“Peppered throughout this annus horribilis were some moments of respite in the form of Australian scripted comedy”

2023 was a year to forget. But peppered throughout this annus horribilis (and I really think ‘anus of a year’ fits better) were some moments of respite in the form of Australian scripted comedy.

Particularly eye-catching about the offerings from down under was that the country fired out several hits in quick succession. It feels churlish not to be including In Limbo, the ABC’s supernatural buddy dramedy which is touching, sweet and funny (enjoy on ITVX), but I had to have a cut-off somewhere.

Top spot is a joint effort.

I believed programming had peaked for the year as far back as January when Disney+/Hulu launched adult animation Koala Man, with little fanfare.

The credentials were there. It hails from adult animation veterans Michael Cusack (Yolo) and Dan Hernandez (Central Park); is produced by Princess Bento – the Australian sibling of Bob’s Burgers outfit Bento Box Entertainment; and has a generous sprinkling of A-list stardust with Hugh Jackman, Sarah Snook, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving and Jermaine Clement lending their voices.

Its beauty is not glitz however, rather its everyday-ness. Koala Man is the local “crime-fighting” alter-ego of balding, unimpressive father-of-two Kevin (played by Cusack) from uninspiring Australian town Dapto. His adventures are banal in essence and his super-powers risible.

Episodes are made outlandish by off-the-wall sci-fi, a supporting cast of oddballs and exaggerated gore and violence while all action is rooted in ’Strayan cultural and societal touchpoints – Tall Poppy Syndrome, Tradies and Showbags form central elements of three episodes, while another parodies Australian institution The Wiggles.

The combination of run-of-the-mill and weird strike a perfect comical note – a paean to its illustrious forebear Rick & Morty. Its narrative arcs on B stories and characters are also anarchic and never get tired.

A strong candidate to take up the R&M mantle.

Colin From Accounts

A mere three months later, Australia confounded expectations again, with the magnificent Colin from Accounts.

This critic had an early flavour of the Easy Tiger/CBS Studios-produced Foxtel Binge romcom when an early cut was screened to buyers during the 2022 May LA Screenings and became the acquisition on everyone’s radar. The BBC picked it up amid hot competition for this year and was quick to snap up S2.

The on-screen chemistry between protagonists Gordon (Patrick Brammall) and Ashley (Harriet Dyer) whether they’re dating, arguing or screwing should be self-evident given they’re spouses in reality, but it plays out in such excruciatingly personal detail, it could be a fly-on-the-wall piece.

Making a romantic sitcom not feel twee seems like a Sisyphean task these days, but the tragi-comic plot lines – Ashley’s overbearing and cutting mum or Gordon’s reaction to Ashley’s friends abusing his hospitality at his craft beer bar – are acutely well-observed and never contrived. Its healthy mix of charm and crudeness also helps keep the comic engine running.

One article I saw recently likened Colin to Ted Lasso and, though not a slight, feels reductive and unfair. While TL’s sugary sheen has quickly become too saccharine, Colin’s hoppy bitterness keeps it refreshing on the palate.

In addition to this fine pair, I would also give honourable mentions this year to Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland, The Sixth Commandment, Boiling Point and Dave for programming excellence.

  • John Elmes is the international editor and deputy news editor, Broadcast