Sketch shows should be the training grounds for up-and-coming writers and performers. Remember Full Frontal? That sucked most of the time, but it was sure worth it to see what Shaun Micallef and Francis Greenslade came up with each week. Other successful Full Frontal alumni include Hollywood star Eric Bana, popular stand-up Kitty Flanagan, "friend of the Tumblies" Julia Morris, Very Small Business star Kym Gyngell, and Very Small Business director Daina Reid. So, despite the many, many shithouse restaurant sketches the show contained, it was ultimately worth it. But what of 2009's sketch shows? Did they contain anything worthwhile? Were the stars of the future amongst their casts? We say: "No".
Our winner Double Take was shunned by audiences and rightly axed at the end of its run, and while the cast, writers and crew (largely comprised of comedy hacks and shithouse newbies) deserve their fair share of the blame, those ultimately responsible for this jaw-droppingly awful programme are whoever it was at Seven that thought that reviving the manufactured sketch show would be a good idea. Manufactured sketch shows only work if they contain actual funny people who are left alone to enough of an extent to come up with something funny (to use the example again, Shaun Micallef and Francis Greenslade in Full Frontal). But if you chuck a grab bag of relative newcomers and tired hacks into a room and say "come up with a sketch show", and then place heaps of restrictions on what they can come up with, like "most of the sketches should contain impressions of celebrities or be send-ups of TV shows, films, music videos or ads", then you get what you deserve - an unfunny, chemistry-free, boring waste of everyone's time.
Hungry Beast, while not a sketch show, certainly deserves a mention in this category because, in between Follow The Money and some worthwhile reports on topics ranging from military robots to homelessness, there were plenty of attempts at sketch comedy. These ranged for the student revue-level heavy-handed satire of Dan Ilic, to the sub-Chris Morris send-up of current affairs Veronica Dynamite, to whatever the hell that report about zombies was in episode 10. Some of the Hungry Beast team's attempts at humour caused audience members to emit noises approaching actual laughter from their mouths, but irritated tuts or loud sighs were more typical. Even the tired, fools gold-esque comedy of The Chaser's War on Everything was funnier and had more to say than this bunch of faux-edgy newcomers.
The main problem with The Urban Monkey with Murray Foote was that creator Sam Simmons seemed to think he needn't do anything more than combine his trademark random "humour" with a parody of 1980's educational programmes. There were a few semi-amusing moments, like the ongoing cheap insults directed at Foote's cohort Keith, but even with each episode lasting less than 10 minutes, it was a struggle to sit through. For a better example of a 1980's science show send-up, order a copy of the UK series Look Around You staring Peter Serafinowicz. Or just recreate The Curiosity Show in your living room. Bags I Dean Hutton!