Sando review – an outrageously good performance in a hit and miss new ABC comedy | Television & radio

Is Franco Cozzo an internet sensation yet?

Melburnians of a certain age will recognise that name, its mention triggering recollections of low-rent, late-night furniture ads starring the boisterous silver-haired local celebrity. Cozzo’s catchphrase is two words repeated again and again, with the subtlety of those frenzied late-night ads that implore viewers to buy doors: “GRAND SALE! GRAND SALE! GRAND SALE!”

ABC TV’s new comedy Sando, co-created by Phil Lloyd and Charlie Garber and directed by brothers Christiaan and Connor Van Vuuren, follows a protagonist who is more than a little Cozzonian – with added boorishness, and a shit-stirring demeanour.

Where Cozzo is known as “the furniture king”, Victoria “Sando” Sandringham (Sacha Horler) is “the package deal queen”: an utter trainwreck of a woman, with a gravitational pull that sucks the people around her into maelstroms of chaos and confusion.

It is no easy task to stage an uproariously entertaining wedding sequence; we’ve witnessed vows and matrimonial shenanigans so many times before. And yet the Van Vuurens (the creative team behind Bondi Hipsters) direct a doozie in the opening of Sando, depicting the church marriage ceremony of the protagonist’s daughter Susie (Krew Boylan) and her fiancé Kevin (Firass Dirani).

In these early establishing moments, a hint of the Sandringham family dynamic is revealed when Sando suggests to her ageing mother how proud she must be to have three generations of Sando women. Mum curtly responds: “You’ve turned my beautiful boutique store into a bargain basement furniture whore house for bogans.”

When Sando receives an SMS informing her she is pregnant, her husband Don (Phil Lloyd), after a moment’s reflection, notes that “my birthday was nearly a year ago”. This triggers a chain of rapidly escalating events, combining the show’s key assets: spiky dialogue, squirrely characters, familial contretemps, splashes of sight comedy and an at times cracking pace.

Sacha Horler as Sando

‘She genuinely feels like a person thrust into a series of unanticipated encounters.’ Photograph: ABC TV

The story jumps 10 years into the future, to an end-of-year party held in the showroom of the best-performing Sando outlet. Sando and her team get plastered, with a rapid, Wolf of Wall Street-esque montage depicting their mischief, including employees hurling plates at each other, jousting with outdoor umbrellas and smoking a bong constructed from a hand iron. The scene is fast, playful and visually compact.

When morning arrives, company CFO Tony (Rob Carlton) stages a coup on the hungover furniture mogul and ousts her with backing from the board. It’s a new world out there, Tony says, with online discount stores and the like. An “adapt to the times” and “over the hill” theme emerges, with a note of wistfulness: about reconciling the past, and failing to progress from it. A core tangent involves Sando attempting to reconnect with her family, a task that requires some delicacy – but instead she approaches it like a bulldozer running over a flower garden.

Don (Phil Lloyd) in episode two of Sando.

The subsequent episodes are ‘slower and feel more complacent’ than the first. Photograph: ABC TV

The second and third episodes (the first three form the extent of this review) don’t have the punch and pluck of the first; they are slower and feel more complacent. Relationships between the characters paint a “tangled web we weave” series of scenarios, retreading rote situations – an attempt to conceal an affair, for example, between Don and Susie’s best friend Nicky (Adele Vuko), and the surprise arrival of a hitherto unknown family member.

There are some deceptively clever flourishes, fusing core elements around character and theme. Sando’s professional skills are hinted at when she agrees to keep a personal secret, but at a price (“we could do a deal, because I’m the package deal queen”). When it is revealed her ideal night in constitutes a glass of wine on the couch while watching her old commercials, it is an almost melancholic moment, the protagonist rendered as a kind of cut-rate Norma Desmond – fantasising about past glories that were far from great in the first place.

Genevieve Morris, who recently played a crusty police dispatch officer in No Activity, was originally set to star in the title role but stood down due to health reasons, replaced by Sacha Horler at the eleventh hour. Perhaps the circumstances around Horler’s last-minute casting helped her nail the part; she genuinely feels like a person thrust into a series of unanticipated encounters. Her performance is outrageously good, somehow drawing empathy for a character who has all the poise of a fish drowning in oxygen.

  • Sando premieres on the ABC at 9pm on Wednesday 21 March

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