John Richards explores the very 1970s phenomenon of English sitcoms decamping to Australia. Contains double-entende and cat jokes.
As you’re probably aware, English comedian Ben Elton recently had a high-profile variety show crash and burn on Channel 9. While I do feel people may have taken a little too much glee in its downfall, it’s true Elton made it hard for people to sympathise with him. With his endless tirades about the young people – with their interwebs and the twitter and the hopping and the bopping – he mostly came across as a 24-hour audition for Grumpy Old Men.
And the show itself was fairly dire – horrendously unfunny pieces like Fat Chef competed with the seemingly endless Girl Flat sketches to see which could reach the antithesis of comedy first. It was almost like a mathematical exercise. But as a friend remarked, it would be awful if this show ended up clouding people’s appreciation of Elton‘s bona fide achievements, as a co-writer of The Young Ones and the notably better series of Blackadder.
Elton has always had a love of Australia (and Australians, or at least one of them) and word was that he had moved to Western Australia and was making this show as “a local”. But I’ll admit that when I first heard of Live From Planet Earth I wondered if this was a return to the days where we would seemingly let any famous person with an English accent have a TV show simply because they were from “over there”. I’m talking, of course, of the 1970s, when Australian television was awash with English shows in Antipodean clothing.
To be clear, I’m not talking about what we now know as “format rights”, in which a new show is based on the template for another (so The Kumars At Number 42 becomes Greeks On The Roof, for example). And I’m not talking a Very Special Episode in which the cast travel Down Under for a one-off adventure with as many koalas as the budget can manage (such as The Love Boat‘s 1981 feature-length special, “Julie’s Wedding”).
No, these are shows which directly continued the British original, in which the lead character has spontaneously moved to Sydney or Melbourne. It’s effectively the inverse of Neighbours characters moving to Queensland.
Let’s have a look at a few examples, shall we?