27 August 2008

Yes, I have a new favourite TV show


"As you know, weakness is a plague that is destroying this great country, Australia."

So says Steve Foxx, the star/host of cult TV show Double The Fist, which has returned to our screens after a four year hiatus. And you know, I think that he's right.

Australian TV is in a sad place. And, you know, I think that the powers that be really haven't got a clue about why that is.

This is best typified by the sadness that is your average Aussie dad who sits at home in the dark watching whatever woeful British detective show happens to be on the ABC at any point in time, just because the ABC doesn't have ads:

Dikkii: Hey Dad, why don't we flick over to Seven - there's this great new high budget show on that the critics seem to like.

Dikkii's dad: No way. It's American. I want to watch Doc Martin.

Dikkii: That's not exactly a criticism, Dad. I could criticise Doc Martin for being British.

Dikkii's dad: What's wrong with that?

Dikkii: Firstly, nothing. Which is my point. Secondly, I'm not accurately describing the cliched picture postcard seaside English village with the grumpy doctor and countless other stereotypes recycled from The Vicar of Dibley, Bergerac and every other British series. Thirdly, will you hang around to hear me tear into the banal scripting, the bland storylines, the offensive romantic threads, the cloyingly friendly villagers, the... hey dad, where you going?

Dikkii's dad: I'm going upstairs to watch it. You can have your exciting, high-budget American...

Narrator: Given that sister number two married an American, there really is no need for the way he spits out the word "American". Plus, it's unnecessary - he uses it in a derogatory way for American TV, but if you took it out of context, you might think that he had a low opinion of everything and everyone American. Or something.

Dikkii's dad: ...show that you seem so keen on viewing.

Meanwhile, what apparently passes for quality Australian TV is relegated to stultifyingly boring clones of Doc Martin set in the Torres Strait or the Bellarine Peninsula. If I see another "quality" piece of Australian TV set in the country or in a seaside town, I'm going to dry-retch.

The sad state of Australian TV is best exemplified by comedy which was once an edgy and subversive genre typified by shows such as The Naked Vicar, Aunty Jack, Norman Gunston and Kingswood Country.

Now, the best comedy that Australia has to offer seems to come in the form of shows that rely on cleverness for their appeal, such as Frontline or Kath and Kim. And while cleverness can be appreciated, it simply does not perform in the belly laugh stakes compared to idiot humour, toilet humour, double-entendre, smut and slapstick.

Not only that, but as Steve Foxx might say, it's completely weak.

Let me tell you a story about my relationship with Double The Fist.

About three years ago, sister number one gave me a DVD of the first few episodes of the first season of this show. I watched the episodes. I didn't actually "get" them. I promptly forgot about them.

To me, it was another "clever" attack on bogan culture. And an ultra-low budget one at that - season one was reportedly shot for under AUD $250,000.

For the benefit of my international readers, "bogan" is a generic Australian term that roughly translates into North American English as "white trash" or into British English as "chav". Regional variations exist - in Sydney, a bogan is referred to as a "westie", in Hobart, a "chigga" and in Brisbane and Canberra, I believe that terms such as "booner" and "bevan" have been used in the past. But "bogan" has gained national currency over these in recent years.

Unlike their North American or British counterparts, there has never been any outright hostility in Australia towards bogans. Nor is there a racial component - you can be a bogan from an Anglo-Celtic background just as easily as a bogan from an Arabic background.

Indeed, the main characters in Double The Fist are all pretty much bogans.

But that was then.

Fast forward to 2008, and after the event, I hear on the grapevine that Double The Fist has re-commenced a new season on the ABC. Something was tweaking my curiosity about this show: Was there something that I missed the first time around? Did I subconsciously "get it" and not know about it?

So I went and downloaded the first episode.

In the first couple of minutes, it all snapped into place. I got it.

In short, this is a show of pure genius. And it may just save Australian comedy.

Double The Fist is a celebration of what it means to mix fantasy in with reality. It's both a parody, and a far more extreme version of, Jackass, the Three Stooges, B-movies, splatter movies, ozploitation flicks and ridiculous storylines.

It's prime goal, is to find activities that can be deemed to be fistworthy.

It has a plot - in the early episodes, it was this extreme sport show where our four main competitors - Foxx, his brother Rod, The Womp and Mephisto - as well as their ever present sidekick in a Panda suit, Panda go out of their way to try activities that make them worthy of "fist".

They dot this with little snippets where our crew go out to do ridiculous activities to either be awarded "full fist" or penalised with "no fist".

The difference with this as opposed to a show like Jackass, is that (a) humiliation is non-existent - these guys have no shame, and (b) the stuff they do is clearly stupidly life-threatening and probably couldn't be tried at home.

Indeed, in the first two episodes of the current season, there are two deaths but our intrepid posse bounce back as good as ever the next week. Now, they're fighting vampires, zombies, local councils, medieval recreation societies, etc.

In short: fighting weakness.

Shall we meet the characters?

Steve Foxx

An angry, angry man. Foxx is on a crusade to rid Australia of weakness. And host what he describes as the world's greatest TV show. At the end of season 1, he found himself in space.

