Sometimes there are things in the zeitgeist that seem to emerge around the same time.
Comedy and cancer is one such topic, with Netflix recently launching the teen series Alexa and Katie as high school best friends, one of whom is undergoing cancer treatment.
SBS On Demand has launched its first-ever commissioned series Homecoming Queens in which 20-something friends Michelle and Chloe are dealing with chronic illness. But the two shows could not be any more different.
While Alexa and Katie is a studio sitcom with laugh track (think Disney or Nickelodeon in style), the Aussie series is black comedy, avoiding punchlines and presenting more like a series of indie shorts. At just 11 minutes each there are 7 episodes available on the online platform. But it won’t be everybody’s cup of black tea….
The premise is stark but simple. Children’s television presenter Michelle (Michelle Law) returns to Brisbane after an alopecia diagnosis shatters the façade of her perfect life. Former high school best friend, Chloe (Liv Hewson) can barely believe she has turned up unannounced. As it happens, Chloe is herself recovering from breast cancer.
“I’ll just stay until things are back to normal,” Michelle flatly tells Chloe. “I just want to be beautiful.”
Sun-tanning under the hills hoist while the cicadas are singing may be a chance to renew a friendship and vent over life’s raw deal, but hiding her bare head from onlookers speaks to the self-esteem U-turn she undergoes for one so used to being in the spotlight.
Chloe, meanwhile, is determined to make up for lost time with a ‘reverse bucket list’ which includes securing some party drugs from an elderly neighbour (seriously) and making moves on her girl-crush Marnie (Taylor Ferguson).
Ironically, as a mastectomy patient, Chloe works in a lingerie store, surrounded by bras & underwear all day. But it doesn’t dampen her spirit nor determination to rise above it all, if only she can muster up the strength to ask Marnie out for drinks. And if all else fails, there is always the “I had cancer!” as a multi-purpose go-to excuse.
Michelle also embarks on her own prospective conquest when she spies Eddie (Family Law‘s George Zhao) in a pharmacy, but can’t bring herself to tell him her ‘secret.’
Hewison and Law are well-matched in this low-budget anti-comedy, which maintains its girl-power roots via director / producer Corrie Chen (Sisters, Mustangs FC), script consultant Marieke Hardy, and executive producers Amanda Higgs and Sue Masters.
This may not be laugh-out loud comedy, instead preferring to find humour in the awkward and inappropriate. But given the subject matter, it laughs in the face of life, which is affirmation in itself.
Homecoming Queens is now available a SBS On Demand.