It’s never too late for an episode guide… said no one ever. But 12 years (to the day!) since Micallef Tonight was axed seems like a good time to finish the segment guide to both the originally aired TV episodes and the expurgated DVD episodes: for the DVD, Shaun cut the 13 episodes down to eight, leaving out the musical performances and generally re-cutting the order. (not sure why…)
A few years ago, Shaun contributed a story called “The Moment” to a collection called “Humanity: A Short Story Collection” (and it’s still available on Amazon). It is the story is of an old man who night after night is torn from his slumber by a horrible and unshakable vision, all while watching the days of the week disappear – a departure from the style of Shaun’s well-known work, but not outside his wheelhouse.
It was made into a short film around about the same time by Triptych Pictures (who also made The 13th House), and was featured at a number of short film festivals. It sort of slid under the radar after that, but the kind people at Triptych have made it available online to watch for free! The website has more information on the making of the film.
While Mad As Hell is on hiatus, the team behind the show are busy working on other projects. You may have seen Emily Tahini on Open Slather on Foxtel (with writer Tony Moclair involved in a few episodes), and Francis is of course filming The Ex-PM with Shaun.
Michael Ward, writer on the show and resident Kraken, has written a book: “Zombie McCrombie from an overturned Kombi”. It’s an illustrated story of Zombie and his zombie dog pals, who roam the empty streets, sniffing the wind for bones they might gnaw on. Firmly tongue in cheek, it’s sure to suit fans of Shaun’s style of humour. Read all about it and get a copy through the website.
One such project is The 13th House, a 2003 60 minute film which formed part of the official selection in the Adelaide Film Festival 2003, Sitges International Festival of Catalonia 2003, Brussels International Film Festival 2004 and the Sydney Film Festival 2003.
Mark Waterman (Damon Gameau) works a menial job writing travel brochures for a large, faceless corporation. He is just another cog in an impossibly large machine; dreaming of holidays he can never afford and women he can never have.
When an opportunity for promotion to the 13th Floor is presented to him by the enigmatic Chairman of the Board, played by Shaun, Mark quickly jumps at it. The lure of the most expensive cars, tailored suits and other perks of the ‘better life’ await those that attain membership to the Board.
However, Mark soon finds himself caught in the middle of a sinister game with rules so contradictory, so senseless, that he is forced to sacrifice everything he once held dear in order to win the ultimate prize…
Finally, the the film is finally available on DVD, and includes special features such as deleted scenes and outtakes with Shaun. Purchase it at the Triptych Pictures website.
As Mad As Hell was wrapping up a few months ago, Shaun spoke to me about his projects through to next year, including The Ex-PM, Stairway to Heaven and the return of Mad As Hell. I’ve finally written it up, so enjoy!
I can’t think of anybody who’s so heavily involved in so many TV projects at one time (Mad As Hell, The Ex-PM and Stairway to Heaven) – you must be pretty busy at the moment!
I would have been busy anyway, because the plan was to do Mad As Hell at the beginning and the end of the year, and for one reason or another the Mad As Hell at the end of the year was vacated, and I think that was to do with funding generally. [Note: Mad As Hell comes from the Light Entertainment budget].
That meant that the back end of the year was free, so I said why don’t we have a look at doing the documentaries – we’re doing (the filming of) two at the end of the year and one at the beginning of next year. I’m still to have talks about what they are; (the production company) probably know, but they haven’t told me yet.
So it’s more the process of they’ll come to you with a suggestion of “we think you should go here” and you’ll go?
We have talked about where we might go, so it won’t surprise me, it will just be a case of which three they pick.
It was one of the ones we talked about, and oddly enough, I think it was the easiest to get to and the most exotic. Maybe the other ones won’t be so far away. The US might be a good place to go.
You haven’t been to the States have you?
No. It was interesting having never been to India to go to Haridwar, a country town, instead of the big cities, and ditto in the US: I would be going somewhere that would be quite unusual to go to for a first visit.
Is there anything you are hoping to learn in the upcoming three episodes of Stairway to Heaven? Will it be a continuation of the journey in the original special?
