Open Slather

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On the positive side, there were some great laughs to be found in Open Slather.

The Comedy Channel has assembled a strong cast of established and emerging comedians for its ambitious new sketch comedy. The Gen Y cast slipped in with ease alongside Fast Forward veterans in this mix of popular culture, social and political humour. Comics such as Ben Gerrard, Emily Taheny and George H. Xanthis made impressive debuts showing off their versatility and timing.

On the less-positive side some of the sketches struggled (a dating couple dropping farts, an All New Gavin workout prop) whilst others made me uneasy that they were trying to recapture Fast Forward‘s magic with a tone stuck in the 80s (Downton Abbey).

But therein lays the challenge of producing new comedy: it can take time to hit its stride. The point is in having a go.

Thankfully there was much to like. Magda Szubanski’s Gina Minehart is an instant classic: stroking her pet rock and giving us her definition of ‘mining.’ “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is also mine,” she revealed. The chameleon Szubanski also resurfaced as Clive Parmigiana in a Downton sketch, cleverly edited alongside her own Mrs. Fatmore and Gina Minehart.

Stephen Curry was priceless in a Lord of the Rings sketch, as a minion telling his leader to cut back on the excessive, classical language. “Next time just yell ‘Duck!’ I reckon.”

Gina Riley also donned the costumes as lawyer Gina Liano in Rack, calling everyone in court the “C” word, and impersonating a pointed Liz Hayes in a 60 Minutes report about too many refugees arriving by boat (it turned out to be washed-up Reality TV judges: Redfoo, Geri Halliwell, Mel C, and Ricky Martin). Although it felt like it dragged on one sketch too many.

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A sketch parodying The Bridge with a dead body on the NSW and Victorian border was clever and a sketch about racial abuse on public transport, shot to resemble mobile phone footage, had genuine bite. “I am as thrilled for you as I am intimidated,” yelled one woman to a young Asian man studying medicine.

The sting was left for the closing credits with actual footage of refugees in Africa and Christmas Island complaining on Facebook about the quality of Domino’s pizzas. “Just letting you know I have had the worst experience through you. The Waterford store didn’t have the toppings I wanted then I ordered a different one.” Brilliant.

There were also sketches on Masterchef, Random drug testing, Jeeps, Australian Story, Catholic priests (no, it wasn’t about abuse), Bear Grylls, the weather bureau and a child protection unit checking up on parents using social media. Some were running gags that were given variations as they reappeared.

George H. Xanthis made for a killer Vince Colosimo in a send up of The Slap, even if the material didn’t really go anywhere. I also didn’t laugh much at the sole song parody Ellie Goulding’s Love Me Like You Do, reworked as Whip Me Like You Do in an apparent 50 Shades of Grey nod.

Some of the veterans barely appeared: Jane Turner and Marg Downey were under-utilised. The promised studio audience sketches did not surface amid rumours the quality did not match the location sketches. The upside is the look of the location sketches was excellent, nicely lit and photographed and avoiding looking el cheapo. Big tick there.

The marrying of generational comics as a way to bring in an instant crowd has worked rather well. Whether the veterans are too scarce, or can deliver comedy beyond impersonation remains to be seen. I confess to a nostalgic affection for such parody but the comedy with bite lays in the contemporary social sketches, mostly from younger comics.

With TV sketch largely confined to niche audiences on 7mate’s Kinne and ABC’s Black Comedy, a broadly-appealing format is long overdue. Unless networks and producers take risks like this we’ll be stuck with more Reality. On that front Open Slather wins the encouragement award of the night.

As the the titles tell us ‘The revolution will be televised.’ Perhaps it’s already begun.

7:30pm Sunday on Comedy Channel.

Warning: language.

21 Comments:

  1. Having now watched 2 episodes, I can sadly say that this has not lived up to expectations. So many great Australian comedians, so few laughs. I won’t be tuning in again.

  2. I enjoyed it! A few of the comments regarding bad taste and going on too long have some merit, but overall its got a strong cast and they will find their mojo. Also thought the new employee creating an email was hilarious!

  3. You can group the skits into ‘Meh’, ‘In poor taste’ or ‘What the hell was that?’ Considering the majority of the cast seems to have a history with Fast Forward / Full Frontal or Comedy Inc I expected much better. Maybe just rescreen those three shows and throw in a bit of The Late Show rather than wasting the cash on this.

  4. thedirtydigger

    I thought the Downton Abbey sketches were fine…problem was most of the others just went on too long…like the emails, the Lord of the Rings, the fart joke, 60 minutes part 2, plus others I’ve forgotten.
    A lot of the sketches did go no where, it seems the writers didn’t know how to “get out” of them.
    B+ though…

  5. I agree with David and I think the show needs time to find its tempo. I also agree with a comment written elsewhere that sketches have to be short and snappy. Drawn out or overdone doesn’t add to the flavour. Open Slather is 100% on reality TV and I know that they will fine tune it from the reviews and comments. Boy! some of those comments are brutal – arm chair critics …! Well, I anticipated a good hour’s entertainment – and I got what I came for. I don’t need outdated clapping machines to get a punch line either. I love comedy ~ bring it on guys! Looking forward to the other episodes.

  6. thatsnicmeyers

    I was shocked at how bad it was. Most of the sketches went overlong (especially the stale Downton Abbey parody). The 60 Minutes Reality judge sketch and the “mother who didn’t post on social media” seemed like they were made as a desperate attempt to be “current” which failed. I laughed at the pretty hilarious absurdity of The Slap sketch and I think one other time in the hour.

    So disappointed.

    • Really, you didn’t find the “mother” skit funny? I laughed out loud! Agreed some skits went a little too long but not everything on Fast Forward was great either. (come to think of it on most skit shows). The opening titles while ok are way too long they need make it shorter.
      I got a few laughs out of it and expect it will improve.

  7. Considering Emily Taheny was on Comedy Inc for four years and more recently on Mad As Hell, it’s not really a surprised that she adapted well to this.

  8. Have always been a fan of Australian sketch comedy, and find I still laugh at shows which have aged well with time, each having a go at the issues of the day – Late Show, Fast Forward, Big Girls Blouse, Naked Vicar, Mavis Bramston are stand outs in this respect. Can’t say much has taken has taken my interest over the past 15 – 20 years or so (thinking Comedy Inc, Skithouse).

    As previously mentioned the production values are fantastic. It took me a little while, but I ended up getting used to the lack of the laugh track. I think the first episode seemed to lack comedic continuity from the fact that most of the talent and writers would have worked with and around various comedy groups previously which showed in the contrasting sketches. Downton Abbey was Fast Forward all over again, where I found The Slap felt more like I was watching Comedy Inc.

    I think the big stand out was definitely Magda and Gina exploring new characters, Liz Hayes being my favourite.

    Hoping they can improve over time, and with support from Foxtel retain their audience.

  9. I enjoyed it Australian television has been missing this sort entertainment for a long while.No surprise actually as with everything in social media more negative than good

    • I watched kinne the other week and thought that was great too, great to see skithouse type shows are back, just a shame both have too much swearing and be a even better show if it was M

  10. Secret Squïrrel

    I’m normally hard to please with regard to comedy but I thought it was alright for a first ep. A couple of skits didn’t quite work and others were so-so but I thought it was a decent first effort and will watch again.

    I thought The Bridge parody was great and the Liz Hayes Mailbag skit at the end was nice and topical as well as tying in with the previous ones. I laughed out loud at the Jeep ad but I think that the real ad is almost a self-parody anyway. I prob would’ve enjoyed the Downton Abbey ones a bit more if I had watched the show (I gather Marg Downey was playing Elizabeth Montgomery).

    It may not be what you meant but I don’t think that the Dominos pizza comments are from people in refugee camps. Certainly a stark juxtaposition of real third-world tragedy with so-called first-world problems.

  11. Extremely dissapointing. Was so excited. Maybe 3 skits made me giggle. The rest reminded me Skithouse and that bad one Ch9 had yrs ago. I am surprised so many good comedic names yet so little laughs. Dog.

  12. Btw just a heads up, the Stephen curry bit wasn’t a rift on LotR it was making fun of game of thrones, that’s y they said king on the North and so on, 🙂

  13. I thought the sketches in the first segment were terrible – not a great way to keep the audience interested, but got a lot better after that.

  14. I was stunned at how bad this show was. I was put off from the beginning with the awful theme music and lame opening sketch. I had to give up hope of it getting better by the half way mark. The sketches either made no sense or went on for way too long. I can see why they didn’t have audience scenes, there would have been a dead silence where laughter was expected. Comedy Channel should have saved a bundle and just replayed Armstrong and Miller reruns in it’s place. I’ve already deleted Open Slather from my series link and deleted last night’s unfinished episode.

  15. daveinprogress

    I was disappointed. The pacing was an issue; many of the sketches went nowhere. I have to admit there were very few laughs in this for me; perhaps the shadow of Fast Forward looms too large still. I agree with you David, the established names were too scarce on screen – i did like Jane Turner’s Maggie Smith; and anything with Gina Riley, so maybe it is a generational thing. Call me Pavlov’s Dog, but i missed the studio audience and laughs that not only add to the soundtrack but keep the performers on their toes. I’ll be back, but not overly impressed or hopeful that it will rise to something better.

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