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And ''The Nominees'' Is ...

By RD Heldenfels Published: September 5, 2006

... funny, a bit sad and better in the end than I thought it might be in the beginning.

Premiering on Sundance Channel tonight, the comedy follows, documentary-style, five people nominated as ''Australian of the Year'' for different accomplishments. Chris Lilley plays all five of them, including a teenage girl and a Chinese student, as well as a sixth character, the twin of one of the nominees.

It's very ''Office''-like in the early going, especially in comparison to the British ''Office,'' with all the characters having a David Brent lack of perspective about themselves and their lives. (One almost out-Brents Brent.) By the second of the six half-hours, I was getting a little weary of it; as good as Lilley is as an actor, it felt as if some of the characters were never going to be more than sketches.

Things turn around, though, in the last couple of episodes. Some of the unlikable characters remain just that, with their flaws insurmountable. But Lilley still feels considerable affection for some of them, and at show's end you can see that even people with silly dreams can be heroic in the pursuit of them. Indeed, in Australia, the show was called ''We Can Be Heroes,'' a much better title than ''The Nominees,'' and one that gets better to the heart of the show.

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