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Triple Oh!, SBS On Demand review: wryly funny adventures

The episodes in this new Australian show are short and punchy – and when the jokes appear they're worth the wait.
Actress Tahlee Fereday as character Cate, a woman with brunette hair wearing a paramedic's uniform.

There’s a bit of a weird vibe going on between ambulance paramedics Tayls (Brooke Satchwell) and Cate (Tahlee Fereday). Tayls is Cate’s mentor, an experienced old hand who’s been around the block more than once. Cate is just passing through, with her sights on med school and eventually becoming a doctor. Tayls also has a policy: every time a patient dies, she has to have sex. And last night, someone’s misfortune became Cate’s good fortune.

At five episodes, none longer than ten minutes, Triple Oh! is SBS’s latest stab at short-form comedy. Each episode is built around an emergency call out, and while there’s a certain level of realism going on here, if you’re expecting a grim litany of medical emergencies this is not the comedy for you.

Yes, someone does get something stuck somewhere it doesn’t belong. There’s also a dope-smoking granny who wants one last good time before she goes, a partygoer not sure whether his legs are numb because of a car accident or too-tight jeans, and a couple who just can’t figure out how to avoid smashing each other in the face during sex.

Brooke Satchwell in Triple Oh!. image: Sirius Pictures.

There’s also a nicely handled seam of character comedy with the two leads. While the pair are definitely something of an odd couple, there’s decent chemistry there – though it’s constantly being disrupted both by Tayls ‘seen it all’ attitude and Cate’s unexpected rise to social media stardom as the #smokinghotsiren after a photo taken of her during a rescue goes viral.

Read: SBS On Demand: new shows and films streaming February 2024

It’s smartly written (by Erica Harrison) and engagingly directed (by Poppy Stockwell), but perhaps its most obvious strength is that there’s a lot packed into each episode. There’s the ongoing – sometimes charming, sometimes awkward – relationship between Tayls and Cate, plus the medical emergency that sometimes turns out to be a real emergency, plus some deftly sketched supporting characters (the angsty firefighters were a personal favourite). Not bad for seven-to-eight minutes.

Brevity

The brevity works well for the central relationship, which is never quite plausible as some kind of big love affair but definitely makes sense as a couple of people who are into each other hooking up after work. Satchwell and Fereday are both spot-on in their respective roles and have a good comedy vibe; it’s actually fun watching them together, which isn’t something you can say about every local on-screen pairing of recent years.

The fast pace also helps the comedy side of things, because this is (yet again) an Australian comedy where ‘comedy’ really means ‘a drama that happens to be built around a comedic idea’. Here it works, because each episode’s concept only sticks around a few minutes. We’ve all seen enough half-baked half-hour dramedies to know this approach rarely benefits from a longer run time.

That said, the jokes that do make an appearance are usually worth the wait. You can’t have someone with something stuck up their butt without someone else making some snarky comments, and Satchwell does get to make a very weird sound as part of a ‘guess what medical situation this noise is from’ contest.

Shabana Azeez in Triple Oh!. Image: Sirius Pictures/ Georgia Blake.

But most of the time the comedy comes from concepts like someone getting a broken nose during sex or a dope-smoking granny who’s annoyed she was resuscitated. There’s not really the time to explore the comedic potential of the ideas beyond that; this is basically a realistic drama about people in silly situations, not the kind of comedy that’s a firehose of gags.

Triple Oh! isn’t trying to be anything more than a fun collection of wryly funny adventures starring a pair of characters who’d probably wear out their welcome if this was turned into a full-length series. It fits the format perfectly, and works in a way that many longer series can only envy. At under 50 minutes to watch the whole thing, what have you got to lose?

Triple Oh! is available on SBS On Demand now.

Anthony Morris is a freelance film and television writer. He’s been a regular contributor to The Big Issue, Empire Magazine, Junkee, Broadsheet, The Wheeler Centre and Forte Magazine, where he’s currently the film editor. Other publications he’s contributed to include Vice, The Vine, Kill Your Darlings (where he was their online film columnist), The Lifted Brow, Urban Walkabout and Spook Magazine. He’s the co-author of hit romantic comedy novel The Hot Guy, and he’s also written some short stories he’d rather you didn’t mention. You can follow him on Twitter @morrbeat and read some of his reviews on the blog It’s Better in the Dark.