It will be the first new major Australian show to explicitly take on life in quarantine, although producers are moving fast with Netflix announcing this week that Jenji Kohan, the creator of Orange Is the New Black, is making a series called Social Distance.
Martin, best known for hosting news and current affairs programs such as Four Corners and 60 Minutes, said his job was to cross to his co-stars, who were playing specialists in their fields similar to the presenters on lifestyle programs such as Seven’s Better Homes and Gardens and Ten’s The Living Room.
“In my 50-plus years of journalism I’ve always said don’t try to be funny,” Martin said. “But that’s part of the fun. They’ve asked me to do it because … it’s funny to see me in a situation that’s kind of ludicrous. I like pushing the envelope.
“I think we always need a laugh and that’s the thing missing from television [right now]. We’re not laughing at death, we’re laughing at the isolation and the really surreal situations we find ourselves in.”
Martin said he was first contacted by producers four weeks ago and that the program had an unusually fast turnaround.
“Normally with with TV programs the gestation period is a year,” he said. “But it had to be done and it had to be done quickly. Where we’ll be in eight weeks time when this program finishes will be interesting.”
At Home Alone Together has received Screen Australia funding to help cover production costs. The ABC’s head of entertainment, Josie Mason-Campbell, said the show would help audiences and performers through what has been a difficult few weeks.
“We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the comedy industry into crisis,” Mason-Campbell said. “So as well as making a great show that will encourage Australians to do what they do best in a crisis – laugh – the ABC also wants to support the writers, performers, producers and technicians who are the life blood our of industry.
“We’ll commission ideas from teams across the country who will write, produce, edit and deliver sketches and bring them to a mass audience. It’s no mean feat to go from concept to screen so quickly. At Home Alone Together is an extraordinary project for this unprecedented time.”
At Home Alone Together will debut at 9pm on Wednesday, May 13 on the ABC’s main channel and ABC iView.
Broede Carmody is a culture reporter at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald