In the Watch This Next column, Man of Many takes a look back at a great TV show or film that may have slipped under your radar. Given the near-limitless entertainment options in the Netflix era, it’s easy to overlook amazing content in favour of the latest hit. For every Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad or Stranger Things, there’s another thing equally worthy of attention and we make the case for why you should watch it and where you can find it.
“Social Media, it’s just all in the hands of a load of dickheads with smartphones” – Carol, ‘No Activity’
On the back of shows like ‘Review with Miles Barlow’ and ‘A Moody Christmas’, Sydney-based production company Jungle have built a reputation for delivering reliably funny Australian comedy, and it was this pedigree that saw them entrusted with Stan’s first venture into original local programming.
The result is ‘No Activity’, a largely improvised comedy that centres around the non-adventures of a pair of Sydney detectives, played by Darren Gilshenan and Patrick Brammall, as they battle boredom on an ongoing stakeout. Confined to their cop car for most of the show, they’re forced to pass the time with inane chat, putting the blokey comedic talents of Gilshenan and Brammall to great use. The two shared an obvious chemistry as a feuding uncle and nephew in ‘A Moody Christmas’ and ‘The Moodys’ and their relationship here treads similar ground.
As the title suggests, ‘No Activity’ is a comedy low on action but high on meandering, funny conversations that frequently surprise. Screen time is split between the cops, their female colleagues at police dispatch, as well as the criminals they are tasked with watching. Each pair of characters brings their own comedic dynamic to proceedings and scenes are generally short and punchy enough to keep viewers amused.
The supporting cast is populated by well-known Australian comedians like Sam Simmons and an almost-unrecognizable Tim Minchin, as well as guest appearances from bigger stars like Jake Johnson (Nick from New Girl) and Rose Byrne, one of the victims of Season 2’s kidnapping plot. Some fare better than others with the show’s demanding improvisational style, but even the most forgettable characters never outstay their welcome.
The show is testament to the fact that execution is as important as concept when it comes to comedy, and succeeds in wringing as much as it can from the most basic of setups. Like most improvised comedy, some jokes fall flat or are simply dragged out too long, but as lightweight, throwaway comedy, ‘No Activity’ is hard to beat.
‘No Activity’ is available on Stan.