Dubious Celebrity Endorsements

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 8th May 2012.

If you’ve been anywhere in the proximity of a television or newspaper lately, you’ll be aware that Coles have relaunched their flybuys program. With just a swipe of a loyalty card, millions of customers can swap their valuable spending habit information for points. These points can be exchanged for flights and other rewards, apparently. I’ve been a member since the program was launched and I’m yet to fly anywhere. I must need to buy more before I can fly.

The face of the relaunched loyalty program is Dawn French of The Vicar of Dibley and French and Saunders fame. That’s right, British actress, writer and comedienne Dawn French. When you think about it, she’s a great choice. She’s funny, personable and a self-declared chocoholic. The only problem is that she’s British actress, writer and comedienne Dawn French.

At the time of writing this column, there’s 22,897,609 people living in Australia and according to Coles, none of them are suitable to advertise an Australian supermarket chain. Has Dawn French even set foot in a Coles store?  Why should she care that I can pick five discounted products? By the way, I chose fish heads, iSnack 2.0, Bindeez Beads, Pikachu and One Direction CDs. Perhaps Nelson Mandela was not available to front the campaign?

Speaking of ridiculous celebrity endorsements, way back in the early nineties, Channel Nine was “still the one.” Every January, the network would launch its new season with an extended promo featuring the contracted stars of the channel making fools of themselves. The 1990 season launch was no different and features Ray Martin tap dancing, Daryl and Ossie and the gang from Hey Hey It’s Saturday in prison, Peter Graves and the Mission Impossible team singing and Don Burke mowing words into a lawn. Inexplicably there’s also some dodgy dancing by a couple dressed in fluoro lycra bike pants.

The whole shebang is set to the Johnny O’Keefe song Shout, performed on a sailing boat by its captain, Jermaine Jackson. You read it, Jermaine Jackson, member of The Jackson 5, brother of The King of Pop, Michael Jackson and well known Australian television viewer.  What is her doing on a boat singing the virtues of watching an Australian television station? Only his accountant knows.

The Beach Boys are back. To celebrate fifty years as a band, well, actually make that thirty years as a band and twenty years of legal disputes, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks have reunited for a new album and worldwide tour. I can’t wait for them to hit our shores. Finger crossed for an Aussie tour.

Sometime in the early nineties, the Beach Boys, in their Love / Jardine / Johnston incarnation, were convinced to participate in a TV commercial for Manly Wharf. They re-recorded their iconic song Do It Again, with the altered lyrics “Let’s get back to the wharf and do it again.” How many times do you think the Beach Boys have been to Manly Wharf? My guess is just the once, to film the commercial. Obviously little deuce coupes are expensive and the royalties from Kokomo had run out.

I had planned to cite Tina Turner’s rugby league promos as the most ridiculous Aussie celebrity endorsement but it turns out that she actually is a big fan, supports Parramatta and can be found on the hill at every home game eating hot dogs.

New Aussie Drama: Cops LAC SUX

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 9th September 2010.

In the same week that it was announced that perennial Australian soap, Neighbours, will be shafted across to new digital station, Eleven, next year, a plethora of new home grown drama has premiered on the idiot box. Cops L.A.C. (Local Area Command) is the latest in a long line of local police dramas, the first of which was Homicide which premiered in 1964, almost ten years after the introduction of television in Australia.

A starring vehicle for Kate Ritchie, most recently coming off a stint in radio with Merrick and Rosso, and prior to that, a short run on soapie Home and Away, the new series debuted last week to over 1 million viewers. Supported by the who’s who of Aussie acting veterans, such as Gary Sweet, Roy Billing and Denise Roberts, and a few new faces, Kate is miscast as Detective Senior Constable Samantha Cooper. Sorry Kate, I just can’t buy you as a hard-nosed cop. You’re just too nice, or wooden, or both. If she approached me with a gun and handcuffs, I think I’d give her a hug rather than running away.

The rest of the cast get an assortment of stereotypes to play. Gary Sweet plays the abrasive and cocky superintendent with a heart of gold. Denise Roberts portrays the hard working, no-nonsense inspector. A female head of detectives no less. Roy Billing gets the veteran old school cop, just three months from retirement. I bet his character dies sacrificing himself heroically just minutes before the end of his last shift. All we need is Colonel Mustard in the library with the candle stick and we’ll have the full set of standard police show characters.

The premiere episode centred on the first day on the job for rookie cops Priscilla and Daniel, whilst team Milko investigates a car accident that may be (yawn) a murder! Within minutes of starting in the morning, Daniel gets a milkshake thrown over him and at the end of the episode, which takes place that evening, he is still wearing his soiled uniform. I know the L.A.C. is under-funded but surely they have spare uniforms? 

The killer ends up being the first and least likely suspect, who in TV storytelling terms is actually the most likely suspect. Oh, and smug Detective Llewellyn, played by Martin Dingle Wall, hangs rookie Priscilla’s cap from the roof to teach her a lesson for forgetting it. What tension and drama! If I want to watch a show called Cops, it better be the one with the reggae theme tune and foul mouthed Americans getting arrested with blurry faces.

My verdict: Cops S.U.X.

Spirited debuted two weeks ago on pay TV station “W”. An eight part dramedy from the producers of Love My Way, Spirited stars Claudia Karvan as Suzy Darling, a dentist who leaves her arrogant husband (Rodger Corser from Channel Ten cop drama Rush) to move into a city apartment with her kids. In the apartment she encounters Henry Mallet (Matt King) who may just be the ghost of a pommy rock star. Only appearing to her, Henry and Suzy develop a friendship that might just lead to romance, but can love develop between our world and the spirit realm? Thousand of Michael Jackson fans say yes.

With a set of appealing lead actors, Spirited has a light feel to it that is a refreshing change from the standard teen soap or overacted police drama. Eight episodes is probably enough to sustain viewer interest with its high concept storyline which could go stale over more episodes. It may be a little too reminiscent of The Ghost and Mrs Muir but Spirited is worth a look.

My verdict: Spirited is ghostly good fun.

Offspring also premiered in Channel Ten last month. I’m yet to watch an episode but it looks like a quirky comedy drama about relationships and family. Hmm, that sounds original. Packed to the Rafters in Melbourne, anyone?