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.

Masterchef…insert fireball here

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 17th July 2012.

I’ve really been enjoying this current season of Masterchef. Based on the latest ratings, it looks like people are finally starting to tune in during these final weeks of the competition. I was addicted to the first season and I think that this year has been just as fun. The contestants are likeable (I’ve learnt what happens to disillusioned physiotherapists) and the format is familiar and comfortable.

I’m so used to the Masterchef format that I’ve become immune to their cliffhanger commercial breaks. No longer do I get frustrated when an important announcement is interrupted by a fireball explosion.

In fact, Masterchef has started to creep into my real life. This morning, when I got to the front of the queue at the coffee cart at work I simply made a fireball whooshing sound and then came back three minutes later to tell them what I wanted.

The show has also been useful for expanding my culinary vocabulary. I now know that caramelisation means to burn something, a roulade is a sausage made with clingwrap, a klosh is the sound it makes when you drop it and a deconstructed dish is what happens if it gives you food poisoning.

Published in: on July 19, 2012 at 10:28  Leave a Comment  
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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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TV Review: The New “It’s A Knockout” Sucks

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 29th November 2011.

On Sunday night, one of my favourite eighties TV shows was resurrected. With minimal fanfare, It’s a Knockout returned after a twenty four year absence.

Originally airing from 1985 – 1987, It’s a Knockout was hosted by Fiona McDonald and Billy J Smith. At the beginning of each episode they would enter the stadium in a golf cart and introduce a series of ridiculous challenges which pitted teams representing four Australian states against each other.

A guest referee would oversee the proceedings. Minor celebrities at the time filled this role, including Grant Kenny, Ricky May and Jon English, as well as Network Ten contracted talent such as Jason Donovan and Cameron Daddo.

The program was recorded just up the road from my childhood home, at Englefield Soccer Stadium in Dural. Surprisingly, I never attended a taping but remember being amazed by the stories from my school friends who went along. I recall being outraged at the time that audience members were split into groups and forced to barrack onscreen for a particular state.

I was particularly impressed that one of my next door neighbours was a cheerleader for the show. I ran into her several years ago. She is now the nursing manager for the intensive care unit of a major Sydney hospital. I bet she doesn’t have the It’s a Knockout gig on her CV.

The latest incarnation of It’s a Knockout is hosted by HG Nelson, Brad McEwan and Charli Robinson. The latter’s job is to interview the contestants and generally make everything seem so much more fun and hilarious than it actually is. Nelson and McEwan have a reasonable chemistry but their banter seems quite disconnected from the rest of the show, as if their segments were shot on a different day to the competition.

This is reminiscent of the similarly themed Wipeout show, which also featured two wise cracking hosts who were very obviously standing in front of a green screen in a studio far away from the stadium.

Both Wipeout and It’s a Knockout are filmed offshore, allegedly to take advantage of less stringent insurance regulations and contain costs. Wipeout and its various international editions, including Wipeout Australia, are shot in Argentina. Kuala Lumpur is home to the new It’s a Knockout, which is interesting, because when I think of whacky game shows, I definitely do not think of Malaysia.

The rebooted It’s a Knockout focuses less on the contestants and more on the action than the original incarnation. For me, this is counterproductive as it’s the human element which draws you in. Without some level of connection to the teams, the players just become Japanese game show cannon fodder for trips, spills and falls.

Gone also is the live audience split into four state groups. In its place is a small but excitable audience in a tiny grandstand. Presumably tourists who don’t care about whether NSW wins or not, the audience claps and cheers at the right times but based on the wide shots of the stadium, anyone in the grandstand would probably not be able to see the majority of the events. It is quite possible that the audience wasn’t even there for the games. With some clever editing, you would just need to shoot a couple of minutes of crowd reactions and send them home.

The continuous spruiking of a certain fast food brand was also annoying. Call me old fashioned but I prefer my ads in the ad breaks.

I know that It’s a Knockout is just another zany TV show but I’m being particularly critical because this one was a childhood favourite. The failed resurrection of Hey, Hey It’s Saturday last year and the imminent relaunch of Young Talent Time in 2012 prove that the TV networks are desperately running out of new ideas.

The problem with brushing the dust off old eighties programming such as It’s a Knockout is that its intended audience, nostalgic Gen Xers such as me, may have adored the show twenty five years ago but have now grown up. I’m no longer interested in Plucka Duck, precocious kids lip synching badly and people dressed up in ostrich costumes riding bikes. If the networks must go back to the eighties well, bring back the original shows as late night reruns.

Published in: on December 20, 2011 at 09:16  Leave a Comment  
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