Stairway to Heaven specials start Wednesday

After much anticipation, Shaun’s Stairway to Heaven specials continue this Wednesday on SBS at 8:30pm.

Following on from his singular special in 2014, Shaun is continuing to immerse himself in the lives of those with “unshakable faith” to discover what gives them that faith, and wondering if there is more to life than being a semi-professional writer/comedian.

First up, Shaun travels to Salt Lake City to live, eat and pray with the Mormons before heading off with young missionaries to the jungles of the South Pacific. He then ventures to the Deserts of Utah to break bread with breakaway polygamists.

In Faith Healers (January 25th), Shaun immerses himself deep in the back blocks of Brazil, in the community of world famous medium and psychic spirit healer John of God for a chance to commune with the dead. Here Catholicism is intertwined with a belief in supernatural miracles, mediums and the afterlife.

Finally, Shaun wonders if Armageddon really is nigh (February 1st) and how to physically and spiritually prepare for the Apocalypse. Heading to America he undergoes biblical combat training with Doomsday Preppers  and explores the world of TV evangelism with Born Again Christian fundamentalists. On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he stands where Jesus is prophesied to return, before finally retreating to the Greek Island of Patmos where the Book of Revelation was scribed.

You can watch the first episode, Gods, Gurus and Ganges, on Vimeo.

Thanks to Artemis International for the information.

Talkin’ ‘Bout Rumours

Shaun, Stuart and a BananaEven since Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation finished in 2012, there have been rumours of the return of the successful show, especially given its flexible and original format.

The Australian has re-opened the rumours, saying ITV are shopping the show around the TV networks, with Channel Nine a likely destination. Interestingly, “sources” say Shaun is a likely host, but isn’t locked in yet.

Shaun himself has said that for him and the cast, the show was done, so not sure if this will develop further than a rumour….

Stairway to Heaven to air in January 2017

Shaun ponders the meaning of lifeShaun’s “Stairway to Heaven” series, which began with a single episode in 2014, will continue with a 3 part series in January on SBS.

As previously confirmed, Shaun is continuing on his quest for spiritual enlightenment, the meaning of life and finding out what drives people who have unshakable faith.

It’s a different kind of show for Shaun, who rather than taking a wry approach, is taking the journey and encounters very personally.

He will be looking at Mormonism in Salt Lake City, Spiritualism in Brazil, and Christian Fundamentalism in Texas. Previously he explored Hinduism in India.

Shaun did let us know that through this series, he does find some answers that bring about a conclusion to his quest.

The specials start 8:30pm Wednesday January 18th 2017 on SBS. Hopefully, the original special will be re-aired prior to the new ones.

Our 2016 Interview with Shaun

Mad As Hell S6Ep5: TV HottiesShaun has once again given us some of his valuable time after filming an episode of Mad As Hell recently to answer all our burning questions:


Has this season of Mad As Hell felt more frenetic because of the election which was impending and then imploded?

Tonight (episode 9) felt a lot stranger, because of what happened on Saturday (election) night. We had to put ourselves in a time machine and go ahead three days and think “what’s going to happen on Wednesday?” (They actually taped two openings due to the uncertainty of the election result at the time.)
Before we started, we thought this would be an interesting challenge, as we’ve never actually had to make a show during an election campaign; there was the faux election campaign of 2013 which seemed to go on all year. But this one was announced on the Sunday before we went to air. We anticipated there would be a lot more late writing on a Tuesday, but that hasn’t happened, and the election hasn’t altered the way we approach it at all, but it has focused us on more domestic and election topics, so the shows by the nature, when the election’s not on, tend to be about a range of topics. This season seems to be about 60% about the election, each show. I don’t think it’s made any different to way we do it, just the content.

Who do you think would be the best Prime Minister for comedy’s sake?

I have a suspicion that the next time we see a conservative PM in this country it will be Scott Morrison and he’ll be great. There’s just a confidence and an uncompromising quality about him that would be very valuable to us. I hope Malcolm does well and manages to hold it all together, but I think the next one’s going to be ScoMo.
On the Labor side, I hope Bill Shorten stays with us forever, but I’d like to see Tanya Plibersek or it might be Mark Dreyfuss. I think him against ScoMo might be really interesting.

