Comedy back in style with networks

It’s been a long time coming, but Comedy is back in fashion with TV networks once again.

In the coming weeks viewers will have more scripted Comedy than we have seen in some time, especially on ABC, Nine & SBS.

While ABC has undoubtedly been leading the way, ABC’s Head of Comedy Rick Kalowski welcomes the newer players.

“The more Comedy we do the better it is for everybody. It gets the audience’s mind around the proposition that scripted Comedy is worth watching and that it’s not only the ABC that does it. It has benefits for building the talent pool and craft skills of the people making those shows.

“The ABC is obviously still leading the way because we made a huge amount of Comedy across three departments: Comedy, Entertainment and the Indigenous department. We’re now doing it in 4 different ways: TV series, Broadcast Pilots, iview series and Radio Comedy.

“But it’s great to see there is a second season of Family Law (on SBS), a partly-scripted Comedy on Nine in the form of True Story with Hamish & Andy and a second series of Habibs. That’s all positive.”

ABC has a full series of Ronny Chieng: International Student in June, plus sketch series Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell and Sammy J’s Democratic Party on May 31. Filming has wrapped on more Utopia, those Katering Girls are currently filming their next project Get Krack!n and has announced a new season of Rosehaven.

ABC has also been developing new work through its Comedy intitatives, notably Fresh Blood where Wham Bam Thankyou Ma’am & Fancy Boy first emerged, and the Comedy Showroom pilots which spawned Ronny Chieng’s sitcom. The Letdown is also due to be announced as a series while Kalowski says another Comedy Showroom initiative is on the cards.

TEN also has a return of All-Aussie Adventures coming this year with Glenn Robbins donning his Akubra hat once more. Whilst not scripted, the success of Have You Been Paying Attention? shows there is an appetite.

“It is time for other networks to stand up”

Paul Leadon, Head of Comedy, TEN agrees there is an uptick in Comedy across the board.

“Television is a cyclical business and, after a gap of several decades, the time is right for narrative comedy to make a return. The ABC has been doing their bit; now it is time for other networks to stand up,” he says.

“Currently, Network TEN has several comedies in various stages of production and development. Russell Coight’s All Aussie Adventures is coming and we have commissioned or are developing more comedies. We are always on the hunt for strong, local comedy ideas. I think all of TEN’s best shows take an existing form and bend it slightly in an unexpected direction. That’s what I’m looking for in our new comedies.”

Foxtel, which has recently produced Pacific Heat, Whose Line is it Anyway Australia? and Open Slather has a new Princess Pictures series The Slot, featuring YouTube comics. Seven is understood to have developed a series around Denise Scott but is not proceeding. Its comedy focus of late remains in panel shows, with some 7mate projects.

The Family Law leads the Comedy charge for SBS but there are other avenues to explore comedic ideas too.

“SBS invests in a range of genres of content as it enables us to celebrate and explore cultures and tell stories in different ways,” an SBS Spokesperson said. “Now in its second season, The Family Law has really resonated with Australian families and audiences. The Laws are funny, completely loveable and entirely identifiable with any family – which is exactly its purpose.

“We’ve also found great success in exploring satire through our youth news and current affairs show, The Feed, on SBS VICELAND. Satire is an important way for us to explore stories differently, particularly in being responsive to topical news and events.”

“I think the audience will lap it up”

Kalowski says the hunger for good Comedy is bigger even than we imagined for quality local-scripted Comedies.

“There was a great response to (Nine’s) Habibs. People were hungry for that show and I’m sure they will eat up the True Story show. Obviously a big part of that is Hamish & Andy but they have a lot of wonderful writers from the scripted world and directors, like Wayne Hope. I think the audience will lap it up.

“We develop a lot. But not everything you develop will work, but more than you think, will work. You will have lots more shows to choose from and lots more to make. The more you make the more popular they will become, because you will have it in their minds that the ABC is not the only place where you can get good scripted comedy.”

Seven and Nine declined to comment, Foxtel did not respond.

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