88 Documentary

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned this post contains an image which may feature deceased persons.

From 88 Documentary, image by Peter Solness

From 88 Documentary Facebook page, image by Peter Solness

Thought I’d give a mention to a documentary my friend, Michaela Perske has produced and co-written called “88”.

The documentary goes back to 1988, the year of the Australian Bicentenary, and tells the story of some of the many thousands of Indigenous people who travelled from all over Australia to join in protests on January 26. As well as being a seminal moment in the development of modern Indigenous affairs in Australia, it was also a seminal moment in the lives of many of those profiled.

The program goes to air on ABC1 on Thursday, January 30 at 8.30pm. A lot of hard work over a long period of time has gone into this, so I hope you’ll be watching :)

There’s more info about the program on their Facebook page.

Andrew Mercado introduces the Number 96 screening at Sky Bar.

Number 96 Turns Forty

Andrew Mercado introduces the Number 96 screening at Sky Bar.

Andrew Mercado introduces the Number 96 screening at Sky Bar.

“The thing I’m most proud about Number 96 is that it saved lives”, David Sale told us at tonight’s fortieth anniversary screening of the legendary Australian television show. As the creator of the show, and as a gay man, he was speaking about the impact of the program’s character, Don Finlayson, on the large number of young gay men who watched the show, like me, as teenagers. Don was reputedly, the first “openly gay character” (as we we called it then, and sadly, still now) on Australian television, possibly the world. For me, as a ten year old or whatever I was, I found the character of Don absolutely fascinating. I don’t think I’d put a word to the way I felt at the time, but I certainly felt an affinity with Don. David Sale told us lots of people have since told him, seeing Don Finlayson as a mainstream character on Australian television who was gay, and not a deviant, not a freak, provided them with a lot of affirmation.

Tonight, as we celebrated the fortieth anniversary of “Number 96″ being first shown on Australian television, I couldn’t help but notice Joe Hasham who played Don Finlayson was actually a bit of a hottie. At tonight’s screening, we saw the black and white Don, sans beard, and the colour television Don with a beard. “He looks like a Surry Hills hipster”, one of my friends commented. I don’t remember Don being all that cute. As a ten year old, I was more interested in the Chandler Boys, but hey, yeah, Don was pretty hot. Who would have thought?

I think I was eight or nine when I was first allowed to stay up and watch “Number 96″. Perhaps mum and dad knew something back then? This was in stark contrast to school friends who were forbidden from watching the show, as it had featured nudity, homosexuality, black magic and all manner of terrible things. Unlike many people who describe scenes of watching the program through partially open doors, mum and dad allowed me to watch the show without restriction. A friend tonight mentioned how her older siblings were also allowed to watch the show from an early age, as it allowed their parents to begin the open discussion about things like sex. Perhaps that’s what mum and dad also had in mind, or perhaps, due to their age, they were less hung-up about these things?

Interviewed by Andrew Mercado are David Sale, Elaine Lee and Elisabeth Kirkby at tonight's fortieth anniversary screening of Number 96

Interviewed by Andrew Mercado are David Sale, Elaine Lee and Elisabeth Kirkby at tonight's fortieth anniversary screening of Number 96

But to be honest, I don’t remember all that much sex on Number 96. Yes, I remember the full frontal nudity scene with Deborah Grey (which our local station 11/8 blacked out the screen for), but mostly I remember Number 96 for its sensational plot-lines and for its comedy. As much as having Don Finlayson in the show was obviously important in my development as a gay man, my favourite characters were, in fact, the comedy characters of Dorrie, Herb and Flo.

So yeah, there was sex. But as tonight’s host, Andrew Mercado noted, there’s a fair bit of mythology about the program too. “Lots of people say they remember Abigail appearing nude on the program when in fact, she never did”, Andrew told us. The first “nude” was in fact, Vivienne Garrett who played the role of Rose Godolfus. Vivienne was at tonight’s screening, and she was great, as she shared some wonderful stories and memories of the program. There were some other actors from early episodes of the show who I really don’t remember, but of course, the big stars in attendance tonight were Elaine Lee and Elisabeth Kirkby.

Tonight we were shown an early black and white episode which I’d never seen before, and a late colour one, which I’d also never seen before. It was the episode where Maggie Cameron was revealed as the person responsible for the bombing of the building. What a great episode, and what a great actor Bettina Welch was.

It was great to see these actors, along with David Sale reminisce about what was a remarkable television show it was. The one question I wanted to ask, though time prevented, was how the actors lived with the show’s legacy. By appearing tonight, I’m assuming they were clearly happy and comfortable, but was there a time when they were haunted by the memory? I guess we’ll have to wait for the show’s fiftieth anniversary. Judging by their presence tonight – Elisabeth is now in her 90s and apparently in good health – I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ll still be around. Or at least I hope so.

