Recasting TV Characters

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26 August 2014.

With the first episode of Doctor Who starring Peter Capaldi hitting the small screen (and the big screen for the truly addicted) this past Sunday, let’s have a wander through my top 4 least successful recasting of characters in the world of television.

For the record, I thought Deep Breath was a solid start for the twelfth Doctor and I’m looking forward to enjoying Capaldi’s prickly, all business Time Lord.

4. The First Doctor – Doctor Who: To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original run of Doctor Who, a feature episode was produced in 1983. The Five Doctors was to reunite all five lead actors. Unfortunately, Tom Baker refused to participate so footage from the unaired story Shada was slotted in instead. The original Doctor William Hartnell had passed away in 1975 and was replaced by Richard Hurndall. Although endorsed by Hartnell’s widow, Hurndall portrayal of the acerbic first Doctor is the least believable aspect of the special, despite the wobbly sets and rubbery aliens. Hurndall passed away in the same year, supposedly before he was paid for the role.

3. Catwoman – Batman: If Batman is the world’s greatest detective, why was he incapable of noticing when his arch nemesis Catwoman changed from white actress Julie Newmar to black cabaret songstress Eartha Kitt in the campy TV series which ran from 1966-1968? Catwoman even changed again to the white Lee Meriwether for the movie. I suppose she was wearing a mask.

2. Becky – Roseanne: For the first five seasons of Roseanne Barr’s sitcom, daughter Becky was played by Lecy Goranson. When the actress chose to pursue university, her character was written out of the show. By season six, the role was recast with Sarah Chalke (later of Scrubs fame) who continued until the end of season seven, when Goranson’s university schedule allowed her to return. Scheduling conflicts midway through season eight resulted in Becky being played by both actresses in different episodes. Chalke reclaimed the role full time for the show’s ninth and final season. The show producers dealt with the regular changes in Becky’s appearance with a running gag.

1. Jan Brady – The Brady Bunch: When the cast of The Brady Bunch were approached in 1976 to return to television in the all singing, all dancing, all terrible Brady Bunch Variety Hour, all were coaxed back with the exception of Eve Plumb (Jan) who wisely stayed away. She was replaced by “Fake Jan” Geri Reischl, a talented singer and actor. Luckily for everyone involved, and TV audiences, the show only lasted nine episodes and is considered one of the worst ever produced. Geri retired in 1983, but returned to singing in 2000. My brother bought me an autographed copy of her 2011 album, entitled 1200 Riverside for my birthday last year. It is not very good, but the CD makes a great drink coaster.

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WWE Network – even more reason for wrestling nerds to stay inside

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 14th January 2014.

Last Thursday, at a glitzy press conference in Las Vegas, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Chairman Vince McMahon announced the creation of the WWE Network. Widely expected to be a new premium sports channel to be carried via traditional US cable TV distributors, WWE pulled a pro wrestling storyline swerve by revealing that the fledgling network will be internet based, and most importantly, available in Australia.

WWE Network will consist of a live feed plus on demand programming. I have no doubt that die hard fans will be able to stay glued to their screens 24/7 but is there enough footage of men pretending to fight in their undies for a whole network?

On their way to becoming the dominant wrestling promotion in the USA and by default, the planet, WWE have swallowed up almost every tape library going so their archive of over 100,000 hours of bouts and footage from the 1940’s to now will be a major drawcard for enthusiasts of the square circle.

WWE is also promising original programming such as Wrestlemania Rewind which will examine some of the greatest match-ups in history, the stories behind them and talk to the participants, assuming they haven’t died in a steroid or drug related incident. Another documentary style show, The Monday Night War, will spotlight the infamous mid-90’s battle for ratings between WWE and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Of course, history is written by the victors so don’t expect a balanced perspective. For the record, my friends and I were huge WCW fans at the time. With hindsight, WCW was pretty terrible. Our preference for it may have had more to do with Australian pay TV’s decision to drop WWE programming at the time.

I’m most excited about WWE Legends House, a reality show which sees “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and other stars from the eighties with inverted commas in their names live under the same roof. I’m looking forward to enjoying the antics of the legends. By legends, I mean a bunch of unhinged old grapplers who have been dropped on their heads a few too many times.


For most fans, the biggest attraction will be the monthly pay per view events such as Wrestlemania. Currently priced at $35 a pop via Australian pay TV channel Main Event, the pay per views will be part of the network lineup. With the introductory price point for the WWE Network being set at US$9.99 per month, with a minimum six month subscription, the online channel represents great value for fans and appears to be another sign that tradition TV distribution is on the wane.


The best news for Aussie wrestling fans is that WWE Network will become available for us in late 2015 or early 2015. The lag is presumably to allow WWE to renegotiate its arrangements with local distributors such as Foxtel.

