Monthly Archives:July 2018

HOW astoundingly brilliant is the new Chris Lilley series? The comedian has physically transformed himself to play a group of diverse characters who all bear the Lilley trademark of exaggerated personalities and punishing self-delusion. There’s the bow-tie-wearing ballet dancer from the Sunshine Coast, Jake (classic Lilley catchphrase: ”Calm the farm”); incredibly uptight Adelaide yuppie Lisa; and Indian-born Sydney princess Biswa. Ja’mie and S.mouse have been made redundant.
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OK. My Kitchen Rules isn’t the new Chris Lilley series, although if it were it would certainly make amends for Angry Boys. But Channel Seven’s hit reality cooking series – actually, hit is probably an understatement at this point – does unexpectedly share a viewpoint with the comedian’s work. Lilley is fascinated by his characters’ extremes, and in casting the latest series of My Kitchen Rules, its producers have put together a fascinating cross-section of contestants who are equally pushing the limits.

All reality shows, including the previous three series of My Kitchen Rules, look for extremes in the casting process, fitting them under easy labels such as ”the villain” or ”the top bloke”. This time, however, their characters also speak to the growing breadth of Australian society. The notion of Australian egalitarianism is dissipating under the weight of financial inequality, self-important billionaires and political divisiveness, and as a country we’re slowly starting to accept that we’re a broad, increasingly strange coalition of people.

Last week on My Kitchen Rules, Jake and his sister Elle hosted the other pairs they were competing with at their family’s expansive Queensland residence. For their main course, Jake chose to serve T-bone steak, which didn’t fit his profile at all. Another contestant, Tasmanian abalone diver and father Mick, astutely noted that Jake had probably rarely eaten a T-bone, having been raised on scotch and eye fillet. Jake thought a T-bone was exotic; Mick knew it was everyday fare.

Those contrasts are some of the fascinating elements that fuel audience fascination with the series. As a reality show, My Kitchen Rules is sharply made, but the hook of hosting a dinner party at your home that is judged doesn’t just resonate on a personal level, it provides a view inside lives that aren’t entirely familiar to us any more. Even with the artificial constraints of mainly capital-city residents, the cross-section of competitors is far more eclectic than most of our fictional dramas or comedies allow for. Solve that mystery, Dr Blake.

My Kitchen Rules is very much Australia’s show, both in terms of content and ratings.

When the show launched in 2010, it was written off as a MasterChef clone but, as the runt of the reality litter, it survived and then prospered. Last week, several 7.30pm episodes drew blockbuster-level audiences of more than 2 million people in the mainland capital cities, exceeding 3 million nationally. Many of us are watching creme brulee nightmares and the matching comedy of social manners and awkward status.

Whether it’s culturally harder to cast a renovation show or not, the contrast with Channel Nine’s monochromatic The Block is readily apparent. Despite starting half an hour earlier at 7pm, the much-promoted spinoff, The Block All Stars, is being pummelled by My Kitchen Rules. The only thing Scott Cam’s show has more of is blatant product placement. It’s struggling to make 1 million viewers in capital cities – a ratings pass mark, basically – while MasterChef: The Professionals, which is going head-to-head with My Kitchen Rules on Mondays and Tuesdays, is doing even worse, despite being good viewing.

My Kitchen Rules has a formidable format, although it’s apparent the show has aired long enough for contestants to be familiar with its working and game the show’s structure and rules to their own benefit. Biswa and her companion, Jessie, who were portrayed as entertainingly horrendous people, judged rivals on their threat to them, not their food, and a show can sour with viewers if a flaw such as that becomes prominent.

There are few other worries, even if eliminations and a move into a central kitchen for contests take away the social insight. Judges Manu Feildel and Pete Evans are performing well, with the former revealing a sly sense of humour. No one has had the nerve to serve activated almonds to Evans yet but, if they do, I fully expect a shocked silence before Lilley pulls off his latex mask and takes a bow.

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In his show’s fifth season, the ‘Bondi vet’ takes his devotion to animal welfare overseas.HOW in the world do you operate on a goldfish?
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”Everyone says, ‘Why do you bother?’ but, at the same time, ‘How do you do it?’ ” says Chris Brown with a laugh as he discusses one of the more bizarre surgeries featured in the fifth season of Bondi Vet.

”You don’t do it in the water; you get the fish out of the tank. It’s amazing how you can keep a goldfish alive out of the water, while also under anaesthetic.”

Brown enjoys challenging himself. The 34-year-old negotiates one of television’s most hectic schedules, bustling between three separate Channel Ten shows and a number of writing gigs, all alongside working at the titular clinic. Rest is rarely an option; the man has been home about 10 days in the past two months.

In a way, he’s his own worst enemy. The immense international popularity of Bondi Vet has led him to field numerous overseas requests in the latest season.

”We’re keeping it fresh by travelling; being as much the vet in Bondi as the vet from Bondi,” Brown says. He ventures to the US, Fiji, Thailand, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands, among other places.

Brown was conscious of the need for reinvention in the show’s fifth year and it promises to be an eye-opening experience, with stark international differences in veterinary care visible from the outset.

”The degree to which a country has developed economically is highly related to their attitudes towards animals,” Brown says. ”Places that are developing are often lacking in pretty basic care for animals, [so] you can make a really significant difference in a very short period of time.”

Despite the location shift, the core of the show – the bond between owner and pet – remains constant. It’s a universal thing, according to Brown. ”That passion, that care and wanting to really show that animals mean something – that was the element that needed to remain the same.”

Brown never wished this life upon himself, nor did he seek it out after a chance encounter with a talent scout in a Mosman pub. Fast forward nearly 10 years, though, and the boy from Newcastle is now a commentator, overseas reporter and travel correspondent, alongside his vocational calling.

”It was nothing I ever planned on doing, and I think that’s why there’s an innocence and relaxed outlook to it that comes through,” he says. ”I’ve never really been chasing it – it’s something that organically just happened.”

His other returning gig, sitting on the couch of The Living Room, means he is in the prime-time flagships on both Friday and Saturday nights for Ten, coverage that hasn’t harmed the chiselled veterinarian’s heart-throb status.

Even Living Room co-host Amanda Keller has professed repeatedly to having a crush on him, to which Brown laughs and replies, ”we sit on opposite sides of the couch”.

His poster-boy status is not something he feels entirely comfortable with – he continues to cop flak from colleagues at vet conferences – though by embracing it he hopes to, show by show, educate audiences and promote the profession.

”Hopefully, through the show, people get to see that it’s not just a 9-5 job. It’s all hours; it is demanding,” he says. ”If it can increase the awareness of what vets do, and if it can increase information about what to do with your pets … that’s what I’m proud of.”

Bondi Vet is on Saturday at 7.30pm on Channel Ten.

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Why the sad faces? All will be revealed when these spouses bare their relationships on the ABC.ALBERT Einstein was a man who believed in the limits of science. ”Gravitation,” he once professed, ”is not responsible for people falling in love.”
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He might have been curious, then, about a coming show pitting positive psychology, the so-termed ”science of happiness”, against love lives in crisis.

The ABC explored the emergence of the science with its 2010 show Making Australia Happy, whereby eight individuals, with identifiably low happiness ”scores”, were equipped with techniques from clinical experts to improve their overall contentment.

The reincarnation, Making Couples Happy, doubles the stakes, literally. Public call-outs were extended for couples seeking to improve their relationships, with video diaries sent in to the show.

Not surprisingly, for a show in which people have to unglamorously bare all about their love life to a national audience, the response was not overwhelming.

However, after interviews with the hosts, four were selected, each with their own problems and each of whom returned statistical scores of unhappiness when tested.

Some harbour too much explosive communication, others too little. Intimacy issues are a constant: ”We’re like passing ships in the night,” Alison remarks matter-of-factly of her 29-year marriage to Paul.

During eight weeks, the couples are forced to confront their issues, aided by specialists in the field, and every fortnight their happiness is measured to test the methods.

Married with children in Sydney, Laney had to persuade her understandably apprehensive other half, Darren, to take a punt on the show. They had seen relationship counsellors in the past to no avail and were struggling with balancing a family business, children and a marriage.

”[For us], the downside, which is a little bit of an embarrassment, was worth the upside of a happy marriage,” Laney says.

Each of the couple’s situations deliberately differed from the next, something that struck a chord with Darren. ”Coming from my experience, believing you should keep a lot of your relationship just between the two of you, I think what everyone will notice is the reality of all the couples on the show,” he says. ”Everyone has their issues.”

In this way, the show is as much about the four couples onscreen as every couple at home. Working with real-life case studies and not invented scenarios inevitably draws the public closer in a therapeutic sense.

For host and clinical psychologist John Aiken in particular, it was about taking scientific strategies and reworking them for television. After all, no one wants to watch an hour of talking heads, he says.

The show is intended to deliver tips to couples everywhere, a lofty prospect that excites Aiken. ”For me it’s kind of a dream job, because it gives you a national platform to make relationships accessible,” he says. ”It demystifies them and it empowers couples.”

Making Couples Happy is on Thursday at 8.30pm on ABC1.

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Craig McLachlan with Kate Ritchie when she first appeared on Home and Away.Carry on Sally
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KATE Ritchie will reprise her role as Sally Fletcher in Seven’s Home and Away. The former Summer Bay sweetheart will return after five years in a storyline marking the show’s 25th anniversary. Ritchie was just eight when she joined the cast and ”captured the nation’s heart”, in the words of Channel Seven’s publicity department. The episodes will air over several months later this year.

Experimental stab

THE ABC has commissioned a new comedy series from Jungleboys, the production company behind the critically acclaimed comedy A Moody Christmas. The Elegant Man’s Guide to Knife Fighting is a six-part sketch comedy series based on an experimental online comedy program of the same name. It boasts a formidable cast including Patrick Brammall, Phil Lloyd, Janis McGavin, Georgina Haig, Brendan Cowell, Helen Dallimore and Jane Harber. Also in development is the panel show-with-a-twist Dirty Laundry Live, which will be hosted by comedian Lawrence Mooney. It will broadcast live-to-air from Melbourne on ABC2 later this year.

Sandy feet get itchy

SO, DID Channel Seven sports presenter Sandy Roberts quit or didn’t he? A report on February 5 in The Herald-Sun claimed he had, for a job at Fox Sports. That prompted a nuclear response from Seven, which insisted he had not. Roberts backed Seven’s position, but rumours are swirling that Roberts’ departure has merely been delayed, thanks to lawyers. All the more peculiar is Roberts’ insistence Fox Sports had not made an offer.

Weaver digs the role

JACKI Weaver has emerged as the frontrunner to play Gina Rinehart in the mini-series about the mining baroness’ life. Production company Screentime snagged the rights to Adele Ferguson’s best-selling biography of Rinehart and will turn it into a six-hour series (production company Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder also has a Rinehart drama in development). Casting is not yet under way but that hasn’t stopped speculation Weaver would be perfect. Screentime says several networks are potential buyers. Let’s assume one is not Channel Ten, in which Rinehart has shares.

More talent wanted

ONE man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Channel Nine will be banking on that when it launches its reboot of Australia’s Got Talent later in 2013. The network announced last week that auditions for the series would kick off in March. That’s an open call for jugglers, fire-eaters and dancers. Nine has not yet announced judges or host, but the smart money is on a short-run series stripped across weeknights, in the style of the original Britain’s Got Talent, on which the format is based. Details at australiasgottalent南京夜网.au.

With Paul Kalina

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The conclusion of The Hour warrants reflection time.Well, I’ll be buggered
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AN ESPECIALLY exuberant ”g’day” to Paul Clark. Sir, I read your letter regarding the use of the vernacular with much interest and more than a little alarm. Is it true? Do Australians really not use those two particular words any more? Oh, bugger! Now you tell me!

Rachel Rowe, Coolaroo

Strine alive and kicking

PAUL Clark – ”pardon his Australian” – must have a narrow circle of friends. ”Buggered” and ”g’day” are alive and well in the ”vinacular”.

Myles Treseder, South Yarra

Moment in time ruined

THE last moments of the series final of The Hour deserved quiet reflection as the end credits rolled. Instead, all poignancy was ruined as the credits were minimised and replaced with a loud advertisement for The Doctor Blake Mysteries. Why must the ABC go down the same path as the commercial channels and spoil the programs they so heavily rely on for ratings points? We expect better than this.

Kym Cross, Campbells Creek

Mysteries worth unravelling

HOW can fans of The Hour survive withdrawal symptoms while waiting to discover if Freddie can be resurrected after his thrashing by the evil Mr Cilenti? The Doctor Blake Mysteries will partially alleviate the misery. Set in the same era of 1950s ”innocence” and filmed in Ballarat, it is another superior local drama. Craig McLachlan gives a nuanced performance as a flawed but very appealing war veteran and police surgeon.

Jill Mazzotta, Balaclava

Hard to follow

I WATCHED the first episode of Downton Abbey on Sunday night and would have thought the fact it wasn’t fast-tracked would have given the closed-captioners time to do their best work. So I wonder why we got only every second line of subtitles. I’m sure I’m not the only hearing-impaired viewer who struggled to keep up.

Eddie Wilgar, Yarraville

Grammar grates

I WATCHED The Paradise on ABC1 last Saturday, and enjoyed its audio-visual content thoroughly. However, being a language-purist and wannabe Grammar Policeman, considering the drama was set in the late 19th century, I was surprised to hear the phrases ”for free” and ”weasel-words”. Quite anomalous I thought, especially against that background of beautiful, poetic and correctly expressed English we rarely hear today.

Garth Lewis, Cheltenham

Midsomer murdered

I NEVER thought I’d see the day when I would contemplate turning off Midsomer Murders – and during a rare unseen episode at that – in a mixture of disgust and boredom. Someone ought to take a shotgun to the screenwriter, the director of deplorable acting and the new Mr Barnaby.

Patsy Crotty, Elwood

Interview packed a punch

THE Mike Willesee-James Packer interview has to have been the most emotional and incredible experience on television I have watched for a long time. Mike, you are as good as ever, and James, thank you for your honesty and showing us the person you really are. The family was silent and motionless during the interview.

Raelene Spencer, Healesville

Smile and turn

DID Giaan Rooney learn her presentation skills from the laughing clowns at a sideshow? The Channel Seven weather report now consists of smile at the camera, turn right 90 degrees, read from the monitor, turn left 90 degrees, smile at the camera, read from the monitor, turn right 90 degrees, read from the monitor.

Frank Stipic, Mentone

Shifting seas

ON SUNDAY night, Giann Rooney said winds were blowing easterly towards the Tasmanian Sea. On worldatlas南京夜网 I couldn’t locate it. Why a meteorologist was replaced by a person with no idea about regional geography is quite baffling. If anyone is unsure, it’s the Tasman Sea.

Dianne Pascoe, Balaclava

Balance of power

IN response to Bill Holmes, this week on Insiders we have Niki Savva and last week Gerard Henderson. When is the ABC going to stop this right-wing bias? Or maybe they are just getting it right – sorry, I meant balanced?

Geoff Kelly, Warragul

Chemistry fizzles

I REMEMBER when Catalyst was full of interesting, cutting-edge scientific topics presented by knowledgable people. The new format is dumbed down, presumably to make it more palatable to the lowest common denominator. Why is the ABC making such a disappointing program?

Don Owen, Hawthorn

Road to despair

CATALYST on the Road was promising viewing and full of exciting science. That was until the clanger, when it was deemed appropriate to describe Simon in the electric-powered Lotus as driving a ”girlie car” – repeatedly. What a turnoff.

Kerrie Cakebread, Camperdown

Huss hits the mark

MIKE Hussey is a welcome new member of the Channel Nine cricket commentary team. James Brayshaw should be dropped.

J. Biggins, Mount Eliza

Spot of satire

NOW the ratings year has officially started, Clarke and Dawe are back on air. For those who missed them (it was a well-kept secret), they’re on Thursdays on ABC1 at 6.55pm. Welcome, gentlemen, it’s been a long drought.

Ruth Boschen, Balwyn

Pull the other one

LOUIS C.K. might be the world’s funniest comedian. But let’s face it, there isn’t much competition.

John Hensler, Tesbury

Dressed to depress

WHY do male news presenters dress as though they’re going to a conference for funeral directors? Dark suits, white shirts and ties must be management policy, and allows no room for imagination. What a contrast to see Anton Enus and Janice Petersen on SBS. She’s cool and wears varied, attractive ensembles. Anton needs only a vest and fob watch to be a BBC clone. Surely men can appear suave and presentable without being constricted to almost formal evening wear.

Pete Williams, Metung

Don’t dumb it down

A LETTER writer decries a film reviewer for showing off by using the adjective ”onomatopoeic”, one word, which neatly replaces about seven. The reviewer is assuming Green Guide readers have a reasonable knowledge of English. Too often these days journalists explain the most basic of references. Surely no one likes being talked down to? Oh, and there’s a wonderful tool called a dictionary.

Carole Barden, Greensborough

Charged with meaning

I ALSO consider myself to be a person of ”normal intelligence”. I was educated to only year 10 in the 1950s, but was most definitely taught the meaning of onomatopoeic. I learnt this word in year 8 (I was 12 years old), along with an introduction to Shakespeare.

Evelyn Wilkins, Watsonia

Indigenous wonders

I AM gradually sampling programs on NITV. Nganampa Anwernekenhe (meaning ”ours”) shows programs in Aboriginal languages (subtitled) made by indigenous filmmakers. In less than 30 minutes each Wednesday at 8pm, a film takes you into an Aboriginal community and displays the unique features to be found. It has shown women painting murals in a church (that became a tourist attraction) and imaginative toys made from found objects. Each program is a gem.

Jan Lacey, North Melbourne

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