TL;DR – It is a glorious, joyful symphony of comedic talent when it lands.
Disclosure – I watched this on the ABC iView service
Aunty Donna’s Coffee Café Review –
Back in 2020, the local absurdist Australian comedy troupe Aunty Donna who pioneered being a ‘Chuffed Dad’ and how to do a ‘Roll Call’ struck out from the local scene and made their way to Hollywood with Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun. Coming back to Australia, I was interested to see what they would do next, and the answer to that question seems to be opening a café in Melbourne.
So to set the scene, it is Stephanie’s (Gaby Seow) first day on the job at the new café in town called Morning Brown. But this café does not have just one boss. It has three. Broden (Broden Kelly) is a pretty cool f-ing boss. Zach (Zachary Ruane) is the more classic professional boss, and Mark (Mark Bonanno) is the goofy one around here. It feels like an average trendy, overpriced Melbourne café. However, unlike the rest of the cafés, they don’t have a hook. Every café has a hook. You need to find a hook, just as long as that hook is not heritage-listed wasps. Now from here, we will be looking at the series as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
Overall, I would say that this series probably gives the best understanding of how Aunty Donna works because when it is on fire, it is a sheer delight to behold. When it’s not, well, it is just a bit of fun to watch, and if the worse that you can be is just fun, well, then that is a pretty good starting point. It also gives the most precise definition of what Aunty Donna is. I have always referred to them as ‘absurdist’ or ‘experimental’, which are both true, but neither does a great job of encapsulating the complexities of their comedy. Thankfully this time around, we get a clear definition right from the horse’s mouth as they “use masculine archetypes to explore contemporary Australian culture through an absurdist lens”, which 100% tracks.
Probably the most significant shift in tone from the previous House of Fun is just how into the weeds of Australia they can get here. I doubt they would have been able to go on a long monologue about how you can fold the $5 note, obliterate the very streaming service they are on, or even get into some Deep, Deep cuts of Australian culture with Ready Steady Cook. Few comedy teams could do an extended tirade about the people on the Australian currency while also making clear why David Unaipon was not in a scene, which was both hilarious and also deeply considerate.
The whole series is permeated with these references, from Gardening Australia to Harrold Holt and all in between. Within this framework, we get the best episode of the season We Got Burgled!. This episode is where we get the best representation of the absurdist humour that the troupe is known for. There is a whole skit involving a singing Blueberry Burglar (Patrick Durnan Silva) and the mock trial that has been put together. The gang plays different roles while dissecting the many tropes around Australian legal shows. While this is happening, we cut to another scene where the crew did a bit about how recess, in a legal sense, is the same as recess at a school. But everyone left Mark behind, and now the school is wondering why a lone man in a barrister’s outfit is walking around. The tonal difference between these two scenes is so big I would have expected some profound whiplash. However, the commitment to the absurdity helps make everything click together in a way that is a delight to watch. And look, Rake (Richard Roxburgh) and Mouse (Matt Doran) help sells it.
However, while there were these peaks of glory during the six-episode season, not every scenario hit. I liked the addition of Stephanie (Gaby Seow) to the show, but it never felt that they were used as well as they could be. For me, whole scenarios like the everything-is-a-cake and the bucks party just never came together. Unfortunately, this makes some episodes fall a little flat when you compare them to their broader works.
In the end, do we recommend Aunty Donna’s Coffee Café? Yes, we would. Not every episode lands, but it is a glorious, joyful symphony of comedic talent when it shines. If nothing else, it perfectly sums up café culture in Australia.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Aunty Donna’s Coffee Café
Directed by – Max Miller
Written by – Zachary Ruane, Mark Bonanno, Broden Kelly, Same Lingham, Michelle Brasier, Vidya Rajan, Greg Larsen, Tony Martin & Steven Oliver
Production/Distribution Companies – Screen Australia, Vicscreen, Haven’t You Done Well Productions & ABC TV
Starring – Zachary Ruane, Mark Bonanno & Broden Kelly with Gaby Seow, Michelle Brasier, Vidya Rajan, Sally-Anne Upton, Mish Wittrup, Patrick Durnan Silva, Ben Russell, Joe Kosky, Gillian Cosgriff, Greg Larsen, Vincent Milesi, Lena Moon, Annie Lumsden, Ben Russell, Matt Doran, Richard Roxburgh, Nazeem Hussain, Pia Miranda, Melanie Bracewell, Tony Martin, Ross Stevenson, Shaun Micallef, Sammy J, Steven Oliver & Miranda Tapsell and Lawrence Leung, Xavier Michelides, Jack Shearer, Nicole Chapman, Fay Amdul, Michelle Cooper, Lawson Reeves, Deepak Ramteke, Lena Moon, Colwyn Buckland, Frankie McNair, Annie Louey, Jude Perl, John Marc Desegengano, Keith Brockett, Firdi Billimoria, Honor Wolff, Thomas Zahariou, David Carlton, Violet Jessup, Jaydon Japutra, Sam Pang, Mac Miller, Georgia Mappin, Xavier Michelides, Filip Lescaut, Frankie McNair, Honor Wolff, Mitch Fontaine & Lenny Soukseun
Episodes Covered – We Need Cool Customers, We Got Burgled!, We’re Open Til 5pm Today, We’re Closed (Didn’t Pay Rent), We’re Getting a Toilet Door & We Got a Bad Review