Frank Woodley continues to entertain as the endearing and unfortunate self-titled character in Woodley. Guest star Jack Charles appears as Frank’s grandfather Vern as the adorable Alexandra Cashmere and lovely Justine Clarke appear briefly in the background. During a game of chess, Vern has a heart attack and is placed in the hospital. It doesn’t take a frequent viewing long to realize that placing Frank in a hospital is a bad idea, prone to incidental accidents, which will cause ultimate havoc, and potentially even death. In an effort to restore some happiness, Frank decides to form Vern’s former band together for one final performance.
Much of Woodley’s charm comes from its simplicity. Its reach is neither too broad nor limited, and each episode is self contained and easy to follow through a set of narrative chain of events. Frank’s face is also a never-ending source of pleasure with his extreme facial movements. As the series has progressed, Woodley’s sad clown status has developed into a much more interesting gags. Even as Frank learns of his grandfather’s impending death, Mal Webb’s music adds a joviality and lightheartedness. Elements of the clown nature are still acutely present when Frank pulls out several dogs from his clothing, reminiscent of the clown car gag.
Phil Lloyd appears as the antagonist in the form of Vern’s doctor. His killjoy nature positions Frank with a worthy adversary. As Frank likes to entertain his grandfather with simple gags like blowing up latex gloves, Lloyd is quick to scold creating the good vs. evil tension. Frank is thus cast as a Patch Adams healing character, infusing joy and fun into the healing of patients (or at least the happiness of his grandfather’s final days.)
Frank’s Aboriginal heritage through Vern’s lineage is an interesting addition that sadly isn’t further explored, or even directly mentioned. At the same time, this lack of information feels intentionally undeveloped for good reason.
Series director Trent O’Donnell manages to traipse the line between pathos and humour with extreme efficiency, making tender moments both touching and funny. Funny, warm and poignant, Woodley is a charming series that has tremendous heart and a flexible protagonist who’s willing to make a fool of himself for a laugh.
Woodley airs Wednesdays at 8pm on ABC1. Woodley also screens on ABC2 and iView. Click here to read other episode reviews.