Watch with Mother will have you laughing while gripping the edge of your seat. Photo: SuppliedWhen you hear the word “sketch”, inevitably you think of comedy. And there are laughs to be had in Watch with Mother. But really this is a sketch show of an altogether different kind. Sketch horror.
Shanghai night field

The six-part, n-made series features 10 regular storylines, and the action within any one episode zips speedily and disconcertingly between them. One minute we’re in a basement with a middle-aged man who’s recording the screams of the much younger man he’s torturing (he’s composing a symphony of terror); the next we’re on a deserted country road at night, where an elderly woman is attacked by a back-from-the-dead killer kangaroo; then we’re in the garage of a suburban house, where a man is dragging the body of a young woman from the boot of his HR Holden.

“The challenge for us really was to make this series both comedy and horror, says Peter Baker, director of Watch with Mother and member of The Glue Society, the seven-man team that made it.

“We really wanted to make something that didn’t exist. We wanted moments where it’s horrific to watch, but also with humour in there as well.”

It’s a difficult line to walk, Baker admits, but one he thinks they’ve managed, citing one sketch featuring the “chicken dance torture scene”.

Clearly, this isn’t your standard television half hour.

In fact, Watch with Mother didn’t start as a television half-hour of any sort.

Originally released in September 2012, the show was originally produced as a piece of interactive content for tablets.

“It was self-funded, and we set out to create something experimental,” says The Glue Society’s Jonathan Kneebone.

It was a big production, with Oscar-winning cinematographer Russell Boyd shooting it, and a crew of 100 and a cast of 80 reportedly on board.

The show was released via Google Play and Apple’s app store, and much was made of the fact the app allowed viewers “to watch each episode in a ‘Shuffle’ mode – as well as including behind the scenes material, plus image galleries and character biographies”.

“I’m really surprised other broadcasters aren’t doing this,” Baker says. “I mean you can buy episodes of other series, we packaged this up as a ‘virtual box set'”.

Kneebone won’t reveal how many copies were downloaded, but concedes that, “In reality I think we were somewhat ahead of the curve, with people only now coming to terms with content on their devices.”

In retrospect, he says, “this kind of idea might best be launched as a YouTube channel finding its audience that way”.

But an audience there certainly appears to be. The Glue Collective were invited to take the program to the annual TV salesfest Mipcom​ in Cannes, where Sony picked it up for the US (to be screened on the now-defunct cable channel Fearnet). Locally, SBS bought it, and Kneebone is especially excited about the idea of people watching it via the network’s On Demand service.

Over this past weekend, he says, the trailer has been viewed 100,000 times on Facebook.

Still, it’s been a long journey from bold idea to finding a wider audience. But Kneebone and co are anything but discouraged.

“We are already in development of new characters for online sketches – some horror, some simply comedic – to unveil on our own channel,” Kneebone says. You have been warned.

WHAT

Watch with Mother

WHEN

SBS On Demand and iTunes, available now