Pizza: articles

Take away Pizza or I’ll do it myself

Recently, I incurred the wrath of a network publicist. I didn’t exactly bag one of her network’s new locally produced shows. But I pointed out that it wasn’t rating very well. That was enough for her to ring with the usual line about the series providing a lot of work for Australian actors and others in the industry and, therefore, I should not undermine it by telling everyone it wasn’t working.

If there was even a hint that a show was a flop, even more viewers would dump it, the publicist said. That might be so, I replied, but if a show is rating poorly, I have an obligation to say so. That’s not the same as saying the show isn’t any good. Since when have ratings been a measure of quality? But she persisted. I should be promoting local talent, not undermining it.

Well, sorry, I say what I think, and let the ratings be damned. For example, I admire The Secret Life of Us on Ten, even though it is not pitched at my age group and is hardly setting the ratings alight. But I absolutely detest the unashamed commercialism of Getaway on Nine, which rates extraordinarily well.

Sometimes, however, the ratings agree with me. I don’t like the ABC’s disastrously unsuccessful new weeknight Dimensions series of information and lifestyle programs. They are lightweight and superficial. The Monday night Media Dimensions is particularly trivial.

And I don’t like the second series of Pizza (Mondays at 8.30pm on SBS).

SBS might say that, by its standards, anyway, this Australian-made comedy is a success, one of the network’s biggest-ever hits. But it is so embarrassingly unsophisticated in its delivery, so grossly crude in its storylines and scripts, that I cannot imagine anyone other than dead-beat, Commodore-driving outer-suburban hoons feeling any affinity with it.

That might sound cruel, even elitist. But this series really is the pits.

Essentially, it is the story of two young “ethnics”—Pauly and an archetypal bozo called Sleek the Elite—who, in their hotted-up chick magnets, do home deliveries for the world’s least hygienic pizza shop in a part of Sydney where conversations are overlaid with the sound of gunfire in the streets.

Sleek recounts—and we see it depicted in significant detail—how his slimy uncle caused the war in Lebanon by “rooting” chicks from all religions, including Muslims, Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses and even Sri Lankan Buddhists.

Bobo (the guy that runs the pizza shop) gets his rocks off by watching a fitness show on TV in which host Claudia McPherson (played by celebrity Sydney partygoer and part-time “actress” Annalise Braakensiek) repeatedly leans towards the camera so that we can have a perv down her cleavage.

And the whole show is littered with dialogue that is so rank, so gratuitously obscene, that it grates after just a few minutes.

I don’t care if the kids out there in the real world talk to each other like this. I don’t want to sit at home, mid-evening, listening to expletives like “f…… c…”, delivered with the rapidity of shots from a semi-automatic. And the attempts to bleep them out are so ineffective that you have to wonder whether they are serious.

Okay, I need to lighten up a bit. It’s a comedy. Yes, I did get a few laughs out of Monday’s series premiere, all of them during the scenes in which Eliot Goblet, a genuinely funny man even without opening his mouth, played Pauly’s driving instructor. But otherwise, I was disgusted. And it takes a helluva lot to offend me.

A much smarter Australian comedy follows Pizza on SBS on Mondays. At 9pm, the team from Life Support goes to work. This is a 10-week parody of those lifestyle and infotainment shows that teach us how to get the most from life.

First impressions count, and this week’s premiere episode looked a winner.

Best of all is Todd, the laconic Do-It-Yourself expert (played by Brendan Cowell). For example, for those wanting to install an in-ground pool but hoping to save on the excavation costs, he has a simple solution. Bury some bones in the back yard, call the police to report the discovery of a mysterious skeleton and rely on them to dig up the place in a search for evidence of a crime.

There are more hits than misses in the various segments, ranging from men’s health (DIY sex) with Dr Rudi, to travel with Penne (How to pass yourself off as an illegal refugee in order to visit, free, the world’s most exotic tourist destinations). It’s pacy, funny and imaginative. But it’s on SBS, so it won’t rate. The sad thing is that quality often doesn’t.

By Ross Warneke
August 30, 2001
The Age