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Making news for laughs
Making news for laughs

If there's a whiff of a scandal in the air, expect to see tabloid reporter Alex Burchill on the case in the ABC's new comedy series Lowdown.

Alex Burchill (Adam Zwar) is a celebrity-chasing tabloid journalist who writes the Lowdown column for the ailing Sunday Sun newspaper.

With his loyal photographer Bob Geraghty (Paul Denny) in tow, Alex sets out to interview actors, sports stars and musicians, often with disastrous consequences for his personal life.

Alex suffers from cyberchondria and in many episodes has to consult his friend and GP, Dr James (Dailan Evans), about what he believes to be life-threatening ailments.

Also complicating Alex's life is his on-again, off-again relationship with artist Rita Heywood, who has a bad habit of ending up in bed with celebrities Alex has been chasing.

AFI award-winning Wilfred star Zwar co-wrote, co-created and co-produced the series with wife Amanda Brotchie, apparently drawing loosely on his own experiences from his early career as a celebrity journalist.

After a lengthy absence from series television, Beth Buchanan makes a memorable return to the small screen as Rita, tastefully stripping off in the premiere episode but managing to keep her modesty in tact.

"It's not something I have ever done before and was not something I was looking forward to doing but in the end it was OK," Buchanan said by phone last week.

"It was a really nice actor I was working with and that made it a lot easier, so it was fine actually. It is quite weird doing a sex scene."

Buchanan has been acting since she was nine and is probably best known for her recurring role as Sgt Tom Croydon's daughter Susan in Blue Heelers. She also played Gemma Ramsay in Neighbours in the early 1990s.

Buchanan's elder siblings Miles and Simone were actors and she started out working with them in the children's shows Secret Valley and Runaway Island.

Simone is probably best known for playing Debbie Kelly in Hey Dad! and has recently been in the news for supporting co-star Sarah Monahan's molestation allegations against their on-screen father, actor Robert Hughes.

Buchanan was a guest star in two episodes of Hey Dad! She said she was aware of Simone's situation but politely declined to discuss it.

"I don't really want to talk about that because I feel like it's not really my thing; I wasn't there, I didn't experience it."

Buchanan's last TV role was in the 2007 telemovie The King but she has been far from idle, raising two sons aged five-and-a-half and two-and-half with a third on the way in three weeks.

She has also been studying, obtaining a diploma in professional editing and writing from RMIT University before going on to do honours in arts at Victoria University.

Both Buchanan and her partner, playwright Raimondo Cortese, are members of Melbourne's Ranters Theatre Company and after her baby is born she will begin rehearsing a new production for the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

Despite being best known as a dramatic actor, Buchanan enjoyed working on Lowdown and Zwar's style of humour:

"I really like his humour; how do I describe it?

"It's quite gentle, it's not cruel it's not overcooked or sledgehammer- ish. It's just a really nice gentle humour about human behaviour and human foibles which is appealing.

"For comedy it was a bit more subtle and really about the characters, what is driving them and funny situations.

"It was fun; it was a bit like clowning where you commit to each moment and let the last moment go. It is quite absurdist, a lot of it."

Zwar has assembled an impressive guest cast for the series, with Craig McLachlan playing a celebrity caught in a hotel sting in the first episode.

Julia Zemiro makes regular appearances as celebrity publicist Hope van der Boom and Rush star Ashley Zukerman plays Alex's sharply dressed rival for celebrity scoops, Dylan Hunt.

Steve Bisley, Caroline O'Connor and Martin Sacks appear in later episodes and the series is narrated by Geoffrey Rush.

Lowdown airs Wednesday at 9pm on ABC1.