Office sitcom done right

December 10, 2023

An old-school sitcom with gritty punchlines that will hit home

Office sitcom done right


o-created by Kitty Flanagan and Vincent Sheehan, Fisk is an Australian situational comedy show broadcast on ABC Television that places a great deal of emphasis on getting laughs out of people.

Helen Tudor-Fisk, portrayed by Kitty Flanagan, was once a thriving contract lawyer in a high-end Sydney law firm. However, her life took an unexpected turn when she became entangled in a personal crisis, finding herself chucked out from the sophisticated legal circles. It has been downhill for Helen after her husband left her to be with an older woman, torpedoing both her personal life and professional career.

Helen has made a bold decision to return to her roots in Melbourne. However, the move is anything but smooth as she grapples with the chaos that has become her life. Struggling to regain stability, she finds herself residing in an Airbnb rental, adding another layer of complexity to her already tumultuous situation.

With a conspicuous lack of both people skills and a keen fashion sense, Helen faces the daunting prospect of job hunting. She will take anything. Ideally, she wants a job that requires minimal interaction with clients, allowing her to fly under the radar, sparing her from answering probing questions regarding her recent setbacks.

She is referred to a suburban estate law firm called Gruber & Gruber where she is advised to ditch her usual brown baggy suits. She complies and wears a new, vibrant yellow suit to her interview. She is still ridiculed for her choice. Nonetheless, Partner Ray Gruber, essayed by Marty Sheargold, hires her, largely because she is the daughter of a former Supreme Court judge.

Ray does not seem to be bothered by her lack of a reference. According to Helen, the agency failed to send one. He is more focused on her age. Apparently, their clients, struggling with grief, prefer interacting with older women. Ray believes that Helen, whom he estimates to be 55 (though she is actually 47), is an ideal fit for the position.

Ray’s solicitor sister Roz, played by Julia Zemiro, who sports an extremely intimidating hairdo, is not so sure about Helen. However, her suspension and the potential of being disbarred restrict her effectiveness. She cannot do much besides lurking around in the office as an office manager. Helen’s role at the firm is to fill in for Roz.

Like all great comedies, Fisk is a series that gives back what one puts into it, demanding one’s full attention from start to end due to its sharp and witty writing. 

Another character in the office is George, a receptionist essayed by Alan Chen. He humorously refers to himself as the ‘webmaster’ because he is responsible for managing the firm’s website. He clearly enjoys using terms that have been obsolete for two decades at least.

Fisk is an old-school sitcom. One can tell that at first glance, which extends beyond Helen’s identical brown pantsuits. The visuals enhance the narrative and humour, with basic settings like an office, a café, and Helen’s temporary Airbnb home portrayed in a straightforward manner that complements the comic elements.

Into the bargain, the series features real comedians. Many guest stars make cameo appearances in the first series. They include Glenn Robbins, Marg Downey, Ed Kavalee, Glenn Ridge, Sam Pang, Colette Mann and Dave O’Neil. In addition to the workplace comedy that takes place within the Gruber & Gruber office, Helen’s family delivers ample comedy material, particularly, her Supreme Court judge father Anthony Fisk, portrayed by John Gaden, and his assertive partner Viktor, brought to life by Glenn Butcher.

As Helen adjusts to her new situation, an uncharted territory, and tries to put her life together, viewers are taken on a humorous and relatable journey. She is not so fond of people, and this is obvious in most of her interactions with clients, office colleagues, even her family but she still manages to connect with her clients and come up with clever solutions to their problems.

Initially, a lot of the laughs in the show come from Helen trying to figure out her new circumstances. But it is not a mean-spirited show. As it goes on, much of the comedy comes from people unintentionally causing confusion rather than intentionally working against each other.

Throughout Fisk, Flanagan and her sister and co-writer, Penny Flanagan, explore themes like ageism, sexism and various social issues that don’t neatly fit into categories ending in ‘ism.’ In one scene, Helen is barred from a cafe for speaking too loudly. A young staff member points out that her “…vibe is really loud.”

This Australian sitcom may not be edgy or glamorous, but it’s still enjoyable for the fun it offers with its cast. Like all great comedies, Fisk is a series that gives back what one puts into it. It demands one’s full attention from start to end due to its sharp and quick-witted writing. If one is not paying attention, they might miss out on the joke.

The author is a freelance contributor

Office sitcom done right