Hopefully it’s a refinement, I don’t really know. I certainly didn’t answer every question, and I didn’t ask every question. So, if it is about Mormonism for example, it’s interesting because I’m connected to the basic bedrock of the Christian traditions, so it’s easier for me to follow. But “why is this relatively new strand been so embraced?” It’s not a venerable as Hinduism. It’s a different question. It still links to someone’s absolute certainty about this particular version of faith that people have. The question is the same, it’s probably more about perspective.
So you’ll be treating it as a continuing enlightenment experience, trying to learn from people?
Because it would be in the same family of faith that I grew up in (Catholic), it might be easier for me know what I’m talking about when I ask the questions. So it may be less reverent than it would be in a more foreign environment.
I’m very much looking forward to The Ex-PM, since you teased it so long ago. How is preparation going for it?
Downstairs from the Mad As Hell office is the ABC drama department, so we’re casting for it now. So occasionally on a Wednesday, after doing the edit for Mad As Hell, I’ll go back to the office and look at some of the scripts that are coming in, then pop downstairs and do a couple of auditions, then come back upstairs and sign off on the sound edit and the audio post and the shows finished. So I’ve been doing two things on the Wednesdays. Once we finish (Mad As Hell), I’ll re-write the scripts and we start shooting in late May maybe.
Will it be mostly a set piece, or a bit of outdoors and in-studio?
There won’t be any studio component; it will all be in the real world. We’ll find a house to shoot in.
I guess he (Andrew Dugdale) will be running a home office?
It will be a bit of an upstairs/downstairs sort of arrangement.
And it will air later in the year?
Probably about September; 6 episodes.
Will Francis be in it?
Yes, absolutely. We’ll try and get everyone guesting in it, but Francis will have a role written for him in it, as always.
What are the chances of more Mad As Hell in the future?
It will be next year. It’s a good show, we’re match fit, we know what we’re doing, we just need to wait a year. We’ve done that before, waited a year between the first and the second series. We don’t want to wear out our welcome.
So you’re enjoying it enough that you’d love to come back and do some more?
Yeah! [said emphatically]
Do you like to seek out these projects, or do these opportunities come along for you to pounce on?
These days I don’t have to do much chasing. Mr and Mrs Murder was easy to get up, harder to do. I’ve been really lucky. There have been projects which haven’t gotten up, you just draw a conclusion that it wasn’t the right time or it wasn’t a strong project. If the will isn’t there, no amount of pushing is going to get them to do it.
It’s alright, I don’t mind. There are worse things to be remembered for. No one is asking me to do Milo professionally on a TV show – if that was the only job I was being offered I’d be a bit bitter I suppose. It will come to that maybe, turning up in someone’s short film and that’s all they’ll want me to do.
I think we the fans feel part of an in-joke when you reference your previous work, as you do a bit in Mad As Hell. You like to layer the jokes, so everyone can feel like there is a joke for them.
Like throwing in the clips from The Micallef P(r)ogram(me), it doesn’t hurt if you don’t know the reference. Maybe it’s a bit more of an interesting experience if you go: “I remember that when I was 15.” Everything I’ve done had references in it. It’s about the level of commitment to it; if it’s just a reference and it doesn’t matter here nor there, that’s the way to do it. We did a New Years Eve show which was just layered with references to the past, and that was probably a bit too much. You can’t visit the past too much or it looks indulgent.
Thanks to Shaun and all the Mad As Hell crew (Anthony specially) for their time and assistance.
It’s hard to believe it has been five years since this website first came online, simply as a way to keep myself and fellow fans up-to-date on Shaun’s where-abouts. Now we have a Twitter, a Facebook, and a Lion Park*.
Luckily, we’ve not been disappointed – Shaun has been busy and hilarious, and always generous with his time in keeping me (and therefore you) informed. Here’s to the next 5!
Stay tuned, because next week we’ll have an exclusive interview with Shaun about the future of Mad As Hell and what we might expect in The Ex-PM (his upcoming sitcom).
* This is a lie.
