I don’t know about you but I threw my handbag in the river in the late 90s when I became an official friend-of-Gertrude. Ellen de Generes came out on Channel Four and I followed soon after. Then, in May 2002, the first season of Kath and Kim premiered in Australia and while I didn’t see it at the time, I was introduced to it a few years later. If you’ve not laid eyes on this sitcom from Down Under you’re in for a treat. A tour de force of Aussie humour with echoes of Regency drama in the wonderful Malapropisms that litter the script (“what pacifically does that entail?”, “I’ll accept excrements of fifty” and my favourite “we’re having abducted heating installed”) our two eponymous ladies will have you in stitches.
Kath, Kim’s mother, is a foxy camp-as-Christmas lady with a lust for life and a mid-life sexual passion rekindled by her new beau Kel, a purveyor of fine meats and a metrosexual from way back. After Kath’s initial shock at Kel’s gay blade Navy shenanigans she begins to embrace the concept of sexual fluidity. Kim, the hapless hornbag of a daughter keeps leaving her husband, and on one sojourn from the martial unit Kath thinks Kim is a lesbian – well, I mean, what else would she be if she’s swearing off men? The “Gay” episode, in season one is pure gold. Kath has a mini-meltdown as the realisation hits her, visiting queer book shops in Melbourne (she is a top speed reader and is well-versed in all things gay by the morning). The inevitable mother-daughter pow-wow ensues where Kim reveals she’s not gay at all – even though Kath has misinterpreted overheard dialogue between Kim and her best friend Sharon while they discuss strapping on (a pair of shoes). Kath can’t disguise the let-down at her daughter’s heteronormativity: “I was looking forward to being on the supportive parents’ float at Mardi Gras,” she says, but being Kath she’s over it in a nanosecond.
There’s only one gay character in Kath and Kim, and a peripheral one at that, but I would still assert that the show has a queer sensibility. Plus, it’s hilarious with so many cameos from famous faces that you’ll lose count. Times are hard, watch some Kath and Kim and have yourself a good laugh.