Monday 11 December 2017

Is this a case of life imitating spoof?

Trinny and Susannah: From boom to bust (C4)
Underbelly (TV3)

It seems that appearing on I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! is no longer the final roll of the dice for faded TV personalities looking to revive a dead career. There's also the self-satirising mock-documentary.

Trinny & Susannah: From Boom to Bust originally appeared online as a series of short "webisodes" -- though it was obviously made with an eye on an eventual television broadcast.

Mock-docs are tricky things to pull off, but for a while at least, this is good fun. It finds fashion harpies Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine at a low ebb.

They're TV poison following the failure of their ITV series and their nemesis Gok Wan has effectively stolen their clothes.

They're attending couples' therapy sessions, where they bicker and snap at each other like a couple of old vultures on a meat-free diet, while the best their agent, Leonard Crake (a fictional character played by an actor), can rustle up is an advertising deal with Cillet Bang.

But then, BANG! and the deal is gone. "I'm afraid it's a no from Cillet Bang," Leonard tells them.

"These things happen. It's the cut and thrust of modern showbiz, I'm afraid. There'll be other disinfectants."

Suddenly, BANG! and Leonard is gone too, playing the martyr and telling them he thinks they'd be better off with a different agent. "I feel tremendously hurt," weeps Susannah in the car home. "I feel like giving him a kick in the f***ing face!" spits Trinny.

The surprise here is the pair's acting. They're actually very good at taking the p**s out of themselves.

Trinny is portrayed as the strong one, who gamely keeps things together when the alcoholic Susannah climbs back into the bottle -- which she does a lot.

Their bid to hire a new agent fails and an attempt to peddle their range of underwear at a golf trade fair is a rowdy disaster. Ditto a trip to Ascot, where they bump into an awkward Prince Edward and try out their lunatic new makeover idea: dressing jockeys to make them look taller.

These scenes are hilarious, because they're clearly unscripted and shot on the hoof.

But then From Boom to Bust takes a disastrous turn into sitcom territory.

T&S's new agent, Toby Jones, a vertically-challenged buffoon who does his business out of a cafe, secures them a shot at a pilot for a crass new show about making over unemployed people.

A jobless guinea pig called Andy is found and all seems to be going well, until Susannah ruins things by getting him plastered at an all-night party.

The finished pilot, shot the following day through a hangover haze, is car-crash television. But as luck would have it, the producer loves it and offers them a whole new series: "Can you girls keep up that level of failure?"

So Trinny and Susannah are back on television -- both ON television and in the real world. A case of life imitating spoof?

It's been a long time since we've seen Australian television that isn't a soap, a documentary about airport customs or a wildlife series with some ocker in baggy khaki shorts wrestling crocodiles.

Underbelly, a 13-part drama about real gang wars in Melbourne from the late-Nineties to the mid-Noughties, arrives here trailing rave reviews from Australian critics. But, the question is: what were they judging it against?

The Sopranos set the bar for gangster dramas impossibly high and Underbelly will need a trampoline to get a finger near it. There's a heavy use of slow-motion, rock music and gimmicky on-screen captions identifying the characters.

I think this is supposed to make it look cool and Tarantinoesque. It actually makes it look clumsy and dated.


Trinny and Susannah: From boom to bust **

Underbelly **

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