With a great repertoire of characters, an established style, and the best political satire on Australian TV, series 5 of Mad As Hell (not unexpectedly) continued the brilliance of the previous ones. And if the outpouring of grief when the series ended is any indication, most of you agree.
Here’s my list of the top 11 moments which were unique to this series:
11. Grun, adviser to Dio Wang (Ep 6) & Glenn Lazerous (Ep 9)
While he first appeared last season, Grun (Francis), an adviser to various members of Palmer United Party, got another chance to share his desire to be on the telly (and not much else). He also filled one gap of awkward silence with an old Micallef Program prop, the roaring dinosaur/alien.
10. House of Dick
With the popularity of House of Hancock, why wouldn’t the ABC want to try their hand at another epic drama? Dick Smith’s (Tosh) rise from electronics reseller to champion of the people, with the associated contradiction between his current causes vs. his original ethics, prompted some Mad As Hell ribbing in Eps 1 & 2. (Watch) (Dick actually later responded to it with a media statement.)
9. Food People, Lower Prices (Ep 9)
As easily as they send up the ridiculousness of Bill’s zingers, Mad As Hell took the topic of supermarket monopolisation through genericised branding and presented it in a similar manner to which the giants claim to “support genuine farmers” – but only if they meet every demand. (Watch)
8. Jezabell Scream (Ep 5)
Expertly dissecting Bill’s zingers against Abbott’s stingers, Jezabell (Emily) was a affectionate homage (more so than parody I felt) to Judith Lucy, who’s show was, not coincidentally, the follow on from Mad As Hell. Jezabell also got to turn her opinion to feminism, a slight dig at both Judith’s show and the way the media often handles female comedians. (Watch)
7. Caspar’s Future/TV show
Caspar Jonquil (Tosh), longtime AM radio talkback caller, has been a character since the second season, and his monologues are often the place where the writers one liners all get thrown. To shut Caspar up, Shaun usually has to have a piano dropped on him, but in Ep 6, Caspar managed to escape and we got a glimpse into his future – years hiding alone before a proposal from Spakfilla Vole gave him a heart attack.
But all was not lost, and the following week (Ep 7), Caspar got his own, Bolt Report-style, show: “Right Minded”.
6. Frank Underwood/Kevin Spacey impression
Channeling Frank Underwood from House of Cards, Shaun broke the fourth wall a few times after interviewing Dolly Norman (Roz) to deliver a quote directly to us:
“I love that woman. I love her more than sharks love blood.” (Ep 3)
“The [prime minister] is like a lone tree in an empty field – he leans whichever way the wind is blowing.” (Ep 5)
“A Cat likes to play with a Mouse before the killing blow. It’s a metaphor.” (Ep 7)
“Democracy isn’t what these people need. Hell it isn’t even what they want. People don’t want freedom, they want boundaries, rules, protection from invaders and from themselves.” (Ep 9) – that one wasn’t even from House of Cards, it was from the Call of Duty trailer!
5. “Into the Bin!”
For Micallef fans, we love the subtle references to his previous much-loved works: the Tyrell Corp chair from TAYG, the Micallef Tonight sign, the odd-Milo sighting, the Micallef Program punch lines. And Shaun brought back part of the High Horse segment from Micallef Tonight, to banish a number of things “Into the Bin”: Freedom Crunchola bars (Ep 1), Vanilla Ice’s sampled pool heater (Ep 3) and the cover of Joe Hockey’s tax discussion paper (Ep 10).
