To be fair, Off Their Rockers isn’t looking to be sophisticated comedy.
It’s yet another twist on the old Candid Camera, but this time with senior citizens pranking much younger unsuspecting members of the public.
Based on the Belgian format, Benidorm Bastards, the humour here is in having fun with the socially unacceptable.
We just don’t expect to see grandma and grandpa running out of a public toilet together, giggling and hastily pulling up their knickers. Or a senior citizen looking for her lost nipple ring near a park bench. Or asking some lovely young people to sign a petition for nursing home orgies.
Yes, Off Their Rockers is that kind of show. If you liked Balls of Steel Australia, also by the Comedy Channel, then this is most surely for you.
What you see is what you get here. These are predominantly visual sketches, filmed on the streets of Sydney, with an ensemble of elderly pranksters improvising until they drop a clanger of a punchline and then swiftly exit. That leaves the camera to capture the startled reactions of the “gotcha” youngsters hopefully falling about in fits of laughter.
Some of the scenarios are quite funny, others are desperately in search of an ending that just never comes (which usually results in awkward lines about having to go and catch a bus or similar).
In light of recent radio pranks, dare we ask if consent was sought before being broadcast? Hopefully….
The shooting style by Granada Australia is hugely disappointing, inevitably relying on a single wide-shot camera to capture the action before zooming in for the reactionary laugh. In the edit suite they have hit the slo-mo button so that we must watch the pranked victims rolling around laughing in slow-motion as a soundtrack of Beach Boys or Herman’s Hermits-style music kicks in. While this was also a ploy in the Belgian series, it continually undercuts the pace of the comedy.
In contrast NBC’s Betty White’s Off Their Rockers uses multiple camera shots, is mindful not to linger too long, and has hidden microphones to capture the audio of their victims (ours includes this only sparingly).
This is where I also tell you that instead of Betty White we have to cop Sam Kekovitch as presenter, wearing a suit too big and doing little more than reading an autocue to bookend segments. There’s no subtlety in his delivery (whereas Betty White could make reading the phone book funny). Why the Comedy Channel didn’t cast a showbiz performer such as Judith McGrath or Denise Drysdale or Colette Mann is beyond me…
The credits also didn’t include any Series Producer or Director name (Julie Hanna is credited as Granada exec producer), which is not exactly reassuring.
That said, in short doses Off Their Rockers can be a bit of a giggle but with YouTube so accessible I’m just not so sure it’s enough to warrant a second look.
Off Their Rockers premieres 7:30pm Sunday January 13 on Comedy.