Year's Eve, New Year's Day, and the day after stretched out cool, grey
and rainy. There was nothing worth watching on TV. The ABC and Channel
9 filled the airwaves with endless images of night-time cities and fireworks
and squares packed with loons who thought it was the end of the millennium.
ABC's coverage looked like it had been lashed together on the run with
about 24 hours notice. Everybody had gone to Bali or Noosa apparently,
and only George Negus could be lured in -- no doubt with the promise
of a huge bonus -- to anchor an ad-hoc coverage of the greatest hype
since Windows 95.
soldiered on, in a bemused sort of way, helped out occasionally by Roy
and HG, and Maxine McHugh. This sort of thing is not George's forte.
The producer kept plugging in live feeds from places even George couldn't
identify after a lifetime on the road.
fact the whole ABC team looked like their hearts weren't in it, and
who could blame them: it wasn't 2000 years since the actual birth of
Christ, it wasn't 2000 years since the traditionally accepted date,
and it was just a round number of no significance to several billion
Arabs, Indians and Chinamen.
took the only sensible course of action and sat up in bed with Christmas
leftovers, six-packs of cider and a stack of Jo's videotapes of comedy
you ever noticed how much modern comedy is about boys flatting?"
Joadja asked, as we rewound one of the early episodes of Men Behaving
about it: Red Dwarf, Lano and Woodley, The Young Ones,
Men Behaving Badly, Father Ted, all of them are really
about boys flatting."
was right. "And there's Ab Fab". I replied. "It's
really about boys flatting, except the boys are girls. And if you go
back a bit further there's Abbott and Costello, Hogan's Heroes,
Porridge, Steptoe and Son, Sergeant Bilko, Gomer
Pyle MC, McHale's Navy."
even further back there's Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers.
The point is, in comedy, the dysfunctional is the normal. Even if a
comedy is about a family, the abnormal or dysfunctional family is the
norm: Till Death do us Part, The Simpsons".
brushed some sticky flakes of baklava from the blanket and pulled it
up over her nipples before going on. "There's a mostly American
school of wholesome comedy about 'nice' families: Bill Cosby,
Leave it to Beaver and The Brady Bunch, but, if you think
about it, comedies about 'normal' nuclear or extended families are pretty
rare and for every one of them there's a take-off like Kingswood
Country, The Simpsons, The Addams Family, or The
expresses both a subversive reality and a yearning. The subversive bit
is that the idealised nuclear family is rather less common and less
admired by most people than Howard, Beazley and Co. would have us believe.
On one level, when we laugh at the irresponsible antics of dysfunctional
families and boys flatting we're laughing at our real selves."
I thought, three decades as a private eye tells me that's correct.
then also, many people yearn for the single life, or at any rate the
unencumbered life. The terrific appeal of waking up on Saturday morning
with no duties to anybody and lots of wonderful things you could do
or maybe you could just do nothing at all, and nobody would care. And
communities of the disparate and the ill-matched have a powerful appeal
to our sense of adventure and our innate love of mayhem."
could extend that a bit", I said. "Look at Sea Change.
You could say that just about everybody there was flatting, in the sense
that the only 'normal' nuclear family is Bob Jelly's mob ... the standing
joke is that Bob's the pillar of respectability and the local developer
and he's a fairly seedy character. But why is it almost always about
shrugged. "I guess the received wisdom is that girls are well-socialised,
responsible, organised, sensible, in a word, boring. It's a bit true,
but mostly bunk. That's one reason why Ab Fab was so spectacularly
successful. Women acting like boys flatting made it twice as outrageous."
that you've cracked the formula, why don't you write a series yourself?",
I do have a quote unquote concept There's this share house in Newtown
with Gerard Henderson, Piers Ackerman, Mike Carlton, Paddy McGuinness
Alan Jones "
guessed it, and Stan Zemanek "
As the token wog, and Bettina Arendt as the token woman "
Bob Ellis as the sex interest."
I said. "No wonder more and more women are turning to possums".
in Whispers from the mean streets
-- Best of 2000