Kath & Kim: articles

Kath and Kim

Noice… The ups and downs of life in Fountain Lakes has an international following.

Hornbags in heaven

JANE Turner and Gina Riley burst into laughter when asked about their plans for the future.

Busy launching the third series of Kath And Kim, premiering on the ABC on Thursday, the pair have fended off questions about a movie, a stage show and even a fourth series.

“All we really want to do is have a good lie down,” Riley says. “We started writing in February, started shooting in early July and now we’re in post-production. It has just been flat-chat.”

Not that the pair are complaining. It’s just that they have been caught off-guard by the way the show has taken off in Australia and around the world.

“We’ve just been sold to the BBC in Britain,” Riley says. “It’s hard to comprehend. With the first series, the only one interested in us in the UK was a small digital channel, then we went to a big cable station, Living UK, and now this.

“It has really taken off in the US, too. Evidently, we have a big gay following in New York.”

Turner adds: “And I guarantee we are big in Hungary. Our make-up artist is Hungarian and we’re dying to get a tape with the dubbing. We keep asking him what’s the word for ‘gropeable’ in Hungarian.”

Riley and Turner agree the reason for the show’s success overseas is that it is so specifically Australian.

“In Britain and the US they love the colour. They don’t want it blanded out,” Riley says. “They want to see our real suburban culture. During the interviews we did in the UK, you could tell they absolutely get it. Of course, in the US they need a glossary to follow the slang, but they seem happy enough.”

Even without the overseas success, Kath And Kim has been a phenomenon. The series-two finale attracted more than 2.15 million viewers, the second-highest ABC figure of all time, after the 2.7 million who watched the final episode of SeaChange.

One bonus of the huge popularity has been the string of celebrities wanting cameos on the show. In the second episode, for example, there are appearances by Australian Idol judge Mark Holden and Six Feet Under’s Rachel Griffiths.

“Stay tuned. There are plenty of big names moving into Fountain Lakes,” Riley says.

Holden plays a judge in the shopping mall talent contest, Bubs’ Idol, in which proud new mum Kim enters baby Epponnee-Rae.

“Australian Idol is an obsession in Kath and Kim’s household,” Turner says. “Kim hears Epponnee squawk and is sure she can hear Delta Goodrem.

“Kim is going to pin all her hopes and broken dreams on Epponnee and she figures her daughter will owe her when she is older.”

Griffiths is a friend of Magda Szubanski, who plays Kim’s second-best friend Sharon.

“Magda told us Rachel was desperate to do the show and we found the perfect role for her.

“She has a really funny cameo in the second episode, when Kath and Kim go to the races, but we don’t want to spoil the joke by giving it away.”

According to Riley, Kim is coping well with motherhood and her husband Brett (Peter Rowsthorn) is a great help.

“He’s good with the baby at night. Brett has always had to get up every three or four hours to feed Kim, so he’s used to it.”

But Brett does feel the stress. The first episode of the new eight-part series is called Cactus Hour. “That’s what Brett calls the time between 5pm and 8pm when the whining starts,” Riley says, “although every hour tends to be cactus hour for Kim.”

Brett decides to do all the overtime he can to avoid “cactus hour”, but he really warms to Epponnee when he is forced to take her to work. Her presence turns him into a chick magnet for clucky young women and his performance as a TV salesman dramatically improves.

A more pressing problem is Kath’s marriage woes. In the cliff-hanging second-series finale, Kath’s first husband, the sleazy Gary Poole (Mick Molloy), arrives out of the blue and claims he never signed the divorce papers.

Kel (Glenn Robbins) doesn’t cope well with the news and when he and Kath visit their marriage celebrant (Marg Downey), a secret is revealed.

“It’s a case of ‘deja view’,” Turner says, dropping into her Kath character. “Poor old Kel, he’s been unlucky with four fiancees, and now this. Luckily he’s comfortable in his own manhood and I’m comfortable in his manhood, too.”

Turner and Riley agree that the key to the show’s success is in making the characters ring true.

“We try to make it as real as possible,” Turner says.

“It’s all in the details: the locations, the names of shops and the language.”

Riley adds: “You can find every line funny or not find it funny at all if you don’t tap into that suburban territory we plough.”

They admit the timing of topical events in the show, such as Australian Idol and the spring racing carnival, was more good luck than good management.

“We can’t take too much credit for that,” Turner says.

“We actually did a fashion shoot as Kath and Kim at the races and we thought it was a great idea.

“We love how people get dressed up to the nines to go to the races, and then end up getting blind and making a mess of themselves. It’s somehow a very Australian thing to do.”

October 03, 2004
The Sunday Telegraph