4. Being wooed by Malcolm Turnbull (Ep 8)
Shaun was particularly impressed by Malcolm’s smooth talking in an interview with David Speers on Sky, almost to the level of seduction, but soon realised it was all an act – he is the communications minister after all. But we did get to enjoy a bit of Smooth Operator. (Watch)
Shaun Micallef’s Boring Pigs of the Southern Balkans (Ep 3)
Shaun Micallef’s The Flying Cats of Corfu (Ep 4)
Shaun Micallef’s Rise of the Machines (Ep 5)
Shaun Micallef’s Borneo’s Pretty Determined Drug-Fuelled Snails (Ep 5)
Shaun Micallef’s The Goldfish of 47 Harrow Road Brompton (Ep 6)
Shaun Micallef’s Aerophobic Flies of the Tierra Del Fuego (Ep 8)
Shaun Micallef’s Rancid Substitutes for the Putrid Stench of the Corpse Flower (Ep 10)
2. The ABC Program/Cheese Shop (Ep 10)
When Shaun gives treatment to Monty Python, one of his own comedy influences, it’s only good news for us – and the chance to dig at the ABC, its comedy lineup and the lack of budget (which essentially means we only get one series of Mad this year) must have been too good to miss, creating a great fantastic opener to the last episode. (Watch) (Original here)
1. “I’m not a commentator”
Media speak has become a major part of the political discourse, and Mad As Hell was quick to pick up on it, specifically the use of “cynical obfuscation” to confuse the meaning of political policy. This was summed up by spokesperson Draymella Burt (Emily): “What’s important is that people don’t know what you’re talking about so can’t form an opinion. It works with phrases: ‘I’m not going to answer that question you arsehole’, becomes “I’m not a commentator.'” (Ep 3) (Watch)
The commentator line had first been subtly peppered in Ep 2, then with Dolly Norman (Ep 3), Maggie Bathysphere (Ep 4) and Darius (Ep 7) using it as liberally as their real-life political counterparts.
There’s a joke in every nook and cranny of Mad As Hell, and this season continued the tradition of playing with the episode synopses – many of which were themed around a time and a place. For anyone who missed them in the TV guides, on iView or when scrolling through their digital TV listing, here they are:
Episode 1 – February 11th
Auckland, 1978. A young man with the wind in his hair, also nits, dreams of a better life by winning a dusco duncing competution. CAST: Shaun Micallef
Episode 2 – February 18th
Los Angeles, 2057. The future. A cyber-gigolo accused of post-meditated mind-murder travels back in time to 1958 to try and prevent the invention of the hula hoop. CAST: Shaun Micallef
Episode 3 – February 25th
Oklahoma, 1936. Tom, Ma, Pa, Uncle John and their crippled scientist friend Davros enjoy a hearty meal of dust. “Anyone for seconds?” laughs Tom.
Episode 4 – March 4th
Singapore, 1942, just before the fall of the tiny island state (when it was feeling a bit dizzy). A manticore, a chimera and a basilisk walk into a bar and have a quiet drink – nothing to see here.
Episode 5 – March 11th
Tibet, 1957. The Dalai Lama invites you to go rollerblading. If you accept his invitation, turn to Page 34. If you choose to denounce him as a capitalist roader, turn to Page 132. CAST: Shaun Micallef
Episode 6 – March 18th
A janitor accidentally trapped overnight at New York’s Grand Central Station is amazed when the men’s public toilets magically come to life (also the urinal cakes, hand dryers, toilet rolls etc.)
Episode 7 – March 25th
Kyoto, 1999. On the eve of National Udon Day, a love octagon develops between a flatulent geisha, a sumo wrestler, a yakuza flautist, a deaf samurai, a pedantic ninja and three other Japanese stereotypes.
Episode 8 – April 1st
You might think you know all about sugar, but how much do you really know about sugar? Tonight, everything you need to know about sugar – and some things you perhaps didn’t need to know! About sugar.
Episode 9 – April 8th
Drawing on old Super 8 footage, videotape, still photos, eyewitness accounts and police records, a former marine is able to piece together the final moments before his colonoscopy.
Episode 10 – April 15th
Terry’s not like you or me. You see, Terry hears voices in his head. Angry voices. Voices that tell him to kill. (Twist: Terry works in telemarketing and the voices are customers in his headphones.)
This is slightly strange, when you consider this week, the show was the top rated non-news show on Wednesday across all channels (6th with 782,000 viewers).
The good news is – the whole team and especially Shaun are optimistic about the show returning in 2016, believing it’s in a good rhythm with plenty more steam. So it may soon be on break, but it won’t be gone.