It’s been about 3 and a half years since then Utopia has graced our screens.
But the comedy set in the offices of the Nation Building Authority is back this week under the watch of CEO Tony Woodford (Rob Sitch) and his merry band of superstitious under-achievers.
Still, while many shows are eager to get back in front of the cameras, Working Doug’s crew — Sitch, Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy, and producer Michael Hirsh — are more insightful about allocating time in the creative sandbox.
“We thought we’d never do another series”
“The first time we took a year between series, then it was 18 months, then it was two and a half years and now it was like three and a half,” says Sitch. TV tonight.
“It is not the result of an intelligent design. After doing the first series, we thought about not doing another one. But after opening that can of worms, we kept piling up ideas. After about nine months, we looked at each other and said ‘We have more than one series up our sleeves.’ After the second, we thought the same thing.”
But if there was one silver lining to the pandemic, it was investing time in developing new story ideas.
“The chances of doing five series are very slim but due to the pandemic, we were thinking about other things but kept piling up all the ideas.
“It was kind of like Apocalypse now, “One day the war will end” and we will be tired of mask jokes and zoom jokes. So we also planned when we were writing during the pandemic to be a post-pandemic series.
“It’s an office comedy and always has been.”
The pandemic has also changed life at the office, but for Sitch, the fundamental relationships of the NBA staff remain. Utopia explores the bureaucracy of office life among its frustrated characters.
“It’s an office comedy and always has been. So half is not just infrastructure, it’s about people who are in the same professional space driving each other crazy. You can build some frustration around Zoom, but the theme isn’t Working From Home,” she continues.
“When I started working a few years ago, I was scolded. Probably with cause. It wasn’t really hazing, but you were somehow vehemently reprimanded or sometimes just yelled at and insulted. But now you can’t do that in most professional studios. So there’s all these great new labels where you can’t really take your frustration out on the person who’s causing you the frustration. All these new terms like “micro-aggressions” and even the concept of three strikes, that’s two more warnings than I got! I think the modern office is a very sophisticated and emotionally intelligent place that drives everyone crazy.”
Coincidentally, or maybe not, the workplace comedy has also backed Working Dog’s other projects, including the acclaimed First line.
“I think Santo once said, ‘You know, this is office comedy.’ We said, “Don’t say that out loud.” He was disguised in TV and current affairs. Half the fun we had was in the office dynamics…. but no one has learned anything, in the end we are all the same,” recalls Sitch.
“But everyone has mantras. What it was Seinfeld: ‘No hugging, no learning’ or something like that? Yes, minister He went into Yes, Prime Minister but you can watch almost all episodes out of order. You don’t need to know what happened before and what happened after. It is autonomous.
“We made it Groundhog Day every day”
“Instinctively we were very wary of putting any long-term arcs into the series. So the term used a lot is, we had groundhog day every day… you can almost watch episode one of series two and episode eight of series five and you don’t have to go back to catch up.
Season 5 returning cast includes Celia Pacquola, Dave Lawson, Dilruk Jayasinha, Kity Flanagan, Anthony
Lehmann, Emma-Louise Wilson, Nina Oyama, Jamie Robertson, Mike McLeish and Rebecca Massey.
This season the team is forced to deal with project management teams interested only in talking points. Billion-dollar projects announced without a business case or cost-benefit study. Shift of geo-political priorities. Rural road construction supported by a problematic statue. Cyber attacks and an embarrassing UNESCO report.
“What do you do as a government when you have a million year old coral reef and a many centuries old problem like climate change? How can you solve this by two tomorrow?” he asks.
“It’s that kind of timing discrepancy that we’ve never done before. Movie studios appear at some point in time. Many topics that we’ve looked at, probably for good reason, we didn’t address in the first few seasons, because we just needed to figure out how to go about it better. I think on the surface it will look very similar. But it’s a very fast and dense series.”
To the prolific Working Dog team, Utopia it will also be the third project airing in the same week, to join Have you been paying attention? AND The cheap seats -with a revival of Thank God you’re here before the end of the year.
According to Sitch, “Normally, if we were a government department, one of them would be delayed for two years.”
Wednesdays at 8pm on ABC.