Do you feel any obligation to bring out the crowd favourites like the Zinger or the Kraken, or only if the flow feels right?

If it feels right. I think we’ve learned that sometimes we write things for characters because we like the character, but we just edit them out, because there’s no reason for the character to be there. The characters are always a delivery system for a joke, rather than the joke in itself. Having said that there we quite a few characters who didn’t have nothing to do with anything tonight.

Francis was all made up as Bobo just…

..to not be there, and leave, yes. Sometimes it’s nice to burn these things to have them and not use, rather than them having nothing to do and having them hang around for too long.

What makes you want to perform a character yourself instead of having the ensemble perform it, such as Cardinal Nosey?

I get sick of sitting behind the desk, and want to play with the rest of them.

[Roz yells] They’re all Rollie!

[Replies, with a smile] No they’re not. Roz thinks all the characters I do sound like Rollie, a character I did in the Micallef Program. Bill Duthie is basically Rollie, just basically an idiot. He was an earnest older man, unaware of his surrounds, and Roz has rightly picked me as simply doing that character in a variety of different voices. Sometimes not even that.

So speaking of characters, why did you choose The Odd Couple to perform with the MTC?

It’s a good play, very good piece of writing. There were three vehicles that I thought would be suitable for Francis and I. One was Sleuth by Antony Shaffer, The Sunshine Boys and The Odd Couple, both by Neil Simon. Amazingly, it was thought we were too young for The Sunshine Boys, so we might do that in a few years, so The Odd Couple was the one we picked.

Will this be set in the 60’s as original written?

I think 1965 was when it originally went to Broadway, and that’s where we’ll set it. There’s something about no mobile phones, there’s something about the attitude towards marriage and women that is best set in the period, otherwise you have to apologise for it and explain it away.

For the casting, you told the audience tonight that weren’t really fussed which role you played and left it up to the director?

I was hoping it would be Felix (the tidy one), so I’m pleased about that. I would have been happy to have played Oscar (the messy one), that would have been more of a challenge.

Francis says you’re the neater one, closer to Felix in real life.

I think maybe that’s true, but I think Francis could have more easily played both. I think Oscar would have been a bit harder for me, so it’s worked out well.

(One option was also to swap roles every night, but that was decidedly too much of a challenge.)

You’ve finished filming the three new Stairway to Heaven specials?

Yes, they’ll be on in August.

How was it with these compared to the first one-off? Did you go in looking for something different?

No it’s the same (quest), because I don’t think I got the answer. I got part of an answer, but I felt less pushed this time, because I had three chances to find the answer. We did get there, we did find out what it was. Luckily in the last episode!

Previously we’ve talking about how people all around the world still love Mr and Mrs Murder, and how the dialog between the characters was so natural. We also spoke about how your nickname for Nicola came about but Mike want’s to know about her’s for you, Chaka-khan?

I came up with Charlie to call her Fizzy, and Kat came up with Nicole to call him Chaka-khan. I guess that comes from Charlie, and it amused Kat. It just sounded close enough and like a pet name. I remember Kat laughing a lot, we were both amused by the characters.

And Mad As Hell is back next year?

I’m not sure if I’m meant to announce it, but yes, we’re back mid next-year. I get to say “see you next year” at the end of the last episode, which I can’t usually.

Will this be your last season at Gordon Street (which is due to close, and where Shaun has filmed most of his shows)?

I think we’re here next year, one more season.


Stay tuned for our interview with Francis!

Shaun’s 2016 dance card

David McGahan dancingThanks to a number of announcements over the last few months, we now have a fairly good idea of where/what/how you can see Shaun right through until the end of 2016:

The Ex-PM
No doubt you’re already aware, but Shaun’s new sitcom is all wrapped up and ready to air on Wednesday October 14th on ABC. Expect to see (or more accurately, hear) Shaun on radio over the preceding week promoting it. The show will air over 6 weeks.

Shooting of the “Stairway to Heaven” specials
There will be three new Stairway to Heaven specials to air on SBS in 2016, so Shaun will spend time filming these over the following few months. He has already been spotted in Salt Lake City, so there’s a fair bet Mormonism will be one of the faith’s explored. [Update: he revealed to The Advertiser that the other two would be about Catholicism in Brazil and another about apocalyptic churches preaching The Rapture in the US.]

