21 September 2011 | joey_alcock
Should find its feet if given the chance
The basic physical set-up of The Joy of Sets, being two men sitting in a lounge room, belies the Frankenstein-esque ambition of its creators who have sought to build out a half hour comedy program by stitching together fragments from a variety of popular light entertainment formats. These include clip show, sketch show, panel discussion show, talk show and game show. It is perhaps this diversity of formats which results in the first episode "Sell the Meat" feeling rather frenetically paced, and perhaps somewhat disjointed, as hosts Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee race through each segment, most of which last for less than a minute.
The underlying premise of The Joy of Sets is the exploration of television conventions, with each episode devoted to one particular aspect of television production. "Sell the Meat" focuses on the opening titles and how these function to entice and retain the attention of the viewer. This allows Martin and Kavalee great leeway to create humorous moments and for the most part, the gags hit the mark. Arguably, the most compelling edge that The Joys of Sets has is Martin's extensive knowledge of television shows, and particularly some of the more obscure and often esoteric moments in TV history, which less-obsessed viewers have long forgotten. This differentiates The Joy of Sets from other clip shows such as The Soup, Tosh 2.0 or TV Burp which typically feature "bloopers from the last week".
Given the sketch comedy and radio backgrounds of the writers and hosts, pre-recorded bits work well unsurprisingly, particularly the final culmination in which all the elements we've "learned" about during the course of the program are recreated in montage by Martin and Kavalee in their own style. Hopefully, it is the intention to finish each episode in this fashion.
Despite the positives, certain elements of the show need ironing out as the series progresses. One would expect direction to be relatively straightforward given relatively few fixed cameras but cuts are clunky with Kavalee in particular continually "caught out" looking at the wrong camera. Furthermore, Martin seems to be unable to limit his engagement with the live audience which is distracting for the viewer. His style of presentation appears to be that of his stand-up opening routines from The Late Show. The live audience works well enough although the decision to effectively populate the studio with long-time fans of Martin and Kavalee's previous endeavours, particularly Get This, resulted in abnormally large laughs for gags which specifically drew on the pair's legacy material, and ironically made the laughs sounds like a prerecorded track, and far too ebullient in the mind of the layman (with respect to Get This).
The guest spot which featured actor Peter Phelps also proved slightly awkward, not only because Phelps had to hold his own door open for fear of it closing on him, but also because material had clearly been pre-written that required machine-gun-like responses from the clearly bewildered guest for them to work. Phelps was admirable but there was a distinct Thank God You're Here vibe to this element.
Channel 9 has been relatively limited in its promotion of The Joy of Sets although the first episode followed a popular US sitcom which should boost the numbers beyond that commensurate with the level of direct promotion. There is clearly enough in the concept and the hosts to put together an 8 episode series, and the flow of the program will definitely improve as it matures. In a year which has seen Channel 9 show little patience with light entertainment programs that do not perform strongly from the outset, it would be a definite shame if the series did not run its course.