Dear Ms Australian Television,
It’s true as I’ve often told my daughter that if you don’t have anything good to say, then zip it. But I’m also a firm believer that a spade should be called a spade and I’ve had forty something years of trying to get along with you. We began our relationship brilliantly with Adventure Island and that was the peak I’m afraid as after that you went downhill.
True, every now and again, you manage to push out a wonderful show such as the recent Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet and I have fond memories of the first series of The Secret Life of Us, The Timeless Land, Bryan Brown’s Twisted Tales but for the most part, your shows are crap.
But I’m a trier and I really want to give Australian shows a go. I believe in Australian stories being told which is why I set my current two mystery novels in Australia. But here’s where we part company – as you’re not telling the stories, Ms Australian Television. Underbelly Razor was your latest offering and despite misgivings you would run true to form, I tried to believe all the notices from the fawning critics about how this was the television event of the century as they did their usual favours for their mates. That’s part of your problem, isn’t it? The Australian television industry is so incestuous it would make Caligula’s family look like the Brady Bunch. Too many favours done to people not deserving. But I’m a fair-minded person and thought I’d give Underbelly Razor half an hour before I turned to DVD copies of Midsomer Murders.
The show began with all the usual QUIRKY touches. We are meant to be in the period covering 1927-1936 but there’s a Mental as Anything song playing. Some people might find that inspired but I find it irritating but I’m not thrown off totally as I’m used to you being QUIRKY. I’m also used to the usual cheap-jack sets. The jazz club scenes resemble American jazz clubs rather than Australian clubs and the dialogue is thin on the ground with the swift editing. It’s really a video clip rather than a narrative experience. This makes it impossible to have any empathy for any character because everyone is a cartoon. And because it’s all so QUIRKY there’s no QUALITY. That’s the trouble with you, Ms Australia TV, you have no subtlety or shades of grey. For some reason you always have to be the shrieking party-goer with your red cheap knickers over your head for no known reason except it’s QUIRKY.
There’s no patina to this show. It’s all surface gloss.. A couple of body extras stand stiffly topless in a corner but you never have the feeling you’re in a brothel. Have I mentioned the casting? More has been written on this topic on Angela Savage’s blog post with Will the Real Nellic Cameron please take a bath HERE and Jo Hilder’s post, How to make a TV series about two real middle-aged women without any real-middle-aged women HERE but as I feared, it’s as deplorable as it usually is. True, both Chelsey Preston Crayford and Danielle Cormack, the lead-actresses are very pretty and have a great time showing how tough they are with their swearing and sneering but neither convince. I would have loved to have seen those parts go to more experienced actresses who can actually pull off a cockney accent rather than simply look fetching in a cloche hat.
That’s another thing I despise against you Ms Australian TV. Your ageism. We have some brilliant actresses in this country who should be working and seen on screen more often. Pantina is important as well when it comes to people. There wasn’t a lot of script to comment upon. There was a lot of comic book style graphics for all the really dumb Australians watching at home in case they didn’t get the jokes.You don’t have to patronise us so much, we do get it.
And another pet hate. The story wasn’t revealed to us but told to us through the narration.
Finally, the half-hour was up and we switched it off to pop on Series 7 of Midsomer Murders. A show that uses quirky characters, isn’t afraid to give parts to older women and has subtle shades of grey. It has pantina. soul and doesn’t patronise its audience. It can be silly and ridiculous but somehow you’ll always fall down the rabbit hole of the story which you just don’t do with you, MS Australian TV.
It’s such a shame. I love quirky, I really do. I’ve been called it myself several times and I often write quirky characters but you just are way too QUIRKY. You don’t always have to play the tart with your red knickers over your head. You can also be the wallflower. It’s safe to blend, to have quiet spaces, to be a reflection and a true mirror to society.
The stories are out there on the streets waiting for you but somehow you never seem to tell them. Let the ancestors of this great country whisper them to you. Listen to the earth as it whispers it secrets. Stop worrying so much over telling Australian stories and just let the stories come through.
I’d love to turn you off altogether and immerse myself in a world of Mad Men, Midsomer Murders and Downton Abbey but you see the sad fact remains I don’t want to give up on you, totally. I love my country and the people in it. I want to hear Australian stories in all mediums but I can’t take what you’ve become Ms Australian TV. And the talent is out there. It’s tangible in the city streets, pulsating and calling.
My daughter is attending classes at NIDA on the advice of her health therapist and every week I saturate myself in the vibe of hope of that building. But what do these talented young people have to go to when they leave the dream factory and enter your lacklustre embrace you old, tart?
The actors are there. the script-writers are waiting and the glorious stories are everywhere you look. So why aren’t you telling them and why can’t you tell them well?
What do you think? Am I too harsh on the Australian Television Industry? What irks you the most about it? Anyone out there apart from critics who saw merit in this show that I missed totally? And, if you’re not Australian, what’s your take on the shows from your country? I’m interested
all images via here.