WWE Network premieres in the US only on February 24. In the words of the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “Oooooh yeeeah!”

Christmas Albums 2013

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 10th December 2013.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Such a shame then, that the holiday season has to come with such awful music. That’s right, it’s Christmas album season. Every December, musicians around the globe have just a few short weeks to cash in with generally horrible albums which are completely useless 11 months of the year.

BYO earplugs folks. Let’s trawl through the latest holiday music offerings competing for your, or at least your grandmother’s, hard earned present money.

First up is Leona Lewis, 2006 winner of The X Factor in the UK. Christmas, With Love is a Motown style album of traditional fare, such as O Holy Night, Winter Wonderland and Silent Night as well as some original material. Lewis has a similar voice to Mariah Carey and the album could easily be mistaken for one of Carey’s mega successful Christmas releases. For my money though, if it’s a Motown Christmas you’re after, you must listen to A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector. It’s the best Christmas album ever.

Typing of Motown, Australian vocal group Human Nature have also unleashed a Christmas album, imaginatively titled The Christmas Album. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I was surprised to be confronted by huge advertisements for their Motown show at The Venetian, proclaiming their “modern twist” on the genre. I suppose a quartet of squeaky clean white guys from Australia performing music of a predominantly black origin is a “modern twist”. I look forward to their upcoming negro spirituals album.

Human Nature have been running their Vegas act for the past 4 years. Good luck to them I say. And thank you for permanently performing so far away from me. Back to the task at hand. If your idea of a good time is being stuck in an elevator during the Christmas sales, then this is the album for you.

Remember the band Heart? They had a huge hit in the eighties with All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You, but have actually been around since the early seventies. Well sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson are back with a new Christmas EP, catchily entitled Heart Christmas Single 2013. No longer the hard rocking act of yesteryear, they’ve teamed up with soul crooner Aaron Neville and eighties heartthrob Richard Marx on two holiday themed original songs. This one is strictly for the fans, and anyone who thinks that all they wanna do is have a nice cup of tea and a lie down. File under bland.

What’s better than a Christmas album? The answer is a Christmas single. At least it’s all over in 3 minutes. This year Susan Boyle teams up with Elvis Presley on O Come All Ye, Faithful. The recording sessions must have been a blast. I actually feel bad for the King. It’s pretty hard to object to having your legacy besmirched when you’ve been dead for 36 years. Please don’t buy this single. It will only encourage them.

My pick of the litter is the debut single from Abigail Breslin, the former child star of Little Miss Sunshine. Still an actress and now a budding musician, 17 year old Breslin has a sweet voice and Christmas In New York is a pretty song. I’m not completely certain that a Christmas single is a good way to kickstart a music career, but hey, who needs credibility in the music business at this time of the year?

Published in: on January 7, 2014 at 16:37  Leave a Comment  
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Undies on the Outside: Thoughts on Superman

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 25th June 2013.

As long as I can recall, the Man of Steel has been a part of my life. For most of my childhood, I had a cardboard Superman stuck on my bedroom wall with pins in his arms and legs so his joints would articulate. Each night I’d doze off with a smiling and waving Kal-El looking over me.

My parents were early adopters of the VHS format in the early eighties and one of my perennial favourites was Superman II, taped off the television. Every couple of week I’d pop the tape in the top of the machine (yep, the VHS player was old school) and enjoy Supes battling Terrence Stamp’s evil General Zod.

Mum had also recorded the original Superman movie but I was less keen on it. I found the scene at the beginning of the film depicting the destruction of Krypton too traumatic for my sensitive little mind and would often fast forward through it and start with Kal-El landing in the cornfield in Smallville.

It was only recently that I discovered that both Superman and Superman II were filmed simultaneously. Original director Richard Donner clashed with the producers and was sacked after finishing the first film and three quarters of the sequel. Richard Lester was brought in to finish Superman 2 and drastically changed the storyline. In 2006, after much lobbying from fans, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released and it is magnificent.

Although a little patchy now, the flying effects in the first two films were groundbreaking at the time. I often could be found as a kid trying to replicate the effects by lying on top of a kitchen stool in a flying pose and making whooshing sounds. Maybe I invented planking?

I went to see Superman III with my mother at the now defunct Roxy Cinema at Parramatta. Even at the tender age of eight, I could tell that the film was terrible. A vehicle for coked up comedian Richard Pryor, this turkey saw Christopher Reeve split into two personas when exposed to synthesised kryptonite that was infused with cigarette tar, and then fight a supercomputer, as you do.