He returned to earth the fistworthy way, of course:



Rod Foxx

Rod sees himself as a ladies man and all round athlete. Which translates as a bit of a sleaze who clearly wanks in front of mirrors. Since the end of season 1, he's grown what can really only be described as possibly the most spectacular mullet ever seen.

He also likes to watch certain sports:



Mephisto

Mephisto is a nob. And a dodgy one at that. Supposedly, he's a failed security guard who's wanted by tax authorities in multiple locations.

He's always thinking ahead:



The Womp

An ex-wrestler in a state of arrested development. The Womp has a high pain threshold, supposedly because he suffered a brain injury when he was younger.

Womp has been getting work as a stunt clown at demolition derbies:



Panda

Foxx's assistant. It speaks volumes that Panda is both female and the smartest one of the whole crew.

Panda is Panda (from season 1):



So there you go.

Just before I finish this off, get a load of the trailer for season 2 - talk about over the top:



I'll say it again: This show is sheer genius.

Download episodes 1 and 2 here and view them, or are you unworthy of fist?

13 comments:

Plonka said...

When it comes to TV, there's not many things we Aussies do well. But cheesy comedy done with very little budget seems to be something we excel at.

As to the British/American thing, I must admit that I do prefer British, especially when it comes to comedy.

Dikkii said...

It's interesting Plonka. This low budget thing is something that we do do well - there's this doco on ozploitation flicks in the cinemas at the moment - I wouldn't mind checking it out.

I probably prefer British as well when it comes to comedy. Having said that, British comedies have been absolute stinkers in recent years. The Mighty Boosh is a notable exception.

On the other hand, American cartoons such as The Family Guy and American Dad have been setting the pace, comedy-wise.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

I am trying to catch this show but Dr Who is first up on iview

Plonka said...

The Family Guy and American Dad

Oh yes indeed. And a certain Bender Unit and his friend from the past spring to mind...:)

As to the British v American thing, perhaps I was spoiled with shows like The Sweeny and The Professionals while I was growing up, but I always expect the British to do it better and in most cases, they don't let me down.

Akusai said...

Hey, we have some good stuff. Just look at anything Joss Whedon made, or the first couple of seasons of Battlestar Galactica.

Then again, I did buy "Spaced" on DVD the day it came out.

Dikkii said...

Sean: I too love Doctor Who. But I've been getting the episodes out on DVD at the end of each season to watch them all in one hit. Same with Torchwood.

Plonka: Yeah, Futurama is pretty good as well. I guess that I missed The Sweeney and The Professionals growing up.

Certainly, since The Bill switched to hour long episodes, it's been rubbish. Some would go further back and say that it's been rubbish since DI Burnside left.

But of late, good British shows on TV have been few and far between.

Akusai: Yes, Joss Wheedon's stuff was good, except for the last five or six episodes of Angel.

I'm guessing that you mean the first couple of seasons of the remake of Battlestar Galactica - the original series was rubbish.

But Spaced? I've been meaning to check this series out. Apparently it's a six-pack of Awesome. And you know, I don't think that I've seen Simon Pegg do anything unfunny yet.

Akusai said...

except for the last five or six episodes of Angel.

And the entire 6th season of Buffy, if you ask me, but to each his own.

And yeah - the remake. The original was well and truly crap.

As for Spaced: it's a keg of Awesome. Amazing from front to back.

Thinking about it some more, I realized that, like Plonka, I really can't stand too much of our comedy. The whole three-camera, laugh-track, contrived-plot sitcom thing needs to stop and stop now. I love Scrubs, but it's definitely not for everyone. I can't really think of any other live-action American comedies currently airing that I'd say are worth watching.

Doesn't change the fact that your dad is strangely bigoted against American TV. And I think I'm going to download Double the Fist now. After seeing "The Chaser's War On Everything," a couple of years ago, I'm always open to some new Oz TV.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

I have been hanging out for the next season of torchwood after having bought all episodes released in Australia so far.

Dikkii said...

Akusai: I'd forgotten about the Chaser boys. I should mention that they're excellent, unlike what I think of most other Aussie comedy.

Scrubs is not too bad - I quite like it. But the best comedy coming out of The States appears to be in cartoon format. That's still not too bad.

Sean: So have I, but I don't think that it will be Ten where it gets aired. I wouldn't be surprised if the ABC or even SBS picks it up.

Plonka said...

Akusai:

Indeed you do. I have to admit to a fondness for Law and Order and then there's West Wing, which is some of the very best television ever produced...

Dikkii:

Don't get me started on The Bill, that used to be an excellent show, but as you say... The Sweeny and The Professionals were 70's stuff, so I'm not surprised, but I guess that means you probably missed out on Blakes 7 too? Sci-fi at its very, very best is what that was.

Dikkii said...

Plonka, even thoough I might be too young, that didn't stop me getting all the Blake's 7 episodes on DVD and enjoying them. Maybe I should do the same with all the old Sweeney episodes

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Dikkii said...

hanks Julia. You're too kind.