It was with some anticipation that I awaited the ABC’s announcement of their 2012 line-up. While my brother-from-another-mother Dan Barrett of White Noise has an excellent view of some of the highlights, I thought it might benefit the comedy lovers out there amongst us to have a bit of a look at there year that is ahead of us.

The ABC has some big shoes to fill coming in 2012. There’s going to be a gaping hole in our hearts and minds left by Spicks and Specks, which wound up a successful ten year run with a classy 1.6 million viewers. Interestingly, the ABC marketing department have decided to class some shows that might blur the line between entertainment and comedy as ‘entertainment’. Just a note though, that just because these shows are announced, it doesn’t mean that they’ll make it to the screen. There’s precedence for that.

In addition to these, there’s reference to a return of Gruen (the form isn’t specified), and Adam Hills in Gordon St Tonight. What’s missing from the line-up? There’s no mention of The Chasers in there (although Chas Licciardello will be part of ABC24 show Planet America), but perhaps that will come later. The Hamster Wheel wasn’t on the 2011 line-up. Series 2 of Laid was also confirmed on Marieke Hardy’s twitter account, but there’s no mention of that here.

Before we get started though, I think the ABC needs to be given a round of applause for supporting local comedy – there’s some great Australian comedians to look forward to on our screens, and it’s interesting to compare what the ABC has announced compared to the ‘home of comedy’ channel 9, who besides sending Hamish and Andy overseas again (they somehow found their way back…) have a comedy line-up of nothing but imports.

There’s many familiar faces in the ABC line-up, but enough new people to keep it unpredictable. But please ABC, Andrew McClelland and Simon Taylor need some screentime. Make it happen, and thank me later.

UPDATE: Outland, Woodley, and Adam Hills in Gordon St Tonight will be on the ABC at the beginning of 2012 – no real surprise there. This Christmas and Please Like Me are ‘still a way off’.

For the last decade, TV has specialised in game shows where the points mean nothing. Not anymore. From Jon Casimir and Andrew Denton, creators of The Gruen Transfer, comes RANDLING – a show where every point is fought over tooth and claw. Where viewers will be asked to pick a team and cheer them on as they tackle the Toughest Non-Sporting Competition In The Whole World.* Over 27 weeks, culminating in a grand final, ten teams of two (the names will surprise you) will slug it out on the greatest battleground of all: words. The tool which gives life meaning. The very thing that sets us apart from the animals.**

A fierce and funny half hour, RANDLING is whitewater rafting for the brain. Returning to TV after spending four years in a Laotian monasterycoming to terms with his failure to win the Gold Logie, host Andrew Denton promises only this: “We guarantee that every viewer will leave each episode of Randling at least 1.7% smarter and over 100% happier”. Zapruder’s Other Films in association with ABC TV.

First up, out of the ‘everything that Denton touches turns to gold’ department, is… Andrew Denton himself. A welcome return to television since he decided Enough Rope was in fact enough, Denton’s show sounds sneakily like QI with a bit of window dressing – not that there’s anything wrong with that. What I do find interesting is the whopping 27 episode order, right out of the gate. With six months on the screen, we’ll have plenty of time to decide whether we like Randling or not.

Confessional, illuminating, inappropriate, wrong! Welcome to AGONY UNCLES, a series where some of Australia’s funniest and wisest celebrity gents including Tim Ross, Waleed Aly, John Eliot, Brett Tucker, Josh Lawson and Lawrence Mooney, put their reputations on the line to tell you what it’s really like to be single, to cohabitate, marry, divorce and then be single again in the 21st century. Narrator Adam Zwar is also the uncles’ trusted confidant. They share with him the do’s and don’ts of picking-up, falling in love, getting your heart broken and losing a house. For male viewers, the Agony Uncles will guide you through the cycle of love and beyond, while ladies get the chance to hear firsthand what men really think about love and all that goes along with it. High Wire Films in association with ABC TV.

With the camera trained on some of Australia’s wisest and funniest women including Judith Lucy, Mirka Mora, Denise Scott, Sarah Wilson, Sam Lane and Julia Zemiro, these Agony Aunts will help men, as well as their fellow women, navigate the difficult terrain of the modern relationship. Narrator and confidant, Adam Zwar (Lowdown, Wilfred) will head further down the river in his hilarious search for answers on dating, cohabitation, marriage, divorce and getting back on the horse. Will he find the answers he seeks or return more confused than ever? That’s if he returns at all. AGONY AUNTS promises to be every bit as wrong, insightful, inappropriate, confessional, and funny as its brother, AGONY UNCLES. High Wire Films in association with ABC TV.

See what I mean about the line being blurred? I’m not entirely clear on what these shows are about, but I love the idea of them book-ending each other. There’s some great comedians in the line-up: the Crikey-award winning Lawrence Mooney, Judith Lucy (now spiritually awakened?), Denise Scott, and Julia Zemiro. The ABC also seem to be getting their money’s worth out of Waleed Aly’s contract.

COMEDY (6 x 30’)
Life is just kicking off for Josh. He’s living in a share house. He’s doing adult things like drinking wine and eating asparagus. And he’s heading rapidly – if reluctantly – towards his twenty-first birthday. But the events of one day throw his world spinning off its axis, and Josh is forced to move back into the family home to keep an eye on his divorced mother. Inspired by the award-winning stand-up comedy of Josh Thomas, PLEASE LIKE ME is a six- part series about growing up quickly, and about realising that your parents are not heroes, but dopes with no idea what’s going on – just like you. Written by and starring Josh Thomas. Produced by Todd Abbott (Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey). A Pigeon Fancier production in association with ABC TV.