In 1987, I received the Lucky Book Club tie-in adaption of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and wisely steered away from seeing this movie bomb until recently. By this stage, Reeve was not keen to repeat the campy trash of the third instalment and was only swayed by the lure of story input. What resulted was a truly atrocious low budget film which involves Supes disarming the world of its nuclear arsenal and then fighting Nuclear Man, who is created when said bombs are thrown into the sun for disposal by the Man of Steel.

During the late eighties, Superboy started screening on TV in the late afternoon timeslot. Also a low budget affair, I remember it being rather low key, with a young Superman fighting drug dealers and crime lords, rather than super villains (or supercomputers). The romantic adventure series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman followed in prime time in the early nineties. I didn’t watch this one because it was more drama than heroics, plus I was too enamoured with The X-Files at the time. And I still have to catch up on the final eight seasons of Smallville which was a little choppy in terms of quality and certainly very slow moving (just put on the suit and fly already).

In 2006, Bryan Singer’s underrated Superman Returns hit the big screen. I must admit that as soon as John Williams’ iconic score began, the cinema got just a little dusty. Unfairly labelled as a failure, there is plenty to enjoy about this movie, which was largely filmed in Sydney.

On Thursday, Man of Steel will arrive and I cannot wait. Despite hit and miss director, Zack Snyder, being at the helm, I will buy my ticket and hopefully love it. After all of these years together, Superman surely won’t let me down.

Published in: on June 30, 2013 at 16:19  Leave a Comment  
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Bad Movie Choices for Dating

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 2nd April 2013.

It’s strange how we regularly choose the cinema as a social experience. What’s social about sitting in a darkened room where it is impolite to make conversation? I suppose having that shared experience to discuss afterwards makes all the difference. What did we like about the film? What did we dislike about it?

I quite like going to the cinema alone. One of my favourite film experiences was watching Wolf Creek as the only person in the cinema. My backpacking days came quickly to an end after that one.

Selecting the right film is always a dilemma, especially when trying to impress someone of the opposite sex. As a cinefile, I appreciate all types of films, but there are clearly terrible choices which can turn date night into Fright Night. Here are some of my biggest mistakes. In the interests of protecting the innocent, I won’t name names and if ever asked about this, I will deny that it ever happened (this means you, Doug the newspaper guy).

So the year is 2000. You’ve asked a girl on a first date. You’re at the box office and you suggest that an Aussie film would be a great choice. Eric Bana is that funny guy from TV. His film debut should be hilarious, right? Wrong. About twenty minutes into Andrew Dominik’s Chopper, Bana’s titular character has been stabbed in the gut. There is blood everywhere. I look across to my date. She’s looking down. Wait, she’s not looking away from the visceral violence on the screen. She’s not looking anywhere. She’s passed out.

Trust me, assisting a faint, clammy girl out of the cinema is not a great start for a date. It is, however, a pretty definitive ending. I did go back later and see the rest of the film. It’s brilliant.

Jumping backwards in time almost a decade, I asked the smartest girl at school on a date to a Saturday afternoon matinee. How quaint! The year is 1991 and in hindsight, there was an amazing array of superb films on offer: Cape Fear, JFK, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Silence of the Lambs. Which film did I actually choose? Suburban Commando, starring Hulk Hogan, of course. This cinematic abomination is neither funny nor dramatic. As an actor, the Hulkster is a fantastic wrestler. Whilst remaining friends throughout school, we never spoke of this date again (Girl X and I, not Hulk Hogan and I).

My final embarrassment came during my university years. I frequented the Sydney Film Festival every year and was keen to share my film discoveries with anyone who would listen. I asked a girl to see a film that I was keen to champion, an underrated Aussie gem starring Jack Thompson and a young actor named Russell Crowe.

It was only when the lights darkened and I was thinking about trying the Yawn and Stretch Technique™ that I remembered that The Sum of Us was a tale about a father and son coming to terms with the son’s homosexuality. Although by definition a romantic-comedy, and still a film I recommend, this selection was not necessarily in line with the message I was trying to send. That date ended with a handshake. Enough said.

Trust me, choosing the right film is vital to romance. Learn from my mistakes. I’ll leave you with one last rule, which I learned the hard way. It goes like this. Don’t drop a mega-sized Coke on your date at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and insist on staying for the rest of the film.

Christmas Entertainer Humiliation: A Confession

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 11th December 2012.

Many moons ago, I played drums and sang with a moderately unsuccessful rock band. We were big in Japan. Well, I wasn’t, but the guitarist Scott was quite tall and well above the average height for Japanese men. One Christmas, the bass player Craig and I were hired to play a corporate Christmas party for a non-specific engineering company.

The theme for the party was medieval times and we were to be jesters. I instantly had a bad feeling about this, Han Solo style, when I was asked if either of us played the lute or pan flute. “Err, no,” I replied. “But Craig can play the guitar and I will sing.” At the time, we were both poor university students, and despite our reservations about the gig we were both skint and desperately needed the $300 appearance fee.

