Open Slather: “On paper it was all there…”

Brian Walsh reflects on why sketch series failed to fire, but finds a light at the end of the tunnel.


Last year Foxtel rolled a big gamble on its sketch comedy series Open Slather produced by Laura Waters and Rick McKenna.

Despite an impressive launch the show nosedived in the ratings with disappointing reviews. Over its 20 episodes the show never managed to find a sustained audience.

TV Tonight recently asked Foxtel Director of Brian Walsh what he felt was the show’s key problem?

“The writing,” he admitted.

“They had a lot of issues with the writers room and changes in personnel.

“On paper it was all there. You had all the big names, with Laura and Rick. We gave it our all. But in the end the audiences just weren’t there there for it.”

Open Slather was Foxtel’s biggest investment in local comedy in years. But it is in discussions on new projects.

“My take on it is that Drama in this country has evolved and developed because we keep investing in writing,” he continued.

“All of the networks have been heavily committed to Drama. But Comedy has been very hit and miss.

“It’s very hard to build an industry of Comedy writers if the commissions are few and far between.”

“But we uncovered some great comedic talent. We said to Princess and Rick McKenna, ‘Let’s not lost the talent we’ve invested in.’ So many of the cast of Open Slather are involved in the new pilots that we’ve been funding.”

In addition to new projects in development Foxtel has animated comedy Pacific Heat from Working Dog and Whose Line Is It Anyway Australia from Roving Enterprises both due this year.

“I’m confident we’ll continue our commitment to Australian Comedy and we’re exploring fresh ideas,” he added,

Open Slather was a risk, as all Comedy is. We’ve just got to keep working at it.”

13 Responses

  1. They lost me by the second episode. Too much time wasted indulging the lame characters for the “old stars” which were lacking the old magic of Comedy Company etc. needed a lot more of the fresh faces and ideas of the younger ones. Some of the characters were just painful and not funny in the slightest… sadly.

  2. i have no idea, but do they audience test tv shows like they do with movies? if not they should’ve with this one, very dissapointing. The nature of comedy is that what is funny can rapidly change so just because a write/producer had success a decade ago it doesn’t mean they’re still going to produce good stuff unless they keep on that pulse.
    According to the imdb, Gina Riley has writing credits on 8 eps, Magda on 2 eps, Jane Turner on none. So i wonder if they had more input if it would’ve been more successful.

    1. IMDb is not comprehensive, sometimes only has listings that individuals have uploaded. Better to check the credits on the show. Your point about testing is a good one. I’ve written in the past how Australia doesn’t do many pilots these days due to their expense. Sometimes they happen (ie. Seven did not proceed with a drama pilot with Erik Thomson) but they are the exception rather than the rule.

  3. I don’t agree David. Foxtel should be a home to originality across all its genres but this rarely happens. Its factual is loaded with remade British/foreign formats. Its recent dramas have been reworkings such as Wentworth or continuation of series such as A Place To Call Home. Its contribution to original local content, despite the spin for particular shows has been minimal over the years. By legislation it is forced to spend 10% of its drama acquisition budget on local dramas. Sadly that money doesn’t go far and is not enough to create an original Foxtel voice and genuine and continual risk taking.

    1. We know that networks are risk averse. I’d been on Foxtel’s case that it had not done enough in comedy of late. Last year 20 episodes and giving a project time to find its feet still didn’t deliver. That’s the nature of comedy alas. History shows Love My Way still its best commission in Drama, but I am confident it will look favourably on Wentworth.

  4. Open Slather had potential, but the writing let it down. Many of the recurring sketches just didn’t work (the “2 priests in the church” wasn’t funny the first time) and the parodies of Downton Abbey are only funny if you actually watch that show. Also, the show was promised to be filmed in front of a live studio audience, but at the last minute this was dropped. That ultimately killed the show – the lack of direct audience feedback. How else could they know what was working and what wasn’t before broadcast?

  5. i stopped watching after they did a skit on a trans-woman who was returning to work and now because she was a woman would be paid less and have to make coffee. it was in poor taste an extremely offensive. the show was barely funny, hardly new and nothing exciting. you had a mix of struggling actors mixed with old comedians who were funny two or so decades ago on fast forward. it was a poor excuse for comedy, the only joke was the show it’s self.

      1. agree there David, sometimes the point of good comedies are they make fun of everyone equally! Look at shows like South Park, is there any minority group they haven’t satirized? if there is they probably feel left out!

  6. two words – not funny.

    thats why australian “comedy” fails.

    great foxtel – lets reinvent a 28 year old series in who’s line is it anyway, that has been done and dusted in the UK / US.

    glad you still call that a “fresh idea”

    that wont work either – and you’ll sit and wonder why

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