Monday, September 12, 2011

At Home with Julia is more sitcom than satire

I didn't manage to catch the new ABC show At Home with Julia on the teev, unfortunately. But I did see the first part of it on YouTube. Some people absolutely loathed it. But I found it quite amusing and laughed out loud in a couple of parts.

It's been widely described as a satire, but from what I saw it's more of a sitcom. It's got a lot of Aussie dag humour a la Kath and Kim. It seems to be part of a tradition that includes The Castle, and can probably be traced all the way back to Dad and Dave. The humour seems to come mostly from having the amiably loopy lovebirds Julia and Tim being way out of place amid all the pomp, ceremony and of course politics of Canberra.

Many in the media are outraged that the show has delved into Gillard's private life, hurling tired old accusations of sexism, etc. They've said it disrespects the office of prime minister. But if anyone's guilty of that it's Gillard herself. Not only has she lied repeatedly to the people and totally trashed the Labor brand, she also knifed the previous elected leader in his first term when he was still way more popular than she is. If that's not "disrespecting the office" I don't know what is.

She also opened up her private life with Tim Mathieson to ridicule with that infamous 60 Minutes profile. That was one of the most bizarre and horrific pieces of TV I've ever seen. Seeing her cooing and giggling up a storm next to Mathieson, and trying to imply he was a "real bloke" after all by standing "respectfully" outside his shed, was too excruciating for words. Hell, she probably only did it because her creepy spin doctors told her to. If anything fit the definition of "life imitating satire" than that certainly did.

In any case, I got the impression from the clip of At Home with Julia I watched that the show's creators are drawing on Gillard's private life in an attempt to humanize her. It's this almost affectionate tone that makes it much less satirical, in my opinion.

From what I saw of the episode there were few specific references to actual political events such as Gillard's massive carbon tax lie to the people. It's as if the creators were assiduously avoiding them because they knew they would remind the viewers of what an unprincipled, backstabbing opportunist she really is.

And I'd say this humanization actually works. I can't stand the woman, yet I actually quite liked the Julia in the show. Amanda Bishop has captured her voice and mannerisms accurately and introduced some soul and humanity that seems not to be there in the original. That's quite an achievement as far as I'm concerned.

My suspicion that "helping" Gillard was actually part of the motivation behind At Home with Julia (apart from getting laughs, of course) was confirmed by an interview with the show's writer and executive producer Rick Kalowski (included below).

You'll see he's clearly miffed by the accusations of sexism and pretty much admits that they were trying to humanize her. He also reveals his political sympathies with a little line about Tony Abott, saying quite disdainfully that he wouldn't make a show about the Opposition Leader because he's not psychologically interesting enough.

He's clearly of the left. Like so many luvvies he thinks conservatives aren't actually people. If you were at an Artsville soiree, say, and seriously suggested an affectionate comedy about Abbott's love life (or that of Julie Bishop) to the assembled guests you would get lots of eye rolling and fake retching. And for the rest of the night they'd all avoid you and give you funny looks. 

Of course, the ABC will make fun of Abbott. He's sure to figure in At Home with Julia. But I'll bet the mockery will be more vicious -- and therefore more truly satirical -- than anything Gillard herself has received. 

1 comment:

  1. Satirising Jooolya was always going to be a challenge. Her reverse-Midas touch is so powerful she's afraid to wipe her own bum.
    And the ABC is the last outfit you'd turn to for a good nose-thumbing in these circumstances.
    Just a thought... Warnie and Ben Elton did a quick fade when the viewers went elsewhere: how will Aunty react if this doesn't rate?