Street Smart

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 ExPM, 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.

14 Comments:

  1. I enjoyed the show. I think we need to not over think comedies and just appreciate it for what it is. For me, the highlight of the show was the Asian wife character.

  2. Dear Mr Knox.

    Allow me to leave a review of your review on the new aussie sitcom “StreetSmart”.
    Whilst I have enjoyed some of your writing – you are way off on this rather unfair review with numerous and blatant errors. Firstly, why would you presume this is aimed at a “Housos” audience? Why David why? They are nothing like each other!!! This is a clean, broad, simple show the whole family can enjoy. You do not give enough credit on how difficult this is to do .. in fact why would you even bring Housos up? Very lazy David! If the creators were to bring out a childrens show next are you also going to compare that to Housos? How absurd.

    It is also light years away from Ex Pm because this is a totally different show aimed at a different wide family audience. Did you know that “StreetSmart” is also light years away from “Sex in the City”, “Doctor Doctor”…

    • Thanks for feedback. I’m sorry if you didn’t appreciate the review, but actually it acknowledges both at start and end how difficult comedy is to work. Housos is noted just as it was in the TEN press release, so no I don’t see why I would mention in a children’s review (although another review today did suggest 9 year olds might enjoy). Both Ex PM and Street Smart have same producer, also relevant. I’ve reviewed plenty of shows where my low rating is contrasted by a big hit, and plenty of 5 star reviews that just don’t find an audience at all. Right or wrong the key is to be authentic, and mine is but one opinion for readers to then make up their own mind. I’m not sure creatives hitting out at a review is well-advised but given the show hasn’t yet aired it might be helpful for you to declare your interest, just as my name is on my work?

      • Sorry David – i wrote much more where i said i was one of the creators but it was cut off. I just thought that there were many other positives – like a comedy aimed at all ages, diverse cast with Indian, Asian, Turk, Aboriginal, Greek, Vietnamese all playing lead roles – unlike nothing else we have seen before on our televisions. A narrative comedy in the true sense (True Story, for example is not) – not designed for the Housos audience as you presumed – this is a fun, simple (we acknowledge), light hearted comedy. Niche audience shows are much much easier. I thought as a reviewer you might be able to see a lot of these points. It might not be for you as you said but a lot of people enjoy a comedy all members of the family can watch. The negativity is yet again a reason why networks are reluctant to support narrative comedy in this country. Thanks for your reply. Tahir Bilgic

        • Thanks Tahir. Review acknowledges diverse characters and the broad approach (and even True Story as a hybrid). Don’t forget we have seen ethnic leads on all kinds of comedy (Family Law, Acropolis Now, Home Sweet Home and numerous sketch comedy). But it doesn’t mean a review will overlook script, performance etc and I’m unclear on the errors you said were in the review (FYI press kit not supplied). I indicated I hope it finds an audience which was genuine and I always encourage readers to make up their own mind. Thanks.

          • Thanks to both of you for the review and comments.
            I enjoyed the Habibs as it was well scripted and acted in my opinion(never saw Housos). I don’t always read the reviews, but look forward to seeing what I make of it! I do love that this blog allows for these discussions

          • I wanted to really give it a go but sorry I just couldn’t sit through it. I have loved Habibs and Housos (which both to me have a similar humor). I also appreciate any show that just shows diversity which this did but it wasn’t funny. Standout was Casey Donovan. It was good to see Channel ten give it a go but moving it after one episode we will see what happens after this.

    • If you responded to all the negative comments and reviews about Street Smart on social media you would be kept very busy indeed. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but several people I know enjoyed it though.

  3. “Comedy is such a question of a personal taste that we take considerable delight being righteous when something is ‘not funny’” – I think this is a good point to make, David. I’m quite sure this show won’t be for me either but hopefully it will find its audience because, as you say, it’s better for television comedy as a whole if it does. Hopefully its diverse cast will help garner a more diverse audience too.

  4. carolemorrissey

    Thanks for the review David. Now that I know they filmed the first 2 eps out of order I’ll tape them both & watch in the right order.

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