Please like me? I don’t know, Josh… it sounds desperate just from the title. Josh Thomas has his fans, and no doubt ABC would like to attract and hold on to that demographic. A lot of this show sounds like the success lies with the supporting cast as well. It will be interesting to see who plays Josh’s parents.

COMEDY (6 x 30’)
From the creators of the AFI award-winning comedy Review with Myles Barlow comes THIS CHRISTMAS a narrative comedy series centred on the Moody family. Every Christmas, with 12 months passing between each episode, we visit the Moodys as they come together to share this universally celebrated holiday, stuffed full of all the fun, fights, bad gifts, boring uncles, overbearing in-laws, shocking family secrets and bizarre eccentricities that any family who has experienced the melting pot of Christmas Day will relate to. Because, while in theory Christmas is a time for family to share and celebrate, in practice it’s often a day spent with relatives you hardly know, where dirty laundry is aired, family rifts resurface, strangers are forced to act like family, and celebratory drinks can disintegrate into drunken rows – as often happens at the Moodys. Produced by Jungleboys FTV in association with ABC TV.

This sounds great, but I can find out little about it. One can assume that this festive-themed version of Groundhog Day will turn up towards the end of next year. No idea who will be in it, but the production company have worked with both The Chasers and Lawrence Leung on previous ABC shows… infer what you will.

COMEDY (6 x 30’)
In the closet, no one can hear you squeal. Starring Christine Anu, Adam Richard, Ben Gerrard, Paul Ireland and Toby Truslove, OUTLAND is a comedy series about the lives, loves, passions, and never-ending dramas of the members of a gay science fiction fan club. Orbiting around their shambolic meetings at each other’s apartments, this is a series about how you cope if you’re gay and a geek. Can science fiction save them all? Mostly it’s about belonging – no matter who you are – and how everyone searches to find a place to fit in. Created by John Richard and Adam Richards. Produced by Princess Pictures in association with ABC TV, Screen Australia and Film Victoria.

How long has this show been coming for? ABC first said it would air in 2010, and it finally entered production in November of that year. It was on the 2011 line-up as well, slated to start in February. A long time coming, it has the potential to insult the gay community and the science fiction community. Time will tell. Hopefully.

COMEDY (8 x 30’)
You had better change the pin number on your phone because the Sunday Sun’s star entertainment reporter Alex Burchill (Adam Zwar) is back in a second series of LOWDOWN. Driven by their editor (Kim Gyngell), Alex and his photographer mate, Bob (Paul Denny), continue to risk life, limb and moral compass to uncover the private misdoings of celebrities, and repackage them for public consumption. From exposing political sex scandals and violent actors, to outing gay sportsmen and setting up cheating TV-chefs, Alex knows he’s probably not contributing to a better society, but he hasn’t got time to worry about that now. The Sunday Sun’s circulation is in free-fall and the only thing that will save it is a story about a woman marrying her cat. Guest stars Matt Preston, Brett Tucker, Jess Harris, Colin Lane and Kimberley Davies. Produced by High Wire Films in association with ABC TV and Film Victoria.

I get the distinct impression that I’ve really missed out on something by not seeing the first season of this. Like Waleed Aly, the ABC are clearly getting their money out of Adam Zwar as well.

COMEDY (8 x 30’)
One of Australia’s most loved comedians, Frank Woodley stars in his own series as WOODLEY, the chaotic and accident-prone father of eight-year-old Ollie (Alexandra Cashmere). Recently divorced, his ex-wife Em (Justine Clarke) couldn’t live amongst the chaos, but Woodley secretly hopes that one day he’ll win her back, and there is nothing he won’t do to get his family together again. But with Em’s new boyfriend Greg (Tom Long) on the scene, it’s not going to be easy. Inspired by Frank’s silent film heroes, WOODLEY is an unashamedly romantic comedy filled with virtuosic physical mayhem. Produced by Bucket Tree Productions in association with ABC TV and Film Victoria.

Like Outland, this show’s been a long time coming. Woodley was on the 2011 line-up, but never eventuated. It sounds like some standard (good) Woodley material. It’s been such a long time coming I’d expect it sooner in the year rather than later.

COMEDY (10 x 30’)
One man, a desk, the world… Shaun Micallef returns to ABC TV in 2012 in a half-hour weekly round-up, branding, inoculation and crutching of all the important news stories in SHAUN MICALLEF IS MAD AS HELL. Presented by Australia’s second favourite comedian and his like-minded Think Tank of reporters and pundits, SHAUN MICALLEF IS MAD AS HELL offers not only reportage and analysis of the week’s events, but discussion, argument and dissection of what’s making the world turn every which way. produced by Granada Media and Micallef Productions in association with ABC TV.

I almost forgot about this one, and had to dig it out of my recycling bin – for some reason the ABC sent it out on a press release all by itself. I’m excited by the idea of this – can Shaun Micallef bring you something that sounds like the Daily Show with Jon Stewart? Damn right he can, as long as it doesn’t venture into Good News World territory. It’s interesting that both he and Josh Thomas will be on the ABC next year – I wonder what that means for Talkin’ Bout Your Generation.