The most surprising thing about At Home With Julia is just how restrained it was. With the character of ‘Julia Gillard’ spinning out of the mostly-awful sketch comedy show Double Take, followed by the in-character shambles that was yesterdays Radio National cross-promotional effort, my greatest fear was that Julia would be played extremely broadly, even if her surrounds were more understated. To the shows benefit, Amanda Bishop delivered Julia with an exceedingly high level of grace and humanity.
Anyone going in to At Home With Julia after biting political satire at the level of something like The Thick Of It will be sorely disappointed by this. At Home With Julia is not a political comedy. It’s a sly and warm-hearted comedy exploring the humanity that exists within the identities of the political arena. At the centre of the series are Julia Gillard and her partner Tim Mathieson. They’re portrayed as an everyday Australian couple dealing with the fact that Julia has a much more important and high-profile professional life. Tim is desperate to find some time with his partner, who happens to work very long hours. Meanwhile, Julia does what she can to make her partner feel special, knowing full well that she is disappointing him regularly. They’re relatable characters with considerable heart.
The little character quirks in the series is what sold me on the show. I appreciated the variations on pet names that Julia had for Tim (Mr T, Tea Cup, and TV were my favourites), the little flirty jokes that Julia made with Tim when they’re alone, and Rob Oakeshott quoting his favourite movie ‘Apollo 13’. It all went a long way to painting the reality of these characters.
Ultimately, At Home With Julia is as slight and inconsequential as an episode of Mad About You. Sure, it has the added weight of being a parody (of sorts) of a sitting Prime Minister, but it rarely lets the reality of the Prime Minister impact upon the relationships that exist at the heart of the show.
The show is wry, funny, and filled with humanity. I was won over entirely by the end of the half-hour. With just a short four episode run, hopefully the real Prime Minister stays in power long enough for At Home With Julia to see it through to the end.
At Home With Julia airs on ABC1 on Wednesday nights at 9pm. It is also available on iView.