At 80’s end did Channel 9,
A brand new drama show decree,
With plots to rival Ramsey Street,
Knock Summer Bay from off its seat,
Atop the ratings tree,
And there was Abigail there, and Rachael Beck,
And Alyce Platt to act did try,
And starlets eyeing record cheques,
To catch the viewing public’s eye…
Back in the year 1990 Australia’s Nine Network was getting a bit miffed about rival TV stations capturing all the ratings with their popular soap operas Neighbours (Channel 10) and Home and Away (Channel 7). So they did the only logical thing and decided to launch their own soap, a saga about rival Anglo and Italian Australian families with a Romeo and Juliet style forbidden romance named Family and Friends.
(Channel 10 also had E Street, but more about that later)
The advertisements for Family and Friends mostly consisted of the cast standing in a white room gurning at the camera, but they managed to capture my attention nonetheless by the simple expedient of playing Kate Ceberano’s Brave over the top, which was – and still is – a fantastic song, as you discover for yourself below.
They did not of course incline me to watch the show, teenaged me having far more interesting things to do with my time, and it seems their effect was similarly poor on the rest of the Australian population as the series turned out to be a ratings disaster, surviving only three months before being axed – its cast dispersing to roles on its rival soaps and leaving the saga of the Rossi and Chandler families forever incomplete.
This impressively stark failure however sparked an idea in my mind, an idea that has lurked in the deepest caverns of my memory for over 30 years. An example of what the young people today would refer to as ‘trolling’ although back in the ancient days of the 90s we would have simply called ‘a prank’, and it is this idea I share with you today.
Create a brand new soap. Hire staff and writers and a cast, get production underway, and start a major advertising campaign about the hottest new drama series to hit the airwaves – possibly using a Kate Ceberano song to catch people’s attention if you think that’ll help.
Premiere the series and let it run with the standard kinds of plots you find on the streets of Erinsborough or the sands of Summer Bay. Build up an audience (hopefully) and get established as a part of the TV landscape.
Then after four or five months, with absolutely no warning, have – in the space of a single episode – World War III break out, the town get nuked and everyone die, followed by an announcement that that was the last ever episode.
Yes, it would be an incredibly expensive prank to pull, and – particularly in our modern age – difficult to keep a lid on before it happened, but can you imagine peoples’ reactions? The viewers’ heads would implode!
Anyway, the reason I mention all of this is because I recently became aware of the final episode of British TV series Byker Grove, a teen drama set in the northern English city of Newcastle, which finished up in 2006.
(I was vaguely aware of Byker Grove prior to this thanks to occasional online references to the startling facial hair of one of the characters, but couldn’t have told you anything else about it. Oh, and it’s apparently the origin of Ant and Dec, who I understand are like a British version of Hamish and Andy, and equally as annoying, for whatever that’s worth.)
Anyway, it seems that someone at the Byker Grove production offices back in 2006 was having thoughts about TV finales similar to my own, as the final episode of the show featured the cast realising that they’re characters on a fictional TV show, an attack by a tyranosaurus rex, a Neverending Story style nothingness consuming the world, and a last ditch “save the youth club from the developers” plot which culminates in said youth club blowing up, killing everyone who hadn’t yet been eaten by the dinosaur or consumed by the void. Now THAT’s television!
I don’t think anything on Australian TV has ever come close to that level of blatant and wonderful insanity, although the final couple of seasons of the aforementioned E Street had their moments (see, I said we’d come back to it). In an attempt to prop up falling ratings the writers introduced such elements as werewolves, angels and a psychic serial killer named “Mr Bad” – which shamefully just isn’t the kind of thing you see in Neighbours these days. I mean what’s Harold up to? Is he even still in the show? Could they bring him back as a Vampire? Now that would get me watching!
And to finish off with here’s the song Wait by Gyan which I include because it came out about the same time as Kate Ceberano’s Brave and I always used to get the two confused, and it’s a great song, and I have no other idea how to end this post.
