Binge on the Best – ABC iView’s got your summer sorted

Ah, the summer holidays. Surf, sand, sun… and screens.

Yeah, I don’t like going out doors. It’s a million degrees in the shade and I look terrible in shorts. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably already made yourself comfortable under the aircon and are refusing to move. So while others risk terrible sunburn, let’s take a gander at some of your fine viewing options thanks to ABC iView’s “Binge on the Best”.

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Black Comedy and Soul Mates are character based sketch comedies with a slight twist; the former is – in their own words “by Blackfellas for everyone” – the latter is a story of mateship across four different lifetimes. While both are very well written, very well performed, and make some very interesting comments, they fell a little short of making me actively laugh out loud. Black Comedy does have some exceptional cameos; I got a good giggle out of Deborah Mailman’s performances especially. You might also give a look-in to 8MMM; set at an Aboriginal Radio station in the middle of nowhere there’s an underlying tension (although, very light) between the two races that leads to some quite funny moments.

Fans of Chris Lilley will be delighted to find both We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High available. Of the two, I much prefer Summer Heights High; Lilley is undoubtedly a multi-faceted performer, but the smaller cast of characters allows him to give a greater level of depth to each. I do have to admit to a slight bias, though, because Ben is in my Uni course.

Upper Middle Bogan is a brilliant Australian “fish-out-of-water” comedy from Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope. Annie Maynard plays Bess Denyar, a well off doctor with an architect husband and two thirteen year old kids, who discovers she is adopted after her mother Margaret (Robyn Nevin) is admitted to hospital. Things take a turn for the cl-arse-y when she meets Wayne and Julie (Glenn Robbins and Robyn Malcolm), her real parents and heads of the Wheeler Clan, including Amber, Brianna and Kayne, her three siblings.

Bess is so wonderfully out of place, and filled with preconceptions and prejudices, but the depth of the characters makes it more than just a one joke show. Wayne and Julie are good parents, and care for their kids, even if they’d rather have a beer than a pinot, and are more interested in drag racing than ballet. I especially enjoy Bess’ interactions with Amber, played with aplomb by Michala Banas, who proves that beneath the stereotype, bogans are people too.

All twenty episodes of Butler & Hope’s other successful ABC series, The Librarians, are also available. Butler stars as neurotic Head Librarian Francis O’Brien, with Hope as her husband Terry. Francis is seconds away from a nervous breakdown, not helped by the return of her ex-best friend Christine (Roz Hammond) – whom she is forced to hire as Children’s Librarian – or her staff, which includes dyslexic Lachie (Josh Lawson), disabled Pam (Heidi Arena), erudite Matthew (Stephen Ballantyne), convicted former postman Neil (Bob Franklin), super effeminate Ky (Keith Brockett) and put upon Nada (Nicole Nabout).

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I read somewhere that Please Like Me was pitched as a drama with humorous moments, rather than a comedy, and as each episode passed it became more and more obvious that this was an apt description. Sure, it’s about quirky twenty-somethings living in a share house, but in the first episode alone Josh is dumped by Claire (Caitlin Stacey) because he’s gay, has an awkward sexual encounter with Geoffrey (Wade Briggs), and discovers his mum (Debra Lawrence) Rose has attempted suicide. His best friend Tom (Thomas Ward) has self-esteem issues coming out his ears and his relationship with the overbearing and emotionally manipulative Niamh (Nikita Leigh-Pritchard) is one of the most unhealthy you’ll see without actual physical violence. And this is just season one. The train heads even further into dysfunction junction as time passes, and yet…it’s funny. Really, really funny! Maybe it’s the acknowledgement of how messed up people are.

via decidertv.com

Randy (left) and Sammy J in their home

Sammy J and Randy in Ricketts Lane is delightfully perverse. Sammy J is a young lawyer who has yet to win a single case, Randy is his layabout, unemployed, dole abusing housemate, forced to move in with him after losing everything in the divorce to his ex-wife Victoria Vincent (Sam Healy). Guess who his lawyer was. Everything is shot in this lovely soft focus that gives a slightly nostalgic quality to suburbia, and contrasts nicely with the bleak hopelessness of the characters; in a desperate bid for ANYTHING to put on the census form Sammy asks clearly love-stricken secretary Wednesday (Georgia Chara) to arrange a mail order bride for him. Rounding out the cast is Nathan Lovejoy as Borkman, Sammy’s incredibly abusive boss, Dilruk Jayasinha as Michael, and an insane amount of cameos from local comedians. There are some hilarious recurring jokes, a brilliant and insanely subtle brick joke (I’ll give you some hints; episode three, and all of the titles), and songs that would not seem out of place in a children’s program until you listen to the actual words.

The Katering Show is something of an underrated gem that quite a few people missed when it came out with very little fanfare on YouTube earlier this year. Join Kate McLennan as she prepares delicious* food that won’t make Kate McCartney shit her pants, and along the way, learn more about ethical eating, the effects of quitting sugar, how kitchen gadgets like the thermomix stack up against doing it yourself, and how to get your cupcakes a thousand plus likes on Instagram. It’s like Nigella…ish….if she wasn’t as posh and drank a lot more. The first season is only six episodes of under ten minutes each, with a second coming sometime next year.

*not a guarantee.

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Nick Jones

Unusually and exceedingly peculiar and altogether quite impossible to describe. Writer/Observer.

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