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Series / Life Support

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"Life Support is here for you!"
Format(s):Half Hour Comedy
Life Support was an Australian cult comedy series that aired on SBS between 2001 and 2003, and parodied lifestyle shows such as Better Homes And Gardens while simultaneously using associated tropes to satirise the hell out of Australian society. A lot of its humour came from the hosts suggesting dangerous, dubious or often wildly illegal advice with completely straight faces.

The four main characters were:

  • Sigourney, played by Rachael Coopes: an always-chipper blonde who taught modern women all about how to win men and use handicrafts to make the world a better place. Notably the only character to be played by the same actress for the entire run of the show.
  • Todd, played by Brendan Cowell and later Duncan Fellows: a brash, masculine (and slightly dim) Handy Man.
  • Penne, played by Abbie Cornish and later Alison Barnes: a streetwise juvenile delinquent who offered lessons in "how to scam The Man".
  • Dr Rudi, played by Simon Van Der Stap and later Jack Finsterer (or so we're made to believe...): a slick, suave and completely amoral South African gynaecologist with all sorts of tips about health and wealth.


Life Support contains examples of:

  • A Date with Rosie Palms:
    • An early episode has Dr Rudi advising men on how to make, ahem, "clearing the backlog" more interesting. As Penne pointed out to a disapproving Sigourney, "there's nothing like the satisfaction that comes from finishing a good do-it-yourself job".
    • Later in the series he advocates public masturbation as a way to combat amateur musicians, amateur art critics and other... well... "wankers".
  • Aesop Amnesia: Dr Rudi gives advice on making your teenage daughter fat to ensure she doesn't get pregnant at school. In another segment he also gives a teenage girl advice on how to get male attention.
  • Amoral Afrikaner: Dr Rudi, though his exact ethnicity is Anglo-African instead of Afrikaan.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Penne pulls this on a line of people queueing for concert tickets by wearing a fake Ticketek shirt and telling them the tour was cancelled.
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb: The Other Darrin is alluded to a couple of times.
    • Penne's transition in series 2 is briefly acknowledged.
    • In series 3, Todd mentions that he hasn't had much interaction with the others...this series. In the finale he wonders out loud if the real Dr Rudi "got anyone with him?".
  • Brick Joke: A segment at the beginning of Episode 5 shows Penne preparing to steal a TV whose box she spotted in the owners' garbage. Later in the episode, she gives advice while on trial for that same theft.
  • The Bus Came Back: The original Dr Rudi returns in the final moments of series 3.
  • Call-Back: There are a few nods throughout the series to earlier episodes.
    • An ad for "Femme Brush", a do-it-yourself airbrushing cream spruiked by Sigourney, appears on Penne's TV an episode or two later.
    • The first episode of Season 2 briefly shows Penne in a Chamber Mouth T-shirt, a band introduced in the second episode of Season 1.
  • Camp Gay: Dr Rudi's advice for men who wish to "compliment" women in the workplace is to act like a gay stereotype to avoid sounding too sincere.
  • Catchphrase: Each host has one.
    • Sigourney: "As a modern woman..."
    • Todd: "So take a tip from Todd..."
    • Penne: "See ya!"
    • Dr Rudi: "Howzit!" Becomes a plot point in the series finale - spoken in the familiar voice of the old Rudi, played by Simon Van Der Stap, who has come to confront the impostor about to marry Sigourney.
  • The Casanova: Dr Rudi.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Served with a smile!
  • Completely Missing the Point: One mailbag segment has the hosts treating a vitriolic complaint letter as glowing praise.
  • Cooking Show:
    • Parodied in Todd's recurring "Todd's Treat" segments, which involved Todd passing off ordinary food as fancy recipes - coffee as homemade Prozac, for example, or toasted beef stew sandwiches as spring rolls, or imitation crab meat as an exotic seafood delicacy.
    • One especially amusing example involves Todd's response to a viewer letter complaining that lifestyle shows always showed the same tired old recipes, and requesting that Todd show them how to make a dish like they'd see in the country's finest restaurants. After several minutes of proudly pointing out to the viewers all the French cooking terms and ingredients he's using, Todd puts the finishing touches on... a Big Mac and fries.
    Todd: That's the thing with restaurant recipes... they're always more expensive when you cook 'em with fresh verbs.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: A lot of the advice handed out by the show. Parents gave you an embarrassing name? Have them arrested! Foreign friend invites herself to stay at your place? Make it impossible for her to enter the country and ruin her reputation! Guy doesn't call? Accuse him of date rape!
  • The Ditz: Todd and Sigourney both have elements of this. Todd in particular once prematurely announced the end of a show in a segue, then had no idea what the next segment would be. It was his own segment.
  • Dr. Jerk: Dr Rudi is the suave, charming and horribly amoral variety.
  • Embarrassing First Name: See "My Nayme Is", below.
  • Emo Teen: The phenomenon is parodied in one episode with a segment on "Chamber Mouth", a thankfully fictional depressive rock band whose lead singer permanently has a loaded shotgun in his mouth.