Scene from Laid from ABC1

Television Saturday

Scene from Laid from ABC1

Scene from Laid from ABC1

Regular appearances by Sean Micallef could emerge as the only reason I don’t become totally addicted to “Laid”, the new black comedy on ABC 1. I don’t know why I don’t like him. I just don’t.

Co-incidentally, the last time I truly loved a program and found my allegiances tested was when he became Laura’s love interest on “Seachange”.

I think it’s because he has this constant look and manner which suggests he thinks he might be smarted than everyone else, and because he always plays “Sean Micallef”. Although I’m sure he’s probably a lovely person in real life, when he appears on screen I just want to punch him. I feel the same way about Kevin Klein and Richard Wilkins, but that’s another story and perhaps I need some therapy?

Anyway, the point is I saw an ad on television tonight for next week’s edition of “Laid” and I noticed Micallef makes an appearance. “Oh no”, I screamed at the television, adding, “I hope it’s only a camero and not an ongoing role”. Because if it is an ongoing role I will be really disappointed, as I was really impressed by the first episode of “Laid”.

I love the lead character. She has this great sense of vulnerability, but also strength. She works in a market research company doing focus groups. Meanwhile, she’s trying to get on with life and love and all of those things which challenge us all on a daily basis. She does so with passion and a dry, quite black sense of humour.

In this first episode, she goes to the funeral of a bloke she shagged twice at university, and who obviously held a candle for her for many years after. At the end of the funeral, she tries to hook-up with his best-friend, a guy she had also shagged a number of years ago. And guess what happens then? Well, I’m not one for spoilers, so will leave it to you to discover for yourself, as it’s available on iview for a couple of weeks (apologies to overseas readers, as the program is geo-blocked to Australia only).

It was one of a few television shows I watched today as part of “catch up Saturday”. There was also a WW2 doco on iview which I started to watch, but lost interest in. And then on live to air television, I watched “Who Do You Think You Are”, a program about maps, Melvyn Bragg’s show about the English language and then Graeme Norton. Yes, a dramatically interesting Saturday in front of the box.

Seriously though, I love “Who Do You Think You Are” in both its English and Australia formats. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a family history program which delves into the ancestry of a famous person. Today’s episode was about an English newsreader whose ancestry was Jewish-Polish via South Africa and apartheid. Although I’ve no idea who she was, her story was fascinating. If there was ever a chance to work on that show, I’d throw in my radio career and be there in an instant. I love this stuff.

But yeah, television was my best friend today. Nothing else to report.

Embarassing illnesses

Embarrassing illnesses

Embarassing illnesses

Every time you see Dr Christian Jessen with this face, you can be sure he is going to ask someone to drop their pants.

I don’t know if it’s my television viewing habits, or if it’s the summer season, but every time I turn on Channel 9 or Gem, there seems to be an episode of “Embarrassing Illnesses” (or one of the associated spin-off programs). Are they strip programming it at the moment?

I can’t recall exactly the first time I saw one of these programs, but I suspect it was late at night and I suspect I was channel surfing looking for something, anything to watch. Click, click, click, click. And then suddenly, there was a rather cute bloke – Dr Christian Jessen – who had just asked an equally cute bloke to drop his pants. “I think I’d better take a look at your penis”, he would have said, I’m sure.

“Hang on, I might stay around on this channel and watch this for a while”, I’m sure I would have thought to myself, only to discover a few seconds later the attractive bloke had some awful condition of the “private parts”. Something not quite right. Maybe something was a little bent? Something was, maybe, a little too large or a little too small? Or perhaps he’d had some unexpected and unwelcome visitors? :)

And then again a few minutes later, there’s someone under surgery, or someone with some awful skin condition on their bum. It’s not what you would call “polite television”. It’s not something you’d expect Mel and Kochie to host, is it?

But it’s actually quite a good show both in its concept and execution. I love the way they’ve taken lots of taboo subjects and have tried to normalize them, to make it okay to talk about stuff that affects many people, but which we don’t talk about. I think it’s fantastic they’ll address medical conditions which obviously cause people deep shame, and which often results in an avoidance of medical assistance. Sure, there’s a slightly voyeuristic quality about the program, but I think it’s great that they show people with these conditions, and show there’s a potential solution.

I don’t quite understand how English people go on the program. I mean, they have the National Health Service which, eventually, means their condition can be dealt with. But I guess there’s a degree of individual exhibitionism going on in the UK as well as the USA. Programs like Jerry Springer would struggle to work in Australia because of the shame factor, but I guess the UK is large enough to sustain a population of people for whom that wouldn’t be an issue. Personally, I would never go on a program like this, and I would never expose my personal, private illnesses on television, and I would never – intentionally – flash my tackle on national television, even if it meant speