The Other Guy review – a half-baked comedy not even Matt Okine can save

Stan’s latest original offering flaunts a flavourless and unimaginative script that fails to capitalise on the natural charisma of its talented star

Likability can be an important factor for the lead of a sitcom. Though not, as Stan’s new six-part comedy series The Other Guy painfully demonstrates, a panacea for bad writing and wishy-washy direction.

This immature, rinky-dink, flavourless and unimaginative program fails to capitalise on the natural charisma of its talented star and co-writer, Matt Okine. It was inspired by semi-autobiographical material that formed the comedian and radio personality’s one-man standup show of the same name, forged in the aftermath of a painful breakup.

The series signifies a substantial drop in quality from the giddy, enjoyable banality of the streaming provider’s other original comedy – the cops-and-criminals gabfest No Activity. Like No Activity, The Other Guy takes the Seinfeldian show-about-nothing ethos seriously, the first episode following protagonist AJ (Okine) as he carries on about whether he or his one-night-stand peed the bed.

It is another show that fails to grasp the irony at the heart of Seinfeld: that all the pettiness and small talk was a means to say something about the human condition: the follies, absurdities and incongruities we cook up to dull the sting of mortality. Also, Seinfeld was funny.

Directed by Kacie Anning, whose experience is primarily in sketch comedy programs You’re Skitting Me and Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am, The Other Guy is more likely to make one snigger condescendingly than make one laugh. AJ, not unlike Okine, is a loose-lipped radio personality with a freewheeling, rolling-in-first-world-minutiae style, coming across as friendly and even endearing. The sort of guy you might want to have a drink and a chinwag with.

The Other Guy
The Other Guy: the show’s dialogue is not so much half-baked as virtually unprepared. Photograph: Stan

But the show’s dialogue is not so much half-baked as virtually unprepared, like discarded bits from improv class or amateur theatre. Take the following example: when AJ’s colleague at Fade FM, Sam (Michael Hing) reads out hate mail directed towards him, a hungover, Gatorade-sipping AJ responds: “Fuck that guy. Hundred bucks says he hasn’t even had fingers in before.”

What kind of line is that? Is this guy 31, or 16? Do adults actually speak like this? Is it a Louie-esque attempt at warts-and-all, broken-down, self-flagellating humour? Which bit is the funny bit?

The dialogue from other characters doesn’t necessarily fare any better. In one scene Christiaan Van Vuuren, playing Dezzy the drug dealer, delivers a boneheaded monologue about a “little grom” at a club who, “seven pingers deep”, chews a glowstick that explodes, so the “poor cunt” goes to hospital. Again the question beckons: which bit is the funny bit?

Another, almost unbearably awkward scene takes place in a mattress shop, with AJ and best buddy Stevie (Harriet Dyer) conversing with a staff member about a sofa bed. The man tells them: “It’s just like a bed, but for four or five people you’re gonna need a mattress, if you two are into that kind of thing. In which case, I knock off at five.”

The Other Guy
Which bit is the funny bit? Christiaan Van Vuuren as Derek and Harriet Dyer as Stevie in The Other Guy. Photograph: Stan

It’s a simple exchange, but the scene feels terribly improbable and ham-handed. And it gets worse. Stevie suddenly and unexpectedly bursts into a song about what would happen if she and AJ moved in together. The lyrics go like this: “On it, on it, 24 sevs we’re on it / Livin’ in heavs, we’re on it / Drinking the bevs, we’re on it / Chicken kievs, on it!”

The producers should have known that the scripts for The Other Guy were not ready before expecting anybody – even performers as talented as Dyer, Van Vuuren and Okine – to deliver dialogue like this anywhere in the vicinity of a working video camera. This speaks to a larger issue within the Australian television industry, which often skimps on development time and asks its writers to do too much, too quickly.

Without knowing the backstory, I am assuming this is what happened with The Other Guy: that without an experienced hand in the writing or directing departments to guide them, the cast and crew were put in high-pressure, quick-turnaround situations, doing the best they could with limited resources. Therefore: one star for each of the first two episodes, which form the extent of this review.

The Other Guy is available to stream now on Stan

Contributor

Luke Buckmaster

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Matt Okine and Harriet Dyer on drinking, drugs and diversity on TV
The stars of Stan’s newest comedy The Other Guy talk about substance use, relationship faux pas and why their show is an accurate representation of life

Steph Harmon

18, Aug, 2017 @11:01 PM

Article image
From Atlanta to Wellington Paranormal: 10 binge-worthy TV shows recommended by you
We gave you our picks to watch on long lockdown evenings. Now it’s your turn. Here are Guardian readers’ favourite series

Guardian readers

10, Jul, 2021 @8:00 PM

Article image
From Black Comedy to The Bodyguard: what to stream on Australian TV in September
Plus classic Tom Cruise films, art-world satire, French love stories and a new season of Ozark are all coming to Australian streaming services

Lauren Carroll Harris

31, Aug, 2018 @5:19 AM

Article image
Heartbreak High, Rings of Power, Blonde: what’s new to streaming in Australia this September
Plus a starry drama about the Bali bombings, new Rick and Morty and Kenneth Branagh as Boris Johnson

Luke Buckmaster

04, Sep, 2022 @5:30 PM

Article image
The Commons review – eerily plausible and uncomfortably timely climate crisis drama
Stan’s most expensive show so far envisions how Australia will change as a consequence of global heating, and the results make you stop and wonder

Luke Buckmaster

25, Dec, 2019 @7:00 PM

Article image
Episodes: Matt LeBlanc plays himself in a gleeful skewering of the Hollywood machine
Not quite pure parody, this meta comedy series pulls back the curtains on television and fame

Amal Awad

26, May, 2020 @2:05 AM

Article image
From Toy Story 4 to The Australian Dream: what's streaming in Australia in February
Plus Netflix’s new haunted house saga, a Chilean story of grief and identity, and Al Pacino as a vigilante Nazi hunter

Luke Buckmaster

31, Jan, 2020 @5:00 AM

Article image
Tenet, Jack Irish and The Unusual Suspects: what’s streaming in Australia in June
Plus an underrated Australian time-travel romcom, a crew of New York skater girls and a classic Bob Dylan biopic

Luke Buckmaster

31, May, 2021 @5:30 PM

Article image
From Jungle Cruise to The Tomorrow War: what’s new to streaming in Australia in July
Plus Indigenous superheroes, inventive 60s cinema and the TV version of Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill

Luke Buckmaster

05, Jul, 2021 @11:25 PM

Article image
Jacki Weaver on being forever young: 'I’m 71, I still get offered roles for women in their 50s'
As Bloom – a TV drama about getting a second chance at youth – launches on Stan, the Australian actor reflects on her decades in the industry

Luke Buckmaster

31, Dec, 2018 @2:15 AM