ABC’s first new comedy for 2018 Squinters, is an oddly-staged proposition with car-bound characters in comedic exchanges on their way to work.
The title refers to the daily commute of driving into the sun going to, and coming from, the workplace. At least it applies to western suburbs residents…
Work colleagues and family members all chat about their daily lives as they head to the fictional consumer goods Kosciusko dispatch centre.
Emerging as a kind of love child of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and No Activity, it has stumped up with a talented pool of performers including Tim Minchin, Jacki Weaver, Mandy McElhinney, Miranda Tapsell, Damon Herriman, Sam Simmons, Andrea Demetriades, Wayne Blair, Justin Rosniak, Christiaan Van Vuuren, Jenna Owen, Susie Youssef, Rose Matafeo, Steen Raskopoulos, John Luc aka ‘MyChonny’, and the UK’s Nyasha Hatendi.
Drawing upon multiple writers and directors, the Jungle series is co-created by Adam Zwar and Trent O’Donnell and has doubtless been able to film sporadically in both Sydney & LA, given most of the scenes are self-contained. But it also leads to uneven comedy where the performances are of greater interest than the gags.
Whilst Jacki Weaver eats up her role as Audrey, the mother of hapless gay son Lukas (Sam Simmons), others such as Justin Rosniak’s working-class worker Macca push things to the point of becoming annoying.
Tim Minchin amuses as a guy faking a car pool trip in order to flirt with Romi (Andrea Demetriades, driving his “serial killer” white van.
The first episode also features Mandy McElhinney as a mother instructing life lessons to daughter Mia (Jenna Owen) and Simoni (Susie Youssef) driving her best friend Talia (Rose Matafeo) to a job interview.
They are surely a passive, chatty bunch in these 5 cars, seen early morning on the way to work, then coming home. Zwar narrates links of Sydney traffic updates in between each scenario.
Up for discussion are random topics such as Amazon, Tinder, Relationships, W*nking and Dating. But it is hard to ignore the distracting green-screen traffic behind the performers -audiences have become accustomed to such shortcuts in American dramas for years. On Jungle’s former series No Activity, more could be mined from locations and improvisation, allowing the comedy to breathe a little more.
Individually the sketches are well-suited to bite-size interstitials, but under the half hour comedy umbrella, audiences may demand more action and interaction.
As it stands Squinters feels a little constricted by its format with social observation that will ring familiar bells for some but may leave others looking to pull the odd sickie.
Squinters premieres 9pm tonight on ABC.