Darradong Local Council (Thursday on 7mate) is the latest series from prolific writer director producer actor Paul Fenech. He has created an entire Fenech-verse through TV series like Swift and Shift Couriers and Bogan Hunters, plus big-screen hits like Fat Pizza vs Housos. And he’s onto another winner with this one.
Setting this show inside a corrupt council is a great idea, because the story potential is enormous. Geoffrey Atherton covered similar ground in Grass Roots (2000, ABC), a much-missed TV series about the fictional Arcadia Waters Council with Geoff Morrell playing dodgy mayor Col Dunkley.
Every time I do a segment on ABC radio about TV reboots, someone inevitably calls up wanting Grass Roots to come back. Instead, Atherton’s previous series Mother And Son got a new treatment, while the council concept has been snatched by Fenech for his own madcap treatment.
The reason people remember Grass Roots so fondly is because everyone can relate to a show about the maddening machinations of their local council. Darradong hits similar notes when it comes to showing rude receptionists, long lunches at Chinese restaurants and, as the press blurb describes it, “excessive bludging”.
Fenech’s formula has served him well for 56 episodes of Pizza, 28 eps of Housos, and 19 episodes of Swift and Shift. It’s time though for Darradong Local Council to up the ante because this series is better than Benny Hill-like sight gags where leaf blowers are blown up girls’ mini skirts.
Like all of Fenech’s previous shows, Darradong has a hugely diverse cast that includes African, Maori, Italian, Latino, Lebanese and non-binary characters. Many of his regular actors return, including Kevin Taumata, George Kapinaris, Melissa Tkautz, Angry Anderson, Vince Sorrento, Garry Who and Jordan “FriendlyJordies” Shanks.
Fenech is smart enough to realise that over his 23-year career, comedy tastes have changed. In an interview with Real Sydney, he doesn’t blame this on “cancel culture”, but points instead to younger generations watching more American comedy the British sitcoms and Australian larrikinism of yesteryear.
Darradong Local Council is made for a bogan audience, but it’s walking a fine line that’s getting too repetitive. Fenech’s latest character, council worker Fox, is his dumbest portrayal yet. Previous characters like pizza man Pauly and houso Franky were of a similar ilk, but there’s a nastiness to Fox that isn’t translating into laughs.
Maybe Fox can be killed off in a workplace accident, replaced by a twin brother that allows Fenech to do something different. The wild punch-ups and sex scandals can stay, but let’s see some sharper satire and some more work on those political parties. Darradong’s Greens councillor is stereotypical and lazy, but there is nothing yet in the first two episodes that differentiates between who is Labor and Liberal. Apologies to Pauly if that’s a subtle gag, because nothing else in the Fenech-verse ever is!
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This week: The Wiggles, Darradong Local Council, Fellow Travelers, Erotic Stories
We start this episode with The Fall of the House of Usher (Netflix series). No spoilers, but the Shows of the Week (two this week) come from these four programs – Hot Potato: The Story of the Wiggles (Prime doco), Fellow Travelers (Paramount+ series), Erotic Stories (SBS series) and Darradong Local Council (7mate and 7plus).
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