Dan Hall’s Lost Aussie Film Gems: The Hollowmen
Yes, The Hollowmen is a television show, not a movie. I’m mixing it up! I am wild and unpredictable, like a possum trapped in a bingo machine. Deal with it.
Is it deal with? Good. Then, let’s talk about The Hollowmen.
We’re all familiar with Working Dog. If you’re anything like me, you grew up watching The Late Show With the D-Generation, then were thrilled when some of those guys formed their own production company and made Frontline. Then through The Castle, The Panel and, of course, Australian comedy classic Russell Coight’s All-Aussie Adventures, Working Dog has become the biggest name in the Australian comedy industry.
In 2008, they set their sights on politics. The Hollowmen is a half-hour comedy show set in the offices of the Prime Minister’s Central Policy Unit, starring Lachy Hulme, Rob Sitch, Neil Melville and Merrick Watts. The credits make no mention of what became of Tim Ross, but I assume he’s hanging around outside set, mournfully staring through windows and humming “Teenage Mullet Fury” to himself.
The brief of the Central Policy Unit (in the world of the show – in real life, there is no such unit. Our actual Parliament mainly consists of people sitting around and talking about what happened in last night’s Project Runway) is to make our Prime Minister look good in order to ensure re-election.
One of the keys to the show’s success is its casting. After just a few episodes of the first series (there are two, but they ran back-to-back on the ABC in 2008), the cast builds a solid and easy rapport. Lachy Hulme is great as Murph, the guy who actually gets stuff done, with Merrick Watts as Nick providing great support and dry comic relief. And Rob Sitch as Tony is hilarious, a clueless government bureaucrat totally concerned with the easiest way to make their team look good, instead of actual results. So, just like a real politician, hey? HEY?! Yes, okay, I’m sorry.
Probably the show’s greatest creative decision is to not mention the identity of the Prime Minister, nor what party he’s affiliated with. We don’t even get an idea of whether he’s more liberal with a lower-case l or Liberal with an upper-case L. The goal is simply to look good and get re-elected; actual agendas don’t enter into it. It’s a great idea, and it gives the show a certain timeless and universality.
The show occasionally feels repetitive in its plotting, especially if you watch numerous episodes in a row on DVD, as I did recently. More than one episode involves the team coming up with a great new initiative that will have real results, facing an episode’s worth of obstacles and complications, then winding up with a neutered version of the initiative that pleases nobody. Just like real politics, hey? HEY? Okay, I swear I’ll stop.
But with this cast and this team of writers (Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch) they consistently find humour in even the familiar situations.
If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth checking out. If you have, you probably wasted your time reading this. Sucker.