In its original guise, No Activity was a comedy cop series created in Australia with homegrown actors and a definitive Aussie logic and humour. Basically, a cop show about cops not doing much but sitting around and waiting for action to happen, hence the show’s title.
Its rights recently bought by CBS in the US, the series has now been remade but, according to creator and actor Patrick Brammall, the US producers have kept “the spine of the show true”. Indeed, despite the strong American twangs, the show has certainly held onto its ‘she’ll be right, mate’-like ethos.
This week, the US version of No Activity debuted on streaming network, Stan, and already the series is looking more popular than its original incarnation. The cast is small, but impressive, featuring the comedic likes of Will Ferrell (also a co-producer) and the ever-so-brilliant Amy Sedaris of Strangers With Candy fame.
There are the two generic detectives on the beat; two undercover cops dressed like drug dealers/users; a couple of officers keeping a tab on things at base; and a bored-out-of-his-mind security guard who eventually starts to see things.
With a premise like this, content then becomes the big challenge, especially in scenes where the workers aren’t so much working but just waiting for something to happen. But the writers of No Activity do a superb job in filling those otherwise blank moments, with conversations between the officers ranging from the utterly trivial to the brilliantly profound. Often, conversations are so out-there, you’re left scratching your head with what you’ve just heard. It’s as though the makers of the show have taken a leaf from Quentin Tarantino’s book of ‘How to Turn Everyday Mundanity into Something Utterly Unreal’ (more specifically, I refer to the scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson’s small talk about cheeseburgers ultimately comes across as something altogether bigger).
For writers to get it right in a show like this, the dialogue has got to be original yet relatable, easy for viewers to wrap their heads around yet not patronising. And they do get it right. Spot-on, in fact.
Each episode of No Activity seen so far is very, very funny, and from start to finish. Not necessarily laugh-out-loud funny, but you will certainly a feel a slight pain in your jaw from a constant smirk over the 20 or so minutes per episode.
American remakes of Australian television series don’t always go right. Cases in point: Kath & Kim, Wilfred, Secrets and Lies, and Thank God You’re Here. Rake hasn’t done too badly in its Yankie interpretation. But No Activity? I’m pretty certain you’ll love ever minute of this show. Antonino Tati