Show: Tali’s Wedding Diary
Available on: Showmax
What we thought:
Successfully managing to channel a vain yet insecure, a bossy yet socially powerless, and a self-obsessed yet with low EQ self-awareness type persona that’s a world removed from her "Suzelle DIY" character, comedian Julia Anastasopoulos delights in her cringe-filled new Showmax mock-doc series Tali's Wedding Diary.
Produced by Sketchbook Studios, created and executive produced by Julia Anastasopoulos and Ari Kruger, and also executive produced by Akash Bhatia, Candice Fangueiro and Shaamila Fataar, the 8-episode mockumentary series was filmed in Cape Town during this past winter (although you won't be able to tell).
While Julia Anastasopoulos is the bona fide star of the show, the real comedic success of and in Tali's Wedding Diary derives from something not related to any of the actors or their varying acting abilities. Instead the bulk of the comedy in Tali's Wedding Diary comes from the incredibly successful editing and directing.
The camera is (allowed to) sway and veer off to the sides from the main framed characters, with the end of scenes often masterfully edited to linger for just a split second longer to a secondary character or object, creating wonderful "sight-gags".
This directing and filming technique, coupled with supremely clever editing are the true stars of the show.
As scenes are allowed to breathe, viewers are able to not just grasp, but to laugh at the sharp irony and often cringey, socially awkward, non-verbal, visual humour cleverly locked into the scenes of this satirical series.
The visual gags – purposefully and cleverly "lifted" out through micro silent moments – and the meticulous editing to allow the camera to "linger" for just the right few seconds more, is what unlocks the "punchlines" throughout the delightful series.
Credit should go to the director of photography, James Adey, and Richard Starkey for the clever editing.
Quirky mockumentary style
Tali's Wedding Diary with an omniscient cameraman and Julia as the constantly socially-striving Tali – appearing in a first-person role narrating directly to camera – is a first-of-its-kind for a South African production, taking what kykNET (DStv 144) has done with its mockumentary Hotel one step further.
Surrounded by a coterie of long-suffering passive (but not aggressive) "subjects" all revolving around (and unable to escape) Tali's histrionic orbit, Julia deftly amps up the egotistical and out-of-control vagaries of a woman not just obsessed with "selfies" but also wanting to create the appearance of a "perfect" wedding.
Viewers who are possibly familiar with Chris Lilley's superb Australian mockumentary Summer Heights High and Angry Boys, Netflix's new American Vandal, or even The Office and Parks and Recreation will instantly get, like, and understand Tali's Wedding Diary on Showmax.
There's somewhat of an unevenness between some of the episodes of Tali's Wedding Diary, although fortunately the first episode that sets the scene and introduces most of the characters, is the best of the first bunch and fullfils its purpose to get a viewer into binge-watching the whole season.
A darker side
Some episodes, like the second episode in which Tali chooses bridesmaids, comes across as just a tad too rough; a bit too bluntly on-the-nose.
While rooting for the main character, by the second and third episode, viewers will get an inkling that the show that starts out on a bright Cape Town beach, is going to veer into darker and more negative territory.
The fact is that several aspects of Tali's personality actually aren't likeable or laudable but it's a given that once you start watching, you will likely continue to find out if a wedding will ever really happen.
The language in Tali's Wedding Diary also deserves a mention.
It's perplexing as to why Showmax and the show did it – since it makes it less suitable for a mainstream audience and means less viewers will be able to watch it – but a warning that the producers and scripts include explicit language including "shit" and "fuck".
The salty language makes Tali's Wedding Diary not suitable as family viewing with a higher age restriction that what the show should have. Not having these four-letter words in scenes wouldn't have made scenes weaker and their inclusion doesn't make scenes feel more authentic.
A spin-off opportunity
Anton Taylor is a treat as the "dynamic sensitive" and energy-absorbing husband-to-be Darren with the actor exhibiting smart "underplay" restraint to remain the straight foil to Tali's over-the-top antics.
An earnest and funny Glen Biderman-Pam as the real estate agent up-and-comer Rael displays excellent comedic timing as the run-along sidekick.
Tali's Wedding Diary could easily do a spin-off series following the hapless Darren and Rael's real estate ventures, with their pitiful and hilarious side-show adventures that could honestly be a show of its own.
Watch the trailer here:
*Channel24 is part of Media24 a subsidary of Naspers.