REVIEW: “At Home With Julia”, ABC TV Episode 1 “Date Night” 7 September 2011

Bishop and Lloyd

About the Series

“This four-part comedy series takes viewers into the life of PM Julia Gillard and boyfriend Tim Mathieson, behind the closed doors of The Lodge.

How do Julia and Tim find ‘couple time’ amid Independents crashing Date Night, Julia’s security detail constantly suspecting terrorist plots against her, and non-stop unsolicited advice from Paul Keating? Find out when At Home With Julia premieres on ABC1 on Wednesday 7 September at 9.30pm.” excerpt from the ABC series website

Hmmm, what can I say except “oh dear ABC!”  I had looked forward to seeing this show to see what it might offer in terms of an impression of the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.  At this point I must point out that I neither like or dislike Julia Gillard and certainly have no opinion on her partner, Tim Mathieson except to say that I hope that they are both very happy in their relationship.   A relationship played out in public like many other public and political figures but with a few marked differences that I think should be noted and, admired.

Firstly, like it or not Julia Gillard is our first Australian female Prime Minister – I don’t really care which party she represents,  I think that this alone is something we can admire and respect.  Secondly, she is our first unmarried Prime Minister of any gender, something that is unusual and not often found in a leader of any country.  If you look at the Hugh Grant movie Love Actually (2003), you will see that the movie played on the notion that Grant’s Prime Minister character was unusual for being a young

Hugh Grant

attractive unmarried man.  Of course this situation then turned into a love story with a happy ever after ending and the film used the differences of Hugh Grant’s character to create comedy, and what was delivered was a warm, funny and easy to watch film.

“At Home With Julia” can’t be compared to a film of such note, but the differences in the relationship between Julia and Tim that could have given rise to many comedic situations that were funny. The Gillard/ Mathieson relationship is vastly different to what we usually see in politics; ie:  man is the leader, female is the quiet stay at home supporter and mother, so already there must be story lines here.  Whilst this “norm” has changed vastly in the last couple of decades and there are other female leaders, there are plenty of female partners of leaders who are strong independent women in their own right, so why play Gillard’s partner as a weak, slightly frustrated partner of our leader.  If he is really a quiet, unassuming man who supports his partner, then surely that is great,  great for Julia and great to know we have someone supporting our Leader on the home front, we don’t need to promote a culture of put down to recognise a funny situation.  Why not have a scene with him trying to do Julia’s hair in the morning while she is talking to Barrack Obama or seeing how he responds to Julia’s constant touching of people when she does her “walk arounds”?

So why in 2011, does “At Home With Julia” need to paint Tim Mathieson with the old stereotype?  Strong women must have a weak partner, strong women must only have men that can’t really be “real men”?  This was the way that Margaret Thatcher’s husband was often painted by the media but it wasn’t true.  Even if it was, so?  There are plenty of male leaders now and in the past that have had gentle natured women at home and nobody ever felt the need to poke fun at them.  Janet Howard is a fine example of a gracious women, quietly supporting her husband and getting on with life, no doubt with an enormous inner strength that John Howard may have drawn on from time to time.  None of that meant that Janet Howard was weak and insipard whilst in the Lodge.  So what if the real Tim is a gentle hairdresser supporting his partner?  More power to both of them.  I am sure that the writers could have come up with a better storyline for Tim than being laughed at by the young boys outside the Lodge.  Is this a view of the Australian public or one being peddled by the writers of the show masquerading as comedy?  I think that it is about time we grew up as a nation and stop being such “knockers”.

Whilst the portrayal of Tim as a down trodden male is annoying, it is an easy performance to watch.  What I really take issue with is Amanda Bishop’s portrayed of Julia Gillard’s voice!  Sure Julia is droll and speaks very deliberately, often sounding like a three-second pause is between each word, but she doesn’t sound like she is a decrepid woman of ninety!  I didn’t find anything funny about this unless the shear grating annoyance of the sound was meant to echo Julia’s impact on her listeners?  That being said, Bishop looks the part, moves like Julia and seems to have many of Gillards characteristics well understood. Bishop portrayed Gillard as as laughable, shallow and annoying and maybe this is where some will find the humour.  I found it more humorous than funny, poor Tim trying to get some attention by picking up a magazine with him and Julia on the cover at the supermarket, ever hopeful that the checkout operator will notice him.  He doesn’t strike me as someone so insecure in real life, but perhaps the writers know something that I don’t?

Phil Lloyd’s Tim was easy to watch, but funny,  I’m not sure unless your brand of funny is one that laughs when others are put down, it’s not mine.  It just seems like the same old comedy couple stereotype played out again:  I would have thought this “strong women equals weak partner at home” stuff would have gone out with “I Love Lucy, but maybe not?

Did I hear Julia (Bishop) utter the words, “fair crack of the whip”?  Funny or embarrassing, I’m not sure which, but I loved Julia in her dressing gown and the scene with Katter and Oakshot in the Prime Ministers loungeroom.  Did I miss someone?  Oh I had switched off by then.

With so many funny things about the real Julia Gillard so oblivious to us all, I was disappointed to see the same old strong female stereotype in this show, and considering so many women are involved in the production, this is truly saddening.

At Home With Julia is a Quail Television production for ABC1.
ABC Executive Producer – Debbie Lee
Quail TV Executive Producers – Rick Kalowski and Greg Quail
Writers – Amanda Bishop, Rick Kalowski and Phil Lloyd
Director – Erin White
Series Producer – Carol Hughes
ALP legal counsel – Mr Anton Denby SC

Help me out those of you who are “real” commentators of comedy – what genre of comedy was this?  political commentary, satire, situational?  Did it live up to its type?  Love to hear comments.


Additional commentary;

It is no one’s business what a woman does at home

Larissa Behrendt

September 24, 2011

Read more:


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