Mad As Hell – May 2016
The ABC have given the first part of next year to Charlie Pickering’s show, so Mad As Hell is likely to slot in after it (the reverse of what happened this year). Shaun has pretty much confirmed its return, so hopefully the sixth season will line up with an election announcement to add some additional gold…

MTC Production: The Odd Couple – November 2016
For the latter half of the year, Shaun will join Francis Greenslade on the Melbourne Theatre Company stage for “The Odd Couple”. Neil Simon’s classic comedy about divorced men living together has been adapted and performed in many guises, and might be, perversely, the world’s funniest play about marriage. Watch the video to see Shaun and Francis discuss working together:

Micallef Tonight… a guide

Micallef with axe on Micallef Tonight DVD coverIt’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…)

You can read the original review of the DVD, or still buy it (I think?), or use our sortable segment guide (or the original episode guide). See, your night’s entertainment is sorted!

Interview with Shaun on his 2015 projects

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.

Shaun in Stairway to HeavenWas that how the first one came about, was it their (Artemis’) suggestion to go to India and look at Buddhism?

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.

Shaun Micalled as "The Ex-PM"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.

Milo Kerrigan on TAYGIs it endearing that people still request Milo?

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.

More Stairways Confirmed

Shaun beside the River GangaShaun’s documentary “Stairway to Heaven: Gods, Gurus and the Ganges”, which aired on SBS last year before Christmas (and was repeated again last week – watch it online) is to become a series.

Artemis (the producers of the series) and SBS have secured funding for another three “Stairway to Heaven” specials, where Shaun will continue on his “quest for the meaning of life, as he immerses himself in the lives of people whose strong beliefs lead them to take extreme measures.”

No word yet on which religions he will immerse in, but we expect the specials will be shot later this year to air in 2016.

This wasn’t entirely unexpected, as Shaun indicated to David Dale of SMH late last year:


The Tribal Mind: Many viewers will be surprised to see you in this, because they’d assume you’re a sceptic, from the way you mock the politicians in Mad As Hell.

Shaun Micallef: It’s something I’m really interested in, which is people’s unquestioning commitment to faith. There are people who have that, and I don’t have that, and I find it a very enviable thing. The premise of what we hope will be a series was to just go off and immerse myself in these communities – seminaries, monasteries, wide open spaces in India – and meet these people and just see what it is that makes them so certain, to go in with an open mind, to not be cynical or even sceptical, to be genuinely curious and just observe.

The difficult thing for me was getting rid of the feeling that I needed to make jokes all the time. If there was going to be any humour there, I should let it occur naturally. It’s got nothing to do with comedy, it’s about life.

TM: I understand you thought about being a priest when you were a teenager. Are you still a Catholic?

SM: Yes, we still celebrate the feast days, we’ve brought our children up in the Catholic Church. If it’s all up to me, I’m in big trouble. There’s got to be some grand architect.

TM: Did the experience of making Stairway To Heaven transform you?

SM: Maybe it didn’t change me, but it gently moved me to look in a different direction. If I’d sorted it all out in one documentary, there wouldn’t be any reason to do another one. I haven’t quite got the answer to the meaning of life yet, but it’s not a bad objective for a TV series.

TM: So if it becomes a series, we can follow your trajectory …

SM: Until I’m a pure beam of energy.

Danger, Danger!

Since it first premiered in 2012, Danger 5 has become a bit of a cult classic – a 60’s style spy series anachronistically set during World War II, with a team of agents from across the globe working together to stop the Nazis and kill Hitler. The show is a pastiche of dubbed Japanese adventure dramas, such as Monkey, and spy series, such as Thunderbirds (with a dash of Get Smart). You can watch the prequel episode on YouTube.

Shaun was a big fan of the first series calling it “the funniest thing I’d seen in 10 years on TV”, even writing to the creators to express his enjoyment. So when series 2 was commissioned, the team jumped at the opportunity to get Shaun involved. This time, it’s the 80’s, and Hitler is back for vengeance. Shaun will play dual roles as a school teacher and a bald-headed Nazi, and will appear in more than one episode.

Season 2 of Danger 5 starts on SBS2 on January 4th at 9:30pm.