Dave Eastgate, Lawrence Leung and Stephanie Son in Maximum Choppage.

Head of ABC TV comedy Rick Kalowski has commissioned a stand-alone pilot, a prototype he intends to test for further pilots, and he’s developing a sitcom to be filmed in front of a studio audience.

In a further break from the traditional approach to comedy, Kalowski is developing several shows that are each built around an established performer-writer. All that is in addition to eight series which are either in production or post.

The stand-alone pilot deals with an unusual subject- mental illness. Details of that sitcom are under wraps but Kowalski tells IF he’s looking for other projects that are suitable material for pilots.

The studio-based comedy could be the ABC’s first since Mother and Son, the Geoffrey Atherden-created classic which ran until 1994. The show is being developed with writer – producer Marieke Hardy and would involve a team of writers led by Marieke. Kowalski describes it as a “contemporary workplace comedy, with a twist.”

Also in the pipeline are two WW1 comedies to air next year during the 100-year anniversary of Gallipoli, which he hails as “out-of –the- box.” Two of the shows being developed with the writer-performers are romantic comedies.

Appointed head of comedy last September, Kalowski previously was creative director at Quail Television, where he created and produced Wednesday Night Fever and co-created/wrote/produced At Home with Julia, both for ABC1.

The shows shooting in Melbourne include the second series of Gristmill Productions’ Upper Middle Bogan and It’s a Date, from Princess Pictures and creator Peter Helliar, with Lachy Hulme, Rhys Darby, Tasma Walton, Rove McManus, Shaun Micallef, Deborah Mailman, Kat Stewart, Phil Lloyd, Craig McLachlan, Vince Colosimo, Eddie Perfect. Sam Simmons, Jimeoin, Susie Porter, Joel Creasey and Magda Szubanski joining regulars Lisa McCune, Lawrence Mooney, Dan Wyllie, Ronnie Chieng, Celia Pacquola, Jess Harris and Emily Taheny.

Soul Mates is a six-part “bromance” about two buddies continually drawn across the course of human history and into the future, created by the Bondi Hipsters, aka brothers Christiaan and Connor Van Vuuren and Nick Boshier, for ABC2.

Among the shows in post are Maximum Choppage, Matchbox Pictures' Kung Fu comedy series about three unlikely heroes in Sydney's western suburbs who learn martial arts to save their favourite comic bookstore, also for ABC2; and Noirhouse, 6×5 minute episodes about a hard-boiled detective (Nathan Spencer), a sultry femme-fatale (Melanie Irons) and a sentimental Russian thug (Mick Davies) who share a house in present day suburbia.

Noirhouse will premiere on ABC iview, which commissioned the show and the original 3×5 minute eps, produced by Latitude Films in partnership with Sky Machine. Kalowski hopes to screen the series on either ABC1 or ABC2.

The executive loves what he’s seen of Utopia, a satirical comedy set in a mythical government agency, produced by Working Dog’s Santo Cilauro, Rob Sitch, Jane Kennedy, Tom Gleisner and Michael Hirsh. The cast includes Sitch (who also directs), Celia Pacquola, Dave Lawson, Luke McGregor, Kitty Flanagan, Anthony ‘Lehmo’ Lehmann, Emma-Louise Wilson and Michelle Lim Davidson. “It’s hauntingly accurate for anyone who has ever worked in a large organisation,” he says.

Josh Thomas is wrapping the second season of Please Like Me, co-financed by the US cable network Pivot, which bought the first series.

Kalowski is quick to defend Princess Pictures and Chris Lilley’s Jonah from Tonga, whose overnight ratings were well below that of Lilley’s previous efforts. He points out there were 600,000 views of the series when it premiered on iview, which inevitably affected the broadcast audience, and after that the first two episodes had 875,000 views on iview.

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