Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Kath and Kim (2002 - 2007)

32 episodes x 30 minutes

Series synopsis:

Kath and Kim is a comedy series about a mother and daughter in the fictional outer suburb of Fountain Lakes. Kath Day (Jane Turner) is enjoying life as an empty nester and has a new man in her life, gourmet sausage-maker Kel Knight (Glenn Robbins). She’s none too happy when her lazy, self-involved daughter Kim (Gina Riley) moves back home after problems in her marriage to Brett Craig (Peter Rowsthorn), a computer salesman at Fountain Gate, Kath and Kim’s local shopping complex and favourite haunt. Kim’s second-best friend, allergy-plagued sports enthusiast Sharon Strezlecki (Magda Szubanski), is another regular fixture at Kath’s place. Kath and Kim follows this quintet’s misadventures through four series of eight half-hour episodes.

Curator’s Notes:

Gina Riley and Jane Turner’s hugely popular comedy Kath and Kim is, in the words of its creators, a 'fly on the slice of life’ in suburban Melbourne. It fluidly combines elements from multiple genres, drawing on a long tradition of Australian suburbia on screen. Riley places Kath and Kim somewhere between mockumentary and sitcom: though their intentions are 'less real’, the comedy broader and more joke-oriented than standard mockumentary, a sense of reality is nonetheless a goal – visible in documentary-style voice-overs and hand-held camerawork, the use of real locations, attention to environmental detail and often deadpan humour.

While the fine line between the affectionate and the grotesque that Kath and Kim treads in its characterisation invites comparison with darker-edged comedies like Muriel’s Wedding (1994) and Barry Humphries’s Dame Edna Everage, the series has a more light-hearted tone. Alongside classics of suburban comedy like Dame Edna, Riley cites Turner’s and her own childhoods and daily lives as influences, with the show also referencing 1990s suburban reality shows Sylvania Waters (1992) and Weddings (1996).

In this respect, Kath and Kim seems a double parody, sending up both Australian suburbia and its representations in popular culture. Kath and Kim, the characters, are themselves immersed in a pop cultural world direct from the pages of weekly women’s gossip magazines (think New Idea and Women’s Day). Their dialogue is peppered with references to Hollywood celebrities, Australian sporting figures and concepts such as 'the fairytale wedding’. In addition, mentions of chain stores and brand names place Kath and Kim firmly within a product and advertising culture whose pinnacle is their local shopping complex, Fountain Gate. As the duo’s popularity has increased, in-character interviews with the very magazines they make reference to and guest appearances by the likes of cricketer Shane Warne have created something of a mirror effect.

The characters Kath, Kim and Sharon were first created for Riley, Turner and Szubanski’s sketch comedy series Big Girl’s Blouse (1994-95) and revisited in their later series with Marg Downey, Something Stupid (1998). The trio, along with cast members Glenn Robbins and Peter Rowsthorn, guest cast such as Downey and Tony Martin and crew such as director Ted Emery and costume designer Kitty Stuckey, have an extensive shared history in Australian television comedy. Their combined credits as performers, writers and producers include sketch series such as Full Frontal (1993-97), Fast Forward (1989-92), The Comedy Company (1988-91) and The D-Generation (1986-87).

Kath and Kim first aired on the ABC in 2002 and by its second series in 2003 had become the highest-rating comedy series on Australian television. It maintained this popularity through its third series (2004) and telemovie Da Kath and Kim Code (2005), before moving to Channel Seven in 2007 for Series Four. Despite the two-year hiatus, it subsequently gained its highest ever ratings, breaking records for an Australian series. The move from ABC to Seven came after a period of negotiations over budget.

A US remake of Kath and Kim by the network NBC premiered there in October 2008, on Channel Seven in Australia a few days later. It did not initially fare well with critics in either country – in Australia, despite a high rating first episode, viewer curiosity waned, leading Seven to remove the series from air after the second episode.

Titles in this series

Kath and Kim – Money 2002

Kath Day (Jane Turner) is worried about finding the money to pay for her dream wedding to Kel Knight (Glenn Robbins) and looks for ways to get rich quick. Meanwhile her daughter Kim Craig (Gina Riley) discovers the internet, with ...