The Reef Review, The “Spooky” Workers and TV’s Alcatraz

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 21st February 2012.

I’d like to thank everybody who washed their car or mowed their lawn over the weekend. Now it’s raining again.

I like to support Australian cinema as much as possible. Unfortunately this weekend I chose to watch The Reef, a humourless thriller involving two good looking couples, a yacht and a hungry shark. Can you guess what happens? Whilst beautifully shot in Queensland, the plodding storyline makes the 88 minute run time seem much longer. The bland characters were paper thin, making it very difficult to care as they are picked off by Jaws one by one. Just like the characters, all I wanted to do was endure the experience and make it to the end. None of the promotional material for the movie suggested a feel good film so I suppose I wasn’t deceived. After all, the uplifting tagline on the box was, “Pray you drown first.” If you want to see your favourite actors from McLeod’s Daughters and Underbelly become fish food then The Reef is definitely for you. Avoid if your holiday later this year is at the beach.

 

Speaking of scary movies, have you noticed that the Southern Cross Ten kiddie bedtime commercial starring The Workers has been reshot? A bizarre hybrid of The Wiggles, Hi-5 and The Village People, these children’s entertainers managed to film the creepiest goodnight jingle ever, complete with creepy death stares straight into the camera, toothy robotic smiles and horrible harmonies. Not surprisingly, a newly refilmed version of their ad appeared a few weeks ago. Gone is the weirdness. Instead, none of The Workers look at the camera at all, opting to sing to each other instead. So are they putting themselves to bed, or the kids at home? For my money, make kiddie entertainment come in the form of men in skivvies, fairies or singing and dancing clones. Leave occupational stereotypes for their teenage years when you put them to work at a fast food joint to pay for their Proactiv.

 

Have you checked out Alcatraz, the latest TV series from J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, the production house responsible for head scratcher Lost? Starring Sam Neill (in boggle eyed, “you must eat meat” mode) and the rotund guy from Lost, Jorge Garcia, the series follows a team of investigators searching for the population of guards and prisoners who mysteriously “disappeared” from the famous prison island in 1963. As the inmates reappear in their former cells one by one and resume their former evil ways, the team have to track them down and work out who or what is behind this event. Whilst I am enjoying the show, I have some major problems with the storyline.

If the team’s HQ is underneath the prison on the island, why don’t they just close the tourist attraction? The prisoners will reappear in their cells and be caught immediately, instead of catching the ferry back to mainland to cause trouble. And why do we never see the team on a boat travelling to and from Alcatraz? If you’re not going to close the island, then why inconvenience yourself with a boat ride several times a day? Do they have to wait for the hourly tourist ferry each time? If Lost has taught us anything, only time and a polar bear will tell, perhaps.

Published in: on February 29, 2012 at 07:31  Leave a Comment  
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Wigglegate: Sam dropped like a Hot Potato

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 24th January 2012.

There’s no business like show business. With the recent Wigglegate controversy, it shouldn’t be forgotten that for every part “show”, there is an equally important “business” component.

Last week’s dismissal of replacement Wiggle, Sam Moran, after five years in the iconic yellow skivvy, has brought condemnation from fans, and their parents, worldwide. Allegedly Moran’s contract was about to expire and it simply wasn’t renewed. Greg Page, the original yellow Wiggle, was back in good health and has returned. The original lineup is back together. What’s the problem?

The average span of a child’s interest in all things Wiggle can only be a couple of years before they move onto other things such as, um, Voltron and He-Man. I may be showing my age here. If your kids are going to fret that Sam has disappeared, just play the DVDs and CDs from Moran’s five year tenure over and over again. Isn’t that what they’re for anyway?

Replacing key performers in popular acts is nothing new. Several years after the original Brady Bunch TV series was cancelled, the cast was reunited for the disastrous (but somehow fantastically kitsch) Brady Bunch Variety Hour. Everyone returned, except for the original Jan Brady, Eve Plumb, who wisely stayed away. She was replaced by Geri Reischl for the short lived series.

Several years later, a sitcom The Brady Brides was aired, followed by a dramedy The Bradys. Eve Plumb returned for both and “Fake Jan” was never heard from again.

When Curly Howard of The Three Stooges had a stroke, he was replaced by his real life brother, Shemp. After he passed away from a heart attack (presumably from too many pokes in the eye), he too was replaced by not one, but eventually two “Curly Joes”. Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!