  • Femme Fatale: Sigourney is prepared to have Penne sabotage an electrical substation to make sure the lighting at her boyfriend's house makes her look attractive.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Dr. Rudi's "I slept with your wife" counterargument does more damage than it should have; resulting in a loud, painful-to-watch fight that looks like it will end in divorce. Of course, Dr. Rudi isn't phased by any of this.
  • Handy Man: Todd. He's good with tools.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Dr Rudi's new look is explained as him getting corrective surgery to look less gay.
  • I Banged Your Mom: Dr Rudi advocates the "wife" variant as a way to win arguments.
  • Impossible Pickle Jar: In the seventh episode of season three, Sigourney does a segment on tightening jars around the house so that your boyfriend can open them and get a boost to his ego.
    Sigourney: So, if you want your boyfriend to feel like the big man, you only have to give him something little to do. So get yourself a tightening tool, tighten every jar in the house and watch his self confidence flourish.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Inverted. When Dr Rudi talks about women's looks, he's accompanied by a "homely" woman that would actually be quite attractive if she just washed her hair or put on foundation.
  • The Lad-ette: Penne, Penne, Penne.
  • Momma's Boy: Todd, amusingly enough, still has his mother do his laundry. He even asks her, on air, not to sew the sleeves back onto his shirts.
  • My Nayme Is: Penne, pronounced "Penny". She's so unhappy with the spelling, she actually arranges for her parents to be arrested in Germany under an obscure local law.
  • Nature Adores a Virgin: Penne suggests girls invoke this trope by lying about their virginity to potential sex partners.
  • The Nth Doctor: For Season 3, Dr Rudi, originally played by Simon Van Der Stap, was replaced by Jack Finsterer. This was explained away as having had Magic Plastic Surgery to "look more heterosexual". Then it turned out that the new Rudi was an impostor, and the old Rudi showed up at his and Sigourney's wedding to take his life back.
  • Once an Episode: In Season 1 Sigourney cooking some increasingly ridiculous dish to end the show, much to Dr Rudi's consternation. Season 2 instead has Sigourney suggest some increasingly outlandish activity to do while waiting for the next episode.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Dr Rudi, particularly in series 3 regularly comments on how political correctness is affecting social activity. One episode has him coach a man in how to get away with sexually harassing his female colleagues by giving off a gay vibe.
  • Precision F-Strike: Penne's reaction to the real Rudi's return in the series finale.
  • Prison Rape: One of the Todd's Tips segments suggested plying rapist cellmates with romantic gestures so that it always happened "with a genuine sense of affection".
  • Refuge in Audacity: And how!
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Dr Rudi is the sensitive guy (in that he's more highbrow, not that he's more of a gentleman) to Todd's manly man.
  • Ship Tease: Sigourney and Dr Rudi. They shared as kiss in one segment that Todd was quick to point out. Series 3 drops an increasing number of hints that they're going steady but haven't told Todd or Penne. Finally confimred in the penultimate episode, which ends with them announcing their engagement.
  • Squirrels in My Pants: Todd's advice for awkward dancers is to wear miniature solar panels on his jacket which are connected to some wires that he clips onto his nipples. The intention is to have the flashing lights in a nightclub send rhythmic jolts throughout his body. The result looks even more awkward.
  • Stepford Smiler: Heavily implied with Sigourney.
  • Story Arc: Though the show's format would seem to make arcs implausible, there is an ongoing storyline throughout Season 3: Dr Rudi, who has had Magic Plastic Surgery (and thus been replaced with a new actor), keeps receiving threatening letters in the mail, which appear in each episode's mailbag segment. It's revealed in the finale that these letters are from the old Dr Rudi, played by Simon Van Der Stap - the new Rudi, played by Jack Finsterer, is an impostor.
  • The Talk: In true Life Support style, Dr Rudi suggests using an old porno movie to teach kids where babies come from. Sigourney helpfully chimes in and recommends the sound be turned down, so the kids "don't hear any nasty swearing".
  • Token Good Teammate: Todd is probably the least cruel of the group, as his advice doesn't involve manipulation or come at anyone's expense. At least not as much as the others does.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Penne is the tomboy to Sigourney's girly girl.
  • Turn of the Millennium: Satirised a lot of the issues relevant in Australia at the time (some of which, depressingly, persist to this day).
  • The Unreveal: One of the letter segments has Dr Rudi and Sigourney skimming through a series of letters without reading them out loud for the convenience of the audience. Instead they just read out the writer's names and give them context-free advice for what would have to be some risque queries.
  • The Vamp: Penne has been known to use her wiles on men (and occasionally women) to get what she wants with minimal effort. Sigourney has hints of this.
  • Vox Pops: With real live people on the street. Probably.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The very last episode ends on a cliffhanger as the real Dr Rudi reveals his replacement was an impostor right before the credits roll.

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