Besides, we only needed to dress up in tights and entertain the guests as they arrived at the function marquee set up in Parramatta Park. What was the worst that could happen? Well, the answer to that question is that the organiser could forget to mention that we also had to lead the party in a 20 minute Christmas carol sing-a-long.

I don’t know if you’ve ever attended a boozy corporate function, but trust me, the last thing you would ever want to do is sing carols. I take that back, the last thing you would ever want to do is sing carols with me. Even worse still, the function manager had requested that we also perform a version of John Williamson’s little known ditty, No-one Loves Brisbane like Jesus, replacing Brisbane with the name of the engineering company’s manager. This was going to be a massacre.

The pre-event entertaining went well. Craig and I sang some covers from our usual band set. I carried around a kiddie size guitar that I pretended to strum. No-one seemed to notice that we weren’t playing lutes or pan flutes. The tights were pretty comfortable.

At show time, we were led to the stage like lambs to the slaughter… lambs with little jester hats on their heads. By this time, the crowd was mid-dinner and well hydrated.  We introduced ourselves, invited the audience to sing along and launched into our first carol.

To be fair, they respected us enough as performers to not boo through the first minute. They were probably too shocked by the talent black hole on stage to make a noise. We must’ve looked hungry too because they started to throw bread rolls at us soon after. You can imagine the reception to our “special” comedy song about the company manager.

We somehow managed to get through the set and left the stage with our dignity intact. Actually, we left the stage with a half dozen dinner rolls each and no dignity.

In my short career as a jester, musician and corporate entertainer, that Christmas gig was the worst ever. I’ll never forget the jeers and humiliation. To this day, I have never hired an engineer from that firm. I’ve never needed the services of one either, but that’s not the point.

So this Christmas, spare a thought for mediocre performers everywhere. Wait until the end of the carol before jeering and always butter the bread rolls before throwing them.

Published in: on December 25, 2012 at 08:28  Leave a Comment  
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Being John Malkovich 2: Being Lara Bingle

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 10th July 2012.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the sequel to the Spike Jonze comedy Being John Malkovich. It finally premiered on TV a few weeks ago but so far I’m not impressed. Being Lara Bingle has none of the indie charm of the original and I’m still waiting for Josh, Sharon or Hermonie to find the portal that leads literally into Lara’s head. I guess when that happens we’ll finally find out if one can breathe in a vacuum.

Why is there a picture of a cat on cat food?

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 10th July 2012.

Why does pet food always have a picture of the appropriate animal on the package? There isn’t a picture of a hungry looking person on food for human consumption. Usually food packaging for people has an example of the product as a serving suggestion. Applying that rule, one could safely assume that cat food contains 100% cat.

Perhaps the picture is to help me identify the human food from the pet food in my larder? Do they realise that I could just read the words on the label instead? I guess it is a payday for some animal modelling agency somewhere. So how do vision impaired people identify those canned asparagus spears from their pet’s tuna and crab mornay?

Published in: on July 19, 2012 at 10:38  Comments (1)  
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Blu-ray Combo Packs: would you like fries with that?

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 10th July 2012.

There’s a trend now to release films in combo packs. That’s a blu-ray disc, DVD and digital copy of the same movie in the same package. Why would I want three copies of a film in three different formats? If I own a blu-ray player and have the capability to enjoy a film at home in glorious high definition, why would I want to watch it on my phone or in inferior DVD?

Blu-ray owners seem to be the hardest hit by these packages, which are more expensive than a standard edition. It is worse for 3D blu-ray owners who have to pay even more for a four disc combo. I understand that this may be appropriate for kiddie films so you can have a copy for the kids or the car but the majority of these combos are for adult oriented flicks. My suggestion to thrifty blu-ray owners is to find a friend who owns a DVD player only and someone who likes to watch movies on their iPad and split the cost of the combo three ways.

Published in: on July 19, 2012 at 10:35  Leave a Comment  
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Salt and Pepper Squid: the new staple

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 10th July 2012.

Look at the menu of any contemporary cafe or restaurant nowadays and you are likely to find salt and pepper squid. Five years ago this dish didn’t exist, and now it is everywhere. In the seventies, the prawn cocktail was the standard Australian starter and unfortunately for our cephalopod friends, they too have become a favourite on our tables.

In a way, the existence of the same entree at every dining establishment makes it easy to determine the quality of your restaurant. Simply order the salt and pepper squid. If the dish is good, then there’s a good chance you’ll have a great meal. If the squid gets your thumbs down, make up some story about the babysitter getting sick and get out of there. Pay for your entree, of course.

Published in: on July 19, 2012 at 10:33  Leave a Comment  
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