The Hollowmen: articles


Been here before ... some experienced hands are behind new political comedy The Hollowmen.

A look at a twisted world

The problem with making a comedy about politics, Rob Sitch admits, is that by and large it's just not that funny. There might be splashes of life every so often, but generally the business of running a country is a bit too serious to be much of a laugh.

"Politics has been protected by the fact that it's essentially rather boring," Sitch says. "It is its own defence mechanism, its own Mortein.On one of our first visits to Canberra when we were thinking about [a political comedy] years ago we met up with a friend and one of the first things he said was: 'You're not thinking of doing a program about politics, are you?' and we asked why and he said 'Well, would anyone watch it?'"

It's a fair question given Sitch's own admissions about the problems inherent in making pollies funny, but given it's he and his colleagues at Working Dog who have taken up the challenge, it's likely the answer will be yes, people will watch. And they'll probably be laughing.

This is the team which took the seedy business of television current affairs and turned it into the legendary Frontline, transformed Australian suburban life into The Castle and came up with Thank God You're Here, The Panel, Funky Squad and more. And as of this week, they're adding The Hollowmen, a look inside the twisted world of Australian politics to the list.

"We stop-started on the idea for a while and finally cracked how we were going to do it last year," Sitch says. "It's on the observation that the system of government as outlined in the constitution in no way reflects the system of government as it's currently practised.

"We were struck by how ... basically the concentration of power in the PM's office has just gone on unchecked so that really the country is run by a CEO prime minister with cabinet as the board. And then you have the rise of the political adviser class. I love the adviser types, they remind me of criminal barristers where they say 'hang on, am I acting on behalf of the murderer or the Crown?'

"They don't mind, they can advocate either. It's [like] high school debating, 'am I on the side that's for abortion or against it?' "

This morally ambiguous world is what Sitch and his ensemble cast (including Underbelly's Neil Melville) will portray.

"The whole idea is we're all there to stop worrying about tomorrow's headlines and start worrying about next week's, but really my character [the PM's principal private secretary] is constantly worrying about the following morning. He's constantly putting out fires, that's all he does."

Keeping it real

To give The Hollowmen as much accuracy as possible, Rob Sitch and his Working Dog team decided to build a replica of the Prime Minister's office.

"In the post 9/11 world you can't ring up Parliament House and say 'can we have the blueprints for the prime minister's office suite,'" Sitch says.

"But then I thought, 'I wonder if in the battle against al-Qaeda we've forgotten to get rid of the blueprints from the State Library?' Sure enough, there was a book with the blueprints still in it, so I just photocopied it."

The Hollowmen, Wednesday, 9.30pm, ABC1.

Scott Ellis July 7, 2008 The Sun-Herald