Sam Simmons is a reasonable bloke. He likes the simple things in life – a shining sun, tacos every Tuesday night (especious secreto), & custom-made specially-designed bread shoes. His problems aren’t big “save the world” kind of problems – more your “if I don’t find the remote I’m going to go mental at someone” problems. A minor annoyance that spirals into comedic adventure. Those kind of Problems.
Sketch comedy has been a long-missed inclusion in the modern television landscape. It’s something that Australian viewers are extremely critical of – and reasonably so, as often what is presented is an under-funded, under-thought, under-prepared group of recent Uni students mixed with some stand-up comics trying to do funny stuff. What catches all off guard is that sometimes it works (The D-Generation, The Late Show Fast Forward, Full Frontal, The Comedy Company, The Ronnie Johns Show, Skithouse) and sometimes it doesn’t, but when it does there are shining, gleaming moments where characters earn their place in popular culture with something as simple as a catchphrase or head nod.
In only four episodes Problems manages to present a vast array of characters and situations all tied together around Sam’s latest problem and his question to resolve that which ails him. The armchair philosophers Morgan & Mooney ponder life and it’s ever-arching existential meaning for them as they recline in their lawn chairs watching the suburb go by. Mr & Mrs Moth eek out an existence down the back of the couch, but is that all there is to life? Whatever the problem is, Sam’s cat Mr Meowgi (Ronny Chieng a deadpan highlight) is always on hand to help out as much as his paws will allow.
Problems is equal parts strange, quirky, endearing and charming. It’s also funny as all get out.
Joining Simmons is a line-up of some of Australia’s best stand-up comics – Chieng, Anthony Morgan, Lawrence Mooney, Claudia O’Doherty, Kate McCartney, David Quirk and Laura Hughes (and special appearances from Susie Porter and Gary Sweet). This stellar cast is underpinned by a production team as talented including Declan Fay leading the writing room and Trent O’Donnell (Woodley, Review with Myles Barlow, A Moody Christmas) directing.
Moments of subtlety are offset against surrealism; basic stupidity conflicts with the poignancy of life. Problems is set in the suburbs because this is the richest, oddest and most bewildering place in Australia. This is where the funniest stories are because the reality of our urban sprawl has always been closer to ‘Elm Street’ than ‘Ramsay Street’.
Problems is laugh out loud comedy that will sneak up on you and give your funny bone a long-overdue good shake.
Problems – Wed 9pm, ABC1.