When I was a kid, my parents always went out of their way to watch an extremely boring British soap opera named Howards Way. This was not because they found it particularly compelling, but because it was filmed in the vicinity of the Hampshire village resided in by my Aunt. As such any given episode would feature glimpses of places they knew, with an outside chance of spotting someone they’d met walking past in the background.
The idea that we all eventually turn into our parents is a cliché, however the problem with clichés is that they only become clichés in the first place because they’re true. As such I now find myself in a similar position, making room every Thursday night to watch the ABC’s The Heights, solely because it’s filmed just down the road.
(Excuse me for a minute, I appear to have been bitten on the wrist by a spider or something and have to go put some cream on it. If I never post again you’ll know why.)
Anyway, yes, The Heights. Needing both some exercise and some direction in life I decided yesterday to go on a walking tour of Heights shooting locations, and take some photos along the way.
My first stop was Arcadia High School, which is actually the Mount Lawley TAFE college on Lord Street. I caught the bus down there and arrived just as it started to rain.
A short walk through the drizzle to East Perth train station and an equally short train trip bought me to Arcadia Hospital, which funnily enough is another TAFE college, this time the East Perth branch at Claisebrook. Along the way I realised my camera lens was filthy and cleaned it – hopefully making subsequent pictures a bit sharper.
The fact that it’s directly across the road from Perth’s ABC headquarters is surely a complete coincidence…
A short walk along the reconstructed Claise Brook – which doesn’t seem to have had any maintenance in the last 10 years, seriously, can we do something about that? – takes us to the steps that I think are where Shannon got bawled out for arriving late for community service. It was certainly somewhere along Claise Brook anyway.
Following the steps upwards takes us to the old Boans furniture factory, home to the apartment inhabited by Claudia and Sabine.
By now the rain was starting to get serious. I had plans to walk down to the river and take some shots of the parks and bridges which often show up in episodes, but instead decided to stop in somewhere dry and have some lunch. I had a quite decent pizza at the Royal while drying out and reading the latest Fortean Times, then considered my options.
My original plan included a trip down to Trinity College (AKA Embleton) then across to Wellington Square (location of many open air scenes), hitting up the Towers themselves just behind the Old Mint, then getting a bus across to Iris’s store near Hyde Park. But the weather didn’t look likely to improve much, so I decided discretion was the better park of valour and I’d be better served by taking a quick jaunt directly to Wellington Square, see if I could grab a long shot of the towers, then head home. This turned out to be complicated by massive roadworks all along Wittenoom street, and work being done on the square itself but I did my best.
And thus ended my grand day out.
Sooner or later I’ll get around to some closer shots of the towers, the river parklands and Iris’s store. In the meantime I did take some shots last year covering the old Perth Enterprise Centre that serves at the exterior of the Railway Hotel, and the mural on Moore street that’s often seen as an interstitial with trains rushing past it. I stepped in an actual human turd (the city really needs to do something to support the homeless population) getting these pics, so appreciate them!
And that’s your lot! Be sure to tune in to ABC at 8:00pm Thursdays to see these places on air. Or not, I’m not your dad.
You know, Threshold – the infamous episode where Tom Paris travels really fast, turns into a salamander then has salamander babies with Captain Janeway) really should have been the last episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
I don’t mean production should have been shut down, everyone fired and the sets put to the torch – although a case for that can certainly be made – I mean that they discovered a perfectly plausible way to get back to Earth in no time flat.
The souped-up, transwarp shuttlecraft that inexplicably turns people into horny amphibians moves at infinite speed – it occupies every point in the universe at once until the pilot decides where to drop out of transwarp. As such there’s nothing stopping the pilot jumping instantly from the Delta quadrant to Earth orbit. The transformation into a space salamander takes some time to start, so they can land at the nearest medical facility and explain that they’re about to grow gills and cough up their own tongue, but that their doctor has prepared a complete treatment protocol and it’s right here on this PADD. A couple of days later they’re back to normal with no harm done and they’re home.
Janeway should instantly have devoted all of Voyager’s resources into building transwarp shuttles, packing them full of crew members and sending them back to Earth. The last person to leave the ship sets the self destruct to avoid contaminating the Delta quadrant with Federation tech, and everyone arrives back home safe and well with only the slight inconvenience of turning into an amphibian for a couple of days.
But no. Gotta hit that end-of-episode reset button! How else would we have been treated to the exquisite cringiness of the Doctor and Seven-of-Nine duetting on You Are My Sunshine?
Every episode of Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman ever…
A group of strangers roll into Colorado Springs. They are Jews/Poles/Gypsies/Ex-Slaves/Mormons/Circus Freaks/etc.
Dr Quinn: Welcome to Colorado Springs!
Old Shop Keeper: I ain’t sure ’bout these folks…
Surly Drunk Guy: (Snarls) We don’t like their kind round here!
Sully: (Says nothing because he’s off with the Cheyenne Indians learning ancient wisdom and modern environmentalism.)
Some time later
Surly Drunk Guy: (Snarls) We gotta send a message that we don’t like their kind round here!
Townspeople: We are easily led and will do whatever the surly drunk guy says!
Old Shop Keeper: I ain’t sure ’bout this…
Townspeople punch strangers and set their carts on fire
Surly Drunk Guy: (Snarls) We don’t like your kind round here!
Ex-Slave Blacksmith: Dr Mike! Come quick! There’s a riot! Again!
Dr Quinn: What are you all doing? These are people just like you! You should be ashamed of yourselves!
Townspeople: (Shuffle feet and stare at the ground)
Old Shop Keeper: (Shuffles feet and stares at the ground) Sorry Dr Mike…
Surly Drunk Guy: (Snarls) You need to keep your nose outta other people’s business Micheala! (Slinks away)
General Custer: (Glares threatening from the shadows)
Let us not got to Colorado Springs. It is a silly place.
I think this whole ‘Twitter’ thing might just catch on
Twitter is an interesting technology.
I can state this with certainty because I finally caved to the temptation to instantly broadcast my inane mutterings to the internet at large, and have been quietly tweeting away as @ for the last couple of months.
I have not mentioned this previously as there was every possibility that I would either massively embarrass myself or simply get bored and abandon the whole thing after a week, but it’s been a bit over two months and I’m still going, and reading back over my history does not make me cringe (much), so I figure it’s time to officially announce my getting on board with what everyone else has been doing for the better part of a decade.
As I said, Twitter is interesting, particularly in the way that it allows weird little moments of interaction. For instance, early this month I tweeted about how much I like Ali Barter’s latest single. A few hours later Ali Barter herself retweeted my comments. As a contrarian pseudo-luddite that’s very strange. I’m used to blindly sending missives about my latest enthusiasms out into the digital void, but actually receiving proof that the person I’m commenting on has seen said missive is a whole ‘nother level of missive sending that is quite startling.
And on Tuesday I tweeted that I think Miss Quill on the BBC’s Doctor Who spinoff Class is rather spiffing. Next thing I know, Fady Elsayed – who portrays Ram on the same show – is replying to me, which is downright surreal. Awesome, but surreal.
I’m pretty sure that the rest of the world figured this out ages ago, and I’m just a laughable newcomer stumbling around mooing like a digital moon calf, but it’s still a hell of a thing. I’m not sure, but I think this whole ‘Twitter’ thing might just catch on.
(PS: Yes, I’m following a girl I went to school with 20 years ago and haven’t spoken to since. I’m not cyber stalking her – she just happens to be getting married to an ex-work colleague of mine who doesn’t have a Twitter account. So if I’m cyber stalking anyone, I’m cyber stalking him).
Also, I find myself really liking the new single from the Panics, Weatherman.
If you stop the wind in its tracks,
Know it’s gonna rain, just like that,
When the sun it burns on your back,
Don’t complain to the weatherman,
That is all.
I decided not to get up and watch the Eurovision final live this year. I was at a semi-final party until late last night, so I slept in. We all know who won but I’m still going to do my review thing, because why not?
I’ll be adding some commentary on the on the acts that didn’t get through the second semi-final when I have a minute, but here we go!
What has Julia done with her hair?
Right, a woman dressed in platonic solids, that makes sense.
And an octopus man.
And an elephant man.
And a semi-naked Finn the Human.
Apparently they’re all made of paper, that’s clever, but no excuse!
They must have a bunch of spare battery packs for Bulgaria. She’s lit up like a lighthouse in every single shot.
Belgium: Well they’re certainly enthusiastic. And very 90s. Not a great song, but the presentation is very Eurovision. Not hardcore Eurovision, I mean they don’t have any piano-centaurs or holographic wolves, but there’s plenty of cheese. 3/5, mostly for enthusiasm.
Czech Republic: All white costume! Drink! Competent, yet dull, so far. Hmmm, it’s growing on me a bit. Hair change! Drink! Not bad overall. 3/5
Netherlands: A protest song against modern life apparently. With ten seconds of silence for people to do whatever they want. Giant clock! Oo! He’s playing an instrument! And they’ve actually got a band on stage. Inoffensive, middle of the road pop-country. Looking dead into the camera and mouthing “I love you” – extremely creepy, you lose points for that! 2.5/5
Azerbaijan: Golden microphone and body stocking and lots of fire. I presume the song will kick it up a notch in a second. Ah, there we go! Extras from Buck Rogers dancing against a background of flying Zome. OK, but nothing amazing. 2.5/5
Hungary: There’s whistling apparently. Big drum! Drink! Those eyebrows are quite something aren’t they? Ah, backup whistlers. That’s an unusual choice. And now they’re doing aerobics. Musically it just sounds like a not particularly good Live cover band. Drum guy’s lost his mind. Seriously, what’s the deal with asymmetric shirts? 2/5
Ad break! Time for a semi-final review!
Switzerland: All I can remember is that she had a transparent skirt and was bobbing up and down in a fashion that may have been intended to look like she was skiing, but actually just made her look constipated. Not great, not great at all…
Belarus: This act was everything Eurovision should be! Weird face paint, nudity, holographic wolves, performing with multiple holographic versions of yourself. It’s a crime that this didn’t get through!
And we’re back!
Italy: From what I’ve seen this is just weird. Hey! It’s in Italian! The staging is strange, but the song’s not bad. Could do with a bit more tune. Are sparkly overalls the next fashion trend, or is it a tie in to the agricultural theme? Best so far I think! 3.5/5
Israel: Ah, the Robert Smith/Boy George hybrid. A giant sparkly Zome face! And here comes the hula hoop! The hula hoop is silly, but it’s a pretty good song – even if it is cribbing from… can’t quite place it, but there’s another song it’s grabbing a bit from. Something 80’s I think. 4/5!
Bulgaria: Ah yes! the girl with the light up suit and wobbly knees! I actually snorted with laughter when she started dancing the first time. It’s a passable dance song, but it needs a better chorus. Nonetheless she’s singing bits in Bulgarian, she’s wearing a cape and her costume lights up, so 3.5/5!
Another ad break…
Ireland: Was this guy in Boyzone, or does he just like look like he was in Boyzone? Anyway it was an adequate song sung by a guy in a weird jacket, but nothing much to write home about.
Macedonia: Dona Dona Dona. Dona. Dona Dona. A great voice, but the song was sub par. And that costume wasn’t doing her any favours.
Back to it!
Sweden: The local boy. Well this is a whole load o’ nuthin. Ah! here we go. His muttering is easier to put up with with some musical backing, but still not great. Relying a bit too heavily on the teen hearthrob factor I think. 2.5/5 and I’m not sorry.
Germany: This girl appears to be a big fan of Japan. And insane. Let’s see… Big moon! Apparently she’s the Queen of Mirkwood. A good dose of Eurovision weirdness, but the song isn’t doing much for me. Great voice though. 3/5
France: What’s the bet that this will be entirely in French? Apparently he’s a former dental surgeon. A former dental surgeon flying through space. Sacré bleu! There’s English bits! Somewhat catchy dance track. 3/5
Poland: Jon Snow in Michael Jackson’s jacket asking the same question that the Scatman asked much better 20 years ago (you know nothing Michał Szpak). That said, it’s a better song than some of the others we’ve seen tonight. 2.5/5
Australia: Hooray! Our first proper Eurovision contestant! And she’s sitting on a box, manipulating holograms. The songwriters really went for epic with this one didn’t they? She’s pulling it off though. You can call me biased, but I honestly think it’s one of the best songs of the night, and an excellent performance of it. 4/5
(Don’t worry, I have no doubt we’ll send something awful next year)
Cyprus: It’s a band! Holy crap, that’s an opening. Are they in cages for stealing their riff from Midnight Oil? Decent performance, but it’s not a great song. Ahh! Demon wolves! And now the lead singer’s possessed! Is that even legal? 2/5
Serbia: An issues song, which makes me feel kind of guilty for trying to mock it. Very gothy. Are the backup singers dressed in shredded garbage bags? And what’s with that hair? Key change! Drink! OK song, great voice! 3/5
Lithuania: Oh yeah, this guy. I wasn’t impressed in the semi-final. His singing seems out of synch with the music. And is he meant to be some kind of ice-bender? Or a snow golem? That spin was kind of cool mind you. Costume change! Drink! You know, this is actually a bit better than I remebered – his enthusiasm is carrying it. 3/5
Croatia: Woah. That is one crazy dress! Ow, she seems a bit flat. Costume change! Drink! She really does seem off key. 2.5/5 (would have been 3 if she was on tune).
Russia: The favourite! Shame they invaded Ukraine isn’t it? Wings! Woah! Big on effects. Tempo change? Magic stairs. Gravity defiance! Oh now this is just getting silly! Not a bad song, but I think everyone has been dazzled by the effects. 3/5
Slovenia: I can’t actually recall anything about Slovenia. To the YouTubes! Oh yeah! Her! If YouTube ever bloody loads I might be able to remember something about the song.
I guess not. Back again.
Spain: Silver sports dress? A bit sparse so far. OK, kicking in a bit now. More crazy knee dancing, guess that must be in at the moment. There’s a decent dance track in there, but it’s all a bit too busy for it to gel. There’s two of them now, like I said, too busy. 2.5/5
Latvia: Sounds a bit off key. OK, he seems to have recovered. A bit dull isn’t it? Strong voice, but not a lot going on. Singer falls to knees! Drink! 2.5/5
Ukraine: The song Russia didn’t want them to play! Another issues song really. Musically not my cup of tea, although the traditional bit in the middle is great. 3/5
Malta: Are we back in the club in 1994? Ah! Giant face! Psychotic gymnast! Drink! Not much to write home about here I have to say. 2/5
Another ad break, let’s try again…
Slovenia: Oh yeah, I really liked this! Uptempo banjos and prolonged la-las. The guy swinging around on the pole is a bit much, but it’s a real shame this didn’t get through to the final.
Back to the show!
Georgia: It’s good to see another actual band participating, but their song really isn’t very good is it? And someone should tell that guitarist that Oasis broke up years ago. Does dropping to your knees to fiddle with the effects peddles count for a drink? 2/5
Austria: In French. Sweet and inoffensive. Frank L. Baum may want to have a word with them about the effects. Wind machine! Drink! 3/5
United Kingdom: Oh, this is always a gamble. The UK tries so hard that they often kick an own goal, but let’s see. Is that guitar making the sound of a piano? Now, you see this is decent. No gimmicks, no trying to game the system, just some guys singing a halfway decent song. They’ll probably still get voted to oblivion, but at least the UK can hold their heads up this year. 3.5/5
Armenia: Oh dear, talking. Swimsuit and a cape, OK, there’s gonna be a wind machine in this isn’t there? Oh this is not good at all is it? Even the holograms can’t save it. Is she singing a completely different song to the music? 2/5
And that’s it! Time for the interval, featuring Justin Timberlake for some reason. But back to the semi-final…
Denmark: Actually pretty good for a boy band song. Quite catchy. Although what’s with the sleeves on the guy on the left?
Norway: Seemed a bit off key, and full of weird tempo changes. Interesting, but not smart.
Albania: Finally Albania, who looked like she’d fallen into a vat of molten copper. Seriously guys, cut back on the bronzer! But not a bad song overall.
You know, it’s already 10:00pm, we know who won and I have to go to work tomorrow. I think I’ll give the whole voting rigmarole a miss this year (I can always check it out on YouTube tomorrow).
Well done Ukraine! Next year in Kiev!
I’ve been so busy and so stressed of late that I haven’t felt up to blogging about anything. But I’m going to make a bit of an effort, even if the results are entirely random.
So, at the start of April I went down south for Ryan and Jackie’s wedding. This was a lot of fun, but rather than talk about the ceremony, or the reception, or how nice it is down there, or how nice Justin and Marika were for giving a lift down there and back I’m going to talk about television.
On the Saturday morning I had some time to kill. I was staying in Margaret River and after a walk into the town center for breakfast and a look around I found myself back at my hotel, so turned on the TV to see what passes for rural entertainment these days. I was quite shocked to find myself watching the tail end of Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150AD, the second of the Peter Cushing Dalek movies from the 60s.
You see, back in the 60’s, just after Doctor Who began, there was an absolute craze for the Daleks. They were huge. So the powers that be decided to cash in by taking the first two Dalek stories from the series and turn them into big budget movies staring respected actor Peter Cushing (who lived in Whitstable) as the Doctor.
For a number of reasons (including the fact that the Doctor is portrayed as a human inventor actually surnamed “Who”) they don’t form part of the official Whovian cannon. I’ve always heard that they’re awful, but actually what I saw wasn’t too bad – especially judged by the standards of mid 60’s British film making. And the sets, costuming and effects were a lot better than anything the series could manage at that stage.
Excuse me for a second…
Peter Cushing went to Dunstable,
Had a run in with a Constable,
All involved were most uncomfortable,
Peter Cushing went to Dunstable,
Sorry about that.
After the Dalek’s horrible plans were defeated and some ads for tractors and the local agricultural show, a program came on called Doomsday Castle. It was – frankly – astonishing.
It was an observational series about a family whom it is tempting to describe as hillbillies constructing a ‘castle’ on top of a mountain in North Carolina to protect themselves from “marauders” when the “end times” come. The episode in question involved various family members constructing metal shutters for the ground floor windows and clearing land to construct a survival garden. The highlight of the show was when they decided to use explosives to remove a tree stump.
The entire thing left me gobsmacked.
If you’re concerned about protecting your family from “marauders” why the hell would you build a big, conspicuous castle on top of a mountain where it’ll be visible for miles around? And then why would you put it on TV? And most important of all, why in the name of all that’s sane and holy would you build a defensive structure with GODDAMN GROUND FLOOR WINDOWS?!?! Where did these rednecks study castle architecture?!? Disneyland??
And their explosives discipline was insane. The son tasked with clearing the land – right next, by the way, to the castle where the rest of the family were working – decided to use some sticks of dynamite to remove the stump. He didn’t see fit to inform anyone else about this, and wired up three sticks because “he didn’t know what three sticks would do”. IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT AN EXPLOSIVE WILL DO, DON’T MESS WITH IT!! He then set it off without any kind of warning – or at least tried to set it off because he screwed up the wiring, creating a highly dangerous UXO situation, which he solved by creeping up slowly to the stump behind a detached car hood and fiddling with it. It did blow up successfully on the second try, but again he gave no warning to anyone else.
Now I know these shows are for entertainment and they probably only pretended that he set the explosives off without warning, but it’s a terrible example to set for the viewing audience – particularly given that the kind of person who’d tune Doomsday Castle on a regular basis is probably not the sharpest tool in the bunker.
OK, that’s your lot. Tune in next time for some Frente or something.