If there was ever an argument for pilot programs such as ABC and Screen Australia’s Fresh Blood, it’s that it gave us the hilarious satire Why Are You Like This.
The idea behind those programs is to give a chance and a voice to new storytellers brimming with pluck and ideas so that what is commissioned for Australian audiences isn’t just a slightly different version of the same show they’ve seen 17 times before.
Because you haven’t seen Why Are You Like This before – well, except, obviously, the actual pilot its creators Naomi Higgins, Humyara Mahbub and Mark Bonanno mounted as part of Fresh Blood 2018.
Comedy is perhaps the most subjective of genres and what one person finds funny isn’t the same as the next. But for too long, Australian TV comedy has been dominated by a particular type of humour – often blokey, frequently anodyne and unrelatable to younger generations.
Why Are You Like This is the antidote – a bold, unapologetic comedy that doesn’t punch down and doesn’t hold back.
Between brazen quips about tampons and decolonising your p***y, it’s a smart, irreverent exploration of youth culture.
The balance between skewering its clueless, self-centred but often well-meaning Millennial characters but also clearly having great affection for them is a really hard act but Why Are You Like This pulls it off. It’s a masterclass in nuanced writing.
The Melbourne-set series follows three twenty-somethings: the well-intentioned Penny (Higgins), her best friend Mia (Olivia Junkeer) and roommate Austin whose drag name is JonBenet Rams-me (Wil King).
All three are super woke to the nth degree, especially Penny who wants to champion social justice and be an ally to every type of minority in her daily life.
That kind of hyper-political correctness (to borrow a term that’s been used derisively by social reactionaries) tends to get Penny in more trouble than she bargained for because life is never as simple as your good intentions.
In that sense, Why Are You Like This can come off as a piss-take of the kind of performative wokeness that segments of younger generations have been accused of – a skin-deep engagement without really grappling with the destructiveness of institutional power and privilege.
But it satirically executes its critiques because you come away from it examining your own relationship with that exact culture. And it never suggests that empathy and inclusion aren’t worthy goals – it’s just how you go about it.
The six episodes are snappy and self-contained, an easy binge – and in a nod to non-linear consumption, the ABC is releasing all episodes on iview at once in addition to the weekly broadcast run.
Make no mistake, Why Are You Like This is the kind of Australian comedy that goes against the all-too-familiar grain, and we’re all richer for it.
Why Are You Like This is available to stream on iview while the weekly broadcasts are on Tuesdays on ABCPlus at 8.45pm
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