Pizza: articles

It’s no laughing matter

It’s not very funny, is it? Television seems to have lost its sense of humor and most of what it is calling comedy right now is about as amusing as a sick joke at a funeral.

Think of the wittiest sitcoms and you glow with thoughts of Seinfeld, Frasier, One Step In The Grave or even Yes Minister.

There is, of course, Friends, perhaps Larry Sanders and Everyone Loves Raymond. But these shows, with their latte laughter, couches, shrinks and family or showbiz angst, are years old and starting to get that Benny Hill look.

Simon Nye, a writer who tapped laddish extremes in the post-Thatcher years for Men Behaving Badly, is back tonight with his new sitcom The Savages (ABC, 8pm), a show that takes us into the dangerously cute world of a middle-class London married couple with two young kids.

Make no mistake, this is far better than the appalling So What Now?, the sitcom from Lee Evans that it replaces. That sorry attempt to create a Norman Wisdom-Michael Crawford variation of the flatmates theme has mercifully disappeared.

The Savages straddles the traditional and the more adventurous of sitcoms. There is a touch of Gary, the Martin Clunes character, in successful cartoonist Adam Savage (Marcus Brigstocke), though this one is generally a man behaving mildly. Jessica (Victoria Hamilton), his wife, also works outside the home and their time together seems to be spent in worrying about au pairs, the children, friends and sleep.

Giving the show a touch of sitcom stability is Geoffrey Palmer as a somewhat bemused grandfather. Nye wisely keeps those two toddlers under wraps for most of the show. Like Everybody Loves Raymond, the best of the writing is focused on the tensions in the relationship of the young couple.

The most successful of the new American sitcoms is Malcolm In The Middle (Nine, 8pm), that wonderfully unpredictable, chaotic comedy. Malcolm’s family breaks all the rules and still manages to come up smiling.

There’s a nice twist in this week’s episode, with the arrival of neighbors that are even more anarchic. They terrorise jug-eared Dewey with a stalking garden gnome, set their biting four-year-old daughter Emily against Reese, spread rumors about Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) and quickly alienate Lois (Jane Kaczmarek). Only the two fathers get on, forced to continue their friendship in secret. It’s Malcolm at his wicked best.

But there’s little cheer at home. We’re still in Acropolis Now territory with the second series of the sitcom Pizza (SBS, 8.30pm).

The crust is a bit stale and the topping as cheesy as ever in this somewhat wild drive around multicultural suburbia. Pity the set-ups and jokes aren’t half as funny as in those early wogs-at-work comedies.

The overriding impression that Sleek the Elite (Paul Nakad), Bobo (Johnny Boxer) and Pauly (Paul Fenech) leave us with is one of bad temper, nastiness and stupidity. There’s very little good-natured humor and, though some of the lines draw a laugh, it’s often with a touch of guilt.

More adventurous is Life Support (SBS, 9pm), another infotainment-show spoof. This one offers us a team of four young lifestyle experts prepared to tell you “exactly how to live your life”.

There’s South African gynaecologist Dr Rudi (Simon van der Stap) who has interesting ideas on recycling old relatives; the conservative home and economics expert Sigourney (Rachael Coopes); handy-person Todd (Brendan Cowell), who produces a neat twist on neighborhood watch; and there’s practical outdoors girl Penne (Abbie Cornish).

Some of the comedy is witty, some falls miserably flat. We certainly need a lot more fun.

By Brian Courtis
August 27, 2001
The Age