There’s something about reviewing television programs that feels like filling in a report card or assigning a grade. Not always, but certainly where Soul Mates is concerned. Maybe it’s the juvenile nature of the work…
As a fellow producer I’m always loathe to pass judgment on someone else’s work. Jesus’ warning that, “… the measure you use, it will be measured to you,” springs uncomfortably to mind. But then there’s also an another verse relating to producers and viewers that occurs:
“If the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people … I will hold the watchman accountable.”
So, dusting off the trumpet…
Soul Mates is an excellent concept from a team of comedians and producers who’ve established a reputation for highlighting the saddest and silliest sides of our culture. Nick Boshier drew Australia’s attention to the reality-based bogan Nick from Punchy; his co-star Christian Van Vuuren achieved YouTube fame as The Fully Sick Rapper. And together they’re best known as the The Bondi Hipsters, a pair of trend-bound ‘scenesters’ whose grip on style is inversely proportional to their grip on reality. This last production was the launching point for Soul Mates, a series about two men reincarnated as ‘bros’ from prehistoric times through to some post-apocalyptic future in Antarctica.
Soul Mates doesn’t actually put any weight in the idea of reincarnation. It’s more a device to allow Boshier and Van Vuuren to explore the problems that have pursued humanity throughout the ages. On the grand stage they dedicate episodes to issues like ‘Death and Rebirth’, ‘Creation’ and the life-goal centric ‘Above and Beyond’. But on the smaller scale what’s really under examination is the sorts of problems that pursue human beings no matter what age they live in – exploitative friendships, the clash of relationships, the meaninglessness of work and our struggle with self-delusion. So, ten out of ten to Soul Mates for using satire to draw all of these to our attention, but minus several million for the way it goes about it…
Soul Mates reaches beyond puerile, teenage humour to create a whole new level of offensive television. I had thought that the ABC had established a new low with programs like John Saffran’s Race Relations and Chris Lilley’s Angry Boys; I was wrong. It’s not just that Soul Mates indulges portraying oral sex between naked men, it’s that it attempts to label it humour. But these shock-induced moments are to comedy what gore is to horror. Mere artillery on the senses without any real thinking involved. Soul Mates sets the stage for great insights, but delivers the 21st century equivalent of fart jokes. There’s also several occasions where that irreverence-without-insight is directed at Christianity, including the ‘Tree of Life’ being a designated plant for masturbating on and a prehistoric parody of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf involving a goat and a fire:
Sticks: [Eating Rocky’s goat god] “Rocky, your god is delicious!”
Rocky: “Yeah – and he gave his life so that we could be fulfilled!”
Sticks: “And I am so fulfilled!”
As hokey as this warning might sound, God is unlikely to forget laughter at this sort of joke.
Did I begin this review by reflecting on how much it would sound like a report card? Then let me finish by writing, “Nick and Christian show real potential but need to work harder. Their delight in each other’s company is in real danger of spoiling their work 2/5.”
Release Date: Thursdays, 9:30 PM