Kath & Kim: articles

Kath and Kim

Naughty but noice… Kath And Kim

Deck the malls

ON A nondescript September afternoon a steady flow of shoppers streams through Southland Shopping Centre in the heart of outer-Melbourne suburbia.

A housewife bustles past, staring so intently into the windows of a homewares store that she fails to notice a similarly dressed woman in her path.

Had she happened to do a double take, she would have recognised her as Kath Day-Knight, one half of Australia’s most famous mother and daughter duo.

While Kath might be miffed at her failure to stand out in the crowd, her alter ego, Jane Turner, wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s Kath’s quintessential ordinariness—along with her perpetually petulant daughter Kim (played by Gina Riley)—which makes Kath & Kim one of the most sharply observed pieces of Australian television ever made.

“We walk around there and no-one bats an eyelid,” Turner says of filming on location in the shopping mall. “Every second girl has the same pram as Kim and the fluffy boots and tight jeans—we fitted right in.

“The characters are heightened but they’re real. There are bits of them in everybody. Even though it’s really Australian it’s universal—whether you live in England or America you still shop at a mall and drive a car and go to IKEA.”

Co-creator and co-star Riley agrees that underneath the exaggerated outfits and nasal strine the characters are unmistakeably familiar.

“They are extreme in some ways but some of the emotional stuff they deal with is real. We obviously take it to a sometimes ridiculous level but at the actual core of it there is a truth people can relate to.”

In its three years on air, Kath & Kim’s merciless portrayal of suburban dwellers has occasionally prompted accusations of classism, something Riley is quick to refute.

“Where the humour is coming from is not us standing from some lofty height pointing the finger at other people,” she says.

“It wouldn’t work so massively if that’s what we were doing—it just wouldn’t resonate. It sounds ridiculous but it’s starting from a real place and that has to come from you, not from observing anyone else. Kim has no redeemable features really, she’s not a lovable character,” Riley says with a laugh.

“She’s a comedic character. But I think Kath and Kel are adorable and we get absolutely furious when people call them bogans. It drives us mad. It must be said by people who don’t actually watch the show.”

In a departure from the previous three series of the hugely popular comedy, this week Kath & Kim will grace our screens in a telemovie.

“After the end of the third series we were a bit shagged so we took a long break until the end of March,” Turner says, who went to Europe for three months with her children.

Upon returning home the pair regrouped and began workshopping a new script.

“And we thought the ideas we came up with would be good for a telemovie.”

The result is a nod to the tradition of many a television comedy—the Christmas special. “The first scenes we wrote were Kath and Kim queuing up at Target—that’s what Christmas means,” Riley laughs.

She may not be filled with the Christmas spirit in its purest sense, but Kim can’t resist a holiday that celebrates her favourite pastimes—overeating and overspending.

“Kim’s so loving the idea of having a child around at Christmas because it means more presents for Kim,” Riley says. “She’s encouraging Epponnee to go out and buy things and become a good little consumer.”

On the home front, however, things are less than rosy between Fountain Lakes’ foxiest mother and her longsuffering hubby Brett (Peter Rowsthorn).

“He gets a promotion and she’s a bit up herself over that but it all goes horribly wrong for her,” Riley reveals.

Adding to Kim’s woes, her second-bestfriend Sharon (Magda Szubanski) has the audacity to try to get a life.

“Sharon’s upping the ante. She’s not going to spend Christmas on her own this year.”

There’s also trouble in paradise for middle-aged newlyweds Kath and Kel (Glenn Robbins), just home from a tour of Europe based on Dan Brown’s best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code.

“It’s not all beer and skittles,” Turner admits. “Kath gets a wandering eye and Kel gets upset.”

Taking a sly dig at Da Vinci Code mania sweeping the globe this past year is just one of the pop-cultural references for which Kath & Kim is famed. “They’re all over Europe now, these Da Vinci Code tours—so we thought we’ve got to go there, it’s so funny,” Turner says.

“It’s just the sort of thing that Kath and Kel would go on. They’re Dan Brown fans and have saved up their pennies for their big OS trip.”

As the title suggests, Da Kath & Kim Code will explore a mystery of biblical proportions inside Fountain Lakes—but cracking the Da Vinci Code may well be easier than extracting details from a tightlipped Turner and Riley.

“Oh, you’ll have to see,” teases Turner, her voice effortlessly morphing into Kath’s.

“But it’s a thriller—gosh, very dark.

Very scary. We’ve gone into unexplored nooks and crannies.”

By Sarrah Le Marquand
Novmber 23, 2005
The Daily Telegraph