the tongs and stubby-command of Uncle Terry (Darren Gilshenan). Resplendent in his grotesquely-multicoloured shirt, Terry has claimed the perfect vantage point on a Sydney foreshore as The Moodys begin to arrive. Dan tries to apologise to Cora’s father for Sean wearing the Australian flag tied around his neck like a superhero cape. Sean may be a proud Aussie but Dan is an embarrassed one, and you can almost sense a race riot about to break out.

But it isn’t long before another family -an Indigenous one no less- also lay claim to the beachfront site, lending rise to all kinds of amusing metaphors.

“Mate this is our spot,” says the man.

Sean: “He’s right. I know exactly how he feels. He was here first. Fight the power brother, yeah!”

For a moment you could mistake it for sincerity, were it not coming from Sean’s frequently-sarcastic mouth. But more to the point, can the two families co-exist side by side on our national day?

Things get worse when a shirtless Hayden shows up, swimming from a boat to the bbq with a romantic gift for Cora. Suddenly Dan is left floundering and humiliated, especially when Cora’s dad welcomes him with open arms.  What should have been the perfect Australia Day begins to evaporate fast.

The Moodys cast make the most of ample situations, grinning through gritted teeth, dying inside, embarrassing one another, and failing to see their own repeated inappropriateness.

Ian Meadows is perfect as the romantic juvenile trying to keep his reckless family on track. He acts as straight man while Patrick Brammall, Danny Adcock and Darren Gilshenan fumble around him with the wonderful comic timing. Brammall steamrolls his way through socially awkward situations while Gilshenan is completely oblivious as the daggy uncle everybody has met in their life.

The gorgeous Jane Harber brings a touch of class to her scenes by remaining composed in the face of adversity, while it’s great to see industry stalwart Tina Bursill in a comedic role, never trying to steal the limelight. Writer Trent O’Donnell, Rachel Gordon and Sacha Horler are also on hand as supporting players, filling out this very fine ensemble.

The Moodys won’t necessarily have you rolling in the aisles but it’s a bit of a marvel that this is such an effortless entertainment, and director Trent O’Donnell must be acknowledged for allowing this to rise and fall with such precision.

Commercial networks -Foxtel included- should take a long, hard look at how ABC is getting  scripted comedy so right. They could absolutely learn a thing or two from The Moodys, and have a laugh along the way.

The Moodys premieres 9pm Wednesday February 5 on ABC1.

7 Responses

  1. @David Knox
    Your last paragraph could not be more true, that is except for “have a laugh along the way” because I would indeed enjoy a good laugh if it wasn’t so serious.
    These commercial networks including Foxtel, are already laughing their heads off at such a suggestion,and are now so sure of themselves, they would see no need to improve nor give viewers what they prefer, because that is not in their mind set to do so after all the commercial networks exist for them, and it just unfortunate the necessary evil viewers, and the ABC get in their way.

    They’d rather sit back and enjoy the fruits of their contribution/investment towards the government of the day,like vultures waiting a watching the monster they have unleashed, slowly kill off the ABC, and then swoop in and pick over the carcass at their own leisure.

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