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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

ABC comedy « Previous | |Next »
July 11, 2008

Fandom and media convergence academic Henry Jenkins is pleased to have discovered a few of the ABC's comedy series and thinks Americans could acquire a taste for them.

I've fallen under the spell of programs from the Australian Broadcasting Company during my many previous trips to the country. And I've long believed that these quirky, unexpected, and highly original series would gain wider popularity in the American context if they were more widely available in this country. Australia has been producing compelling films since the Silent Era yet for most of that time, it has had difficulty getting its content seen in other parts of the world...Early on, it was cost prohibitive to ship heavy film canisters from the South to the North, or so it was claimed, while others saw the content as too nationally specific to be understood in a broader context. So far, some Americans have learned to love Neighbors, Prisoner in Cell Block H, Bananas in Pajamas, and Crocodile Hunter, but for the most part, we've never given a chance to sample the best of what this country producers. Yet, as digital distribution begins to remove some of the barriers to entry, I've long predicted that Australia would begin to compete for eyeballs across the English speaking world and beyond.

I guess if your TV diet consists of American comedy The Chaser, Summer Heights High, The Librarians, and Frontline would have to be acquired tastes. Surely they'd be more likely to gain cult followings in the US, because they'd be nothing but disappointing for American Steve Irwin fans.

Rather than wait around for tastes to be acquired, Jane Turner and Gina Riley are playing directly to the US market with a Kath and Kim makeover. If the comments at YouTube are any indication, Australian fans are not impressed with what they've seen in the trailer, all 53 seconds of it.

Commenters said:

wtf, this looks like pure shit

that is so lame its just been americanisd. it definatly not as good why cudnt they just air the real kath and kim in the states?????

True I havnt seen da show
but aussie kath&kim is way better!!
dis one makes kath&kim look rich and almost snobby!
its an aussie show for a very good reason!

Others wanted to know why Kim doesn't have a muffin top and why Kath says 'You can come in if you're sexy' instead of 'You can come in if you're good looking'.

It's odd to see the show promoted with the line 'Apparently, you can go home again', which was almost beside the point in the Australian version, but maybe Americans are less critical of the aspirational lifestyle than Australians.

Jenkins says of The Chaser

There are so many clips from the show on YouTube in part because the ABC and the Chasers have made a conscious decision to use the platform to generate visibility, hoping, in part, to break into the global media marketplace.

Assuming that the American Kath and Kim managed to establish a fan base keen enough to hunt down the original series, it would be interesting to know what they thought. Would they find it insulting or appropriate that an Australian series has to be remade just for them? After all, we managed to get our heads around M.A.S.H., I Love Lucy, Happy Days, The Beverly Hillbillies and The Simpsons without needing an interpreter.

| Posted by Lyn at 5:19 PM | | Comments (5)


I don't know the Librarians.

I would have thought that Frontline would have aappealed. As Jenkins says

Frontline was the most like an American series -- reminding me very much of Sports Night or 30 Rock. In this case, the series is set behind the scenes at an Australian news network, combining humor at the expense of self-centered Anchors with reflections on journalistic ethics. The scripts were smart, the characters well drawn, and the storylines each had something to contribute to our overall understanding of how the news is produced.

Od course, Fox News is far worse in terms of selling partisan bigotry and prejudice than the satire of Frontline.

I would have thought that a digitalized world would have made it easier to sell Australian culture. What suprises me is that our far sighted politicians and economists do not see his kind of cultural work as an exporting industry that develops the knowledge economy.

They still think in terms of cars and milk not cultural production.

I guess when Rudd said he didn't want to run a country that doesn't make things he was thinking of toasters or something. Stuff other countries already do better and cheaper than us, rather than stuff that only we can do.

In the greater scheme of things it's not all that surprising. Governments seem to observe some unspoken law that they must always be at least a decade behind the population. Abortion must be the best example with 80% support for choice. climate change and support for renewables and especially solar is another.

"our far sighted politicians and economists do not see his kind of cultural work as an exporting industry that develops the knowledge economy" Exactly. Which is why I don't hold out much hope for the laptop per child scheme.

I have to say that "Australian comedy" is a contradiction in terms. There is nothing on Australian TV, film, theatre, print, radio that is even remotely funny.


perhaps you can name some "non-australian comedy' that does it for you?

I found the production of Keating! hilarious