Scripted comedy is so rarely attempted on commercial television of late that it is largely the domain of ABC.
Nine is about to launch a second season of its clever hybrid True Story with Hamish & Andy after two seasons of Here Come the Habibs. Now TEN is jumping in with a revival of All Aussie Adventures with much-loved larrikin Russell Coight (Glenn Robbins) and newcomer Street Smart, from Habibs co-creators Rob Shehadie & Tahir Bilgic -both of whom star in their own vehicle.
Bilgic (Pizza, Swift and Shift Couriers) stars as Steve, unemployed and the leader of a neighbourhood “gang”: Asian “brains” Hung (Andy Trieu), bogan “muscle” Shane (Dave Eastgate) and Indian ‘uber’ Uber driver Raj (Neel Kolhatkar). The 4 meet in the garage of Steve’s McMansion to hatch wacky plans to make money, none of which ever involve applying for jobs.
But on their case is inept local parking officer Joseph (Shehadie) and his trusty sidekick Tia (Casey Donovan). Both Joseph and Steve revel in their rivalry, for reasons largely unclear, with lots of gunslinger insults and eyeballing each other across the paved driveway.
The other key ensemble member is Hung’s demanding girlfriend Trans (Maria Tran) who runs a Pork Roll & Nail Bar. She has Hung under her perfectly-manicured thumb, pressuring him on all fronts romantic and financial.
In the opening episode Steve bizarrely proposes ransacking the “Confiscated Items” room at the local police station by dressing up as the local fuzz. Yes, logic goes out the door very quickly here, which is fine if the outcome is funny.
Problem is, the script by Mark O’Toole is unashamedly broad, sign-posting a lot of gags with charmless characters. Directed by Damian Davis, the acting is hammy -with too much mugging by the leads- and the synth soundtrack is over-egged. At least Maria Tran works the show’s sole catchphrase and Casey Donovan holds her own in her comedy debut.
I was confused about the premise and the relationships, especially between Steve (Bilgic) & Joseph (Shehadie). What is it these characters are looking for, and what keeps them together? The series skips over how the gang came to be misfit friends and feuding rivals. This was somewhat addressed with the second episode, thanks to some nifty backstory, which as it turns out is actually episode one (TEN is oddly screening episode 2 as premiere).
Tonally this presumably aims for a Housos-style audience, but with less finesse than Paul Fenech’s knockabout flair and it feels like it should have been trialled in Pilot Week. It’s hard to see how this is produced by the same company as The Ex–PM, it is light years apart…
Comedy is such a question of a personal taste that we take considerable delight being righteous when something is ‘not funny’ -as opposed to more indifference when something isn’t “dramatic” enough. After two episodes I’m certain this is not for me and vice versa. While I applaud TEN for having a go, success or failure may impact whether more comedies are greenlit.
Fingers crossed there are enough who like their comedy as B-I-G as this.
Street Smart airs 8pm Sunday on TEN.