Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Failing Attempt at Very Small Business

In my last post, I discussed the gem of a show I found in The Librarians. After enjoying that inappropriately funny show so much, I decided to check out the briefly lived show Very Small Business for a similar dose of humor. Very Small Business is a sitcom that aired on Australian TV in 2008 for only six episodes. The series was co-written by Gary McCaffrie, Wayne Hope (one of the co-creators of The Librarians), and Robyn Butler (real-life wife of Hope and actor who played the role of Frances on The Librarians). The show stars Hope and Kym Gyngell, the actor behind Father Harris on The Librarians

Hope plays Don Angel, an entrepreneur behind the Worldwide Business Group, which publishes numerous newspapers and magazines that mainly serve only as space for advertisements – the type of junk you receive in the mail and almost immediately toss in the recycling bin. Don has just hired Ray Leonard (Gyngell) to be the group’s senior journalist and write editorial content that is little more than advertisement itself. Ray was formerly a journalist for big and respected newspapers but has been out of work for six years after suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. He takes the part-time job at Worldwide Business Group even though its pay is pittance not because he needs the employment or money but because his psychologist recommends he gets out and about again to counter his depression. Meanwhile, as Don attempts to juggle all the scams he’s started in an attempt to grow his business, he is also going through a divorce and suffering physical pain due to all the stress he’s experiencing.

With so many connections to a show I had previously found entertaining, I had high expectations for Very Small Business as well. Unfortunately, these were not met. The show’s humor was just … not so funny. There were a few parts here and there that made me chuckle, but mostly I was not bemused. Don was a character that was very difficult to like in any way and his constant attempts to swindle people were not really humorous. As I mentioned in my post about The Librarians, it was sometimes a bit hard to get behind a show that featured such a mean-spirited main character, but Don made Frances looked like an angel in comparison. And, as I mentioned in that post, Frances did grow somewhat as a character over the series. When faced with problems, Don only became more of a jerk, although to be fair, this short-lived show had less opportunity for character growth. Furthermore, with its ensemble cast, The Librarians wasn’t all Frances all the time. With only Don and Ray at is core, it was hard for Very Small Business to give the viewer much more than Don and his vulgar speech, flippant attitude toward women, obsession with making money, and heartless approach to business. Ray was a far more interesting character, especially as we learned more about his past and his coming to terms with his previously estranged daughter Leslie who suddenly found Jesus. If the show focused on him rather than Don, it might have been more engaging and it seemed that his absurd life situation would have lent itself to more darkly humorous scenarios. Instead, the show decided to fall back far too often on potty humor (literally) to try to get a laugh out of its audience. It didn’t work.

A fun Easter egg in Very Small Business was an appearance from Robyn Butler in one episode as a psychologist that Don sees on recommendation from his doctor. Seeing her in a role, albeit a small one, so very different from that of Frances O’Brien on The Librarians made it all the more obvious how much transformation had gone into creating the closed-minded head librarian of the Middleton Interactive Learning Centre.

Usually I lament when TV executives don’t give shows a fair shot, but six episodes seemed to be more than enough for Very Small Business. I have to admit I even skipped through half of the fourth episode because Don’s actions and dialogue were just becoming so obnoxious. I might have stopped watching the show altogether there except that I was aware of the cameo from Robyn Butler in episode five and then became more interested in the resurgence of Ray’s story here to continue on to the sixth and final episode.

It might be that the humor used in Very Small Business works for some viewers, but I was disappointed, especially after the successfully entertaining The Librarians. Dear reader, what do you think? Have you seen Very Small Business? Did you find it funny?

No comments:

Post a Comment