Fellow Australian children’s entertainers Hi-5 seem to be changing their lineup continuously. Unlike the Wiggles, they are contracted performers and don’t own their act. As employees, they can be sacked just like you and me. Fortunately, my contract doesn’t require me to smile twenty four hours a day.

The resurrected Young Talent Time premiered this past Sunday night with a brand new line up of teeny bopper team members. If the show follows the format of the original series, team members get the boot when they are sixteen. Did anyone bother to inform new cast member Georgia-May? According to the official website, she is already sixteen. Assuming the show survives more than one season, Georgia-May’s run might be extremely short lived. Goodnight Australia!

I’m happy to admit that the TV interviews with the “new” old Wiggles have been pretty poor. If I was their manager, I certainly would never let them in front of TV cameras unscripted (and without a dancing octopus) again. Their apparent non-caring attitude towards the outgoing Sam has tarnished their squeaky clean reputation.  A simple explanation of the dismissal as a business decision would have potentially avoided the controversy.

An even better option, in my opinion, would have been to announce that the Wiggles are actually a group of Time Lords. Five years ago, the yellow one regenerated after defeating the Cybermen and last week, the Daleks forced him to regenerate again.

Alternatively, you could claim that the yellow Wiggle is a magical scarecrow who can remove his head and replace it with another, just like Worzel Gummidge. On second thoughts, stick with the Time Lord excuse.

Published in: on January 25, 2012 at 07:02  Leave a Comment  
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Junior Masterchef: kids in the kitchen

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 14th September.

Sunday night saw the debut of Junior Masterchef, a retread of the successful Masterchef format, but this time with kids. I must admit to becoming addicted to the original series. Whilst I have never really enjoyed cooking programs, there was something special about the show that really hooked me in.

I guess we all have to eat, so watching delicious and beautifully presented food being prepared and served is something we can all appreciate. However, I think it was the human drama that really attracted me. Witnessing regular folk undertake and (mostly) overcome challenges had real appeal. And the art of cooking is something that we all can improve on in some way, so it is something that is easy to relate to, unlike shows such as Survivor which sees the contestants face ridiculous tasks and challenges.

I must admit though, I avoided the second season of Masterchef. I just wasn’t prepared to commit to six nights a week of viewing for months on end. That was going to require far more dedication than I was prepared to give (again). Of course, that would be a different story if we were talking about whacky Japanese game shows or wrestling.

The first episode of Junior Masterchef saw a bunch of kids cook up an array of totally amazing dishes. The quality of the cooking was surprising but what totally shocked me was how confident and ambitious these young people were. I am sure that kids weren’t like this when I was growing up.

Back in the eighties, when I was the same age as the Masterchef kids, I certainly didn’t have any plans to open up my own restaurant as soon as I turned eighteen. In fact, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I got older. Actually, I did, I wanted to be Batman.

There’s also no way that I would’ve been able to sit in front of a camera and speak as eloquently about food as the aspiring kiddie cooks did.  I’m almost certain that if placed in a similar situation, my twelve year old self would’ve scratched himself and mumbled something about liking Space Food Sticks.

I’m also sure kids weren’t as self-assured back then. In fact, the only super confident kids I knew were the school bully and the Young Talent Team (and they were robots).

At the age of twelve, my cooking abilities extended to grilling fish fingers and heating up frozen pizzas in the oven. I barely knew how to make two minute noodles in four minutes. And let’s not mention the time I put the frozen pizza, complete with plastic tray, in the oven for twenty minutes.

The Junior Masterchef kitchen was set in the same warehouse-like concrete and steel cavern as previous series. The main difference was that the cooking stations were tiny, as if the kitchen renovations were done by Fisher Price. The kids were also given red plastic knives instead of metal ones.  Whilst it was probably a wise idea to give the kids safe sharps, did they forget about the hot ovens, frying oil and boiling water?

Junior Masterchef airs once a week so will be ideal for those of us that think a little cravat goes a long way. Hearing the words “caramelise” and “reduction” each week will give me a sense of comfort, even if I have no idea what they mean. The kids will probably become less cute and more annoying over the season, but I guess there will be lots of gorgeous food to ogle.

Although you probably shouldn’t be allowed to make a crockenbush unless you can spell it and be taller than one, I’m sure plenty of us will get hooked by Junior Masterchef.

Published in: on September 14, 2010 at 09:17  Leave a Comment  
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