Kath & Kim: articles

Who stole your bottle of pizazz?

The editor of this estimable journal might disapprove, but as one of his predecessors, I am going to call in a favour and alter the name of this column temporarily from "Rewind" to "Fast Forward". That's because I want to talk about two shows that are coming up in the next couple of weeks rather than what has gone to air.

One is the return of a landmark in TV history. The other is the new series of Kath & Kim, and what a disappointment it is.

When creators, writers and stars Jane Turner and Gina Riley launched their two foxy ladies from the 'burbs last year, their adventures took Thursday nights by storm. Kath & Kim was the ABC's most successful comedy since Mother and Son and its biggest home-grown hit since SeaChange. Kath Day, the fortysomething fiancee of the local purveyor of gourmet sausages, Kel Knight (Glenn Robbins), and her unlucky-in-love hornbag daughter, Kim, were a scream. Could life in Bogan-ville really be so tragically funny?

Most of us have a Kath or a Kim in the neighbourhood. Some of us have both, so Kath & Kim offered the dual pleasures of outrageously funny comedy and a glimpse, albeit tongue in cheek, into modern life, a la Sylvania Waters. Kath's relentless planning of her fairytale wedding, which ended in calamity, and Kim's endless struggle to woo back the affection of estranged husband Brett (Peter Rowsthorn), who preferred the company of his rottweiler—and who could blame him?—was the stuff of last year's series.

The second series of Kath & Kim has been among the most eagerly awaited events of TV in 2003. Will Kath and Kel live happily ever after or will the two fusspots drive one another mad? Will Kimmy ever enjoy the pleasures of the flesh again? Will Kim's second-best friend, Sharon (Magda Szubanski), ever stop eating?

The answers await you when the new series begins in two weeks, but having seen the first two new episodes, I reckon many will find it a big disappointment.

On the laugh meter curled up on the sofa in our lounge room last weekend—my wife—the first of the new episodes barely registered a tremor, and the second excited only a slightly more positive response. From one of the biggest fans of the first series, that was a bad sign. I did little better. I really struggled to raise a laugh.

I won't give too much away, but in the new series not all is well in the newlyweds' household.

Kel isn't getting any because Kath has lost her sex drive, and Kath is being driven insane by Kel's fastidiousness and his desire to be the perfect husband. Kim and Brett are back together, trying to make a baby, and Sharon looks like she might finally have found a bloke. Nothing wrong with the storylines, but it too often falls flat.

Maybe it's our fault. Maybe it's the year's gap we have had to endure between the first and second series. But watching the new episodes made me think of Hey, Dad. And for much of the time, I cringed rather than fell about laughing. Kath & Kim has lost its pizazz.

In 40 years, Kath & Kim might still be going around on one of the nostalgia channels on pay TV, much like Gilligan's Island or Hogan's Heroes do. But I doubt it will be remembered as a classic.

That cannot be said for a series that began on the BBC in 1963 and which is about to be repeated, in its entirety, at 6pm on weeknights on the ABC.

Dr Who remains the quintessential TV sci-fi series and, even in glorious black-and-white, it's not hard to see why.

I do not recall being a fan when I was a boy. I preferred playing cowboys and itchy bums—The Cisco Kid and The Texas Rangers. But 40 years on, I am belatedly hooked. Yes, the special effects might look primitive but the stories are wonderful, far superior to and much more subtle and imaginative than those awful sci-fi flicks that Hollywood was churning out at the time.

There have been eight Dr Whos, starting with William Hartnell, to whom we are introduced in the first four-part story, premiering on September 15.

It's essential viewing for newcomers because it sets the scene for what was to evolve over 35 years of Dr Who series and telemovies. The feared Daleks do not make an appearance until the second story, beginning on September 22. But there is plenty to keep us going in the first week as Dr Who, his granddaughter and two of her school teachers are transported in the Tardis back in time 100,000 years to face danger from a tribe of ancient hunters.

Several generations, I fear, have passed by Dr Who without sampling its attractions. I was one who missed out. But now there's a chance to become part of the worldwide cult that still worships this television phenomenon.

Grab the opportunity if you can.

By Ross Warneke
September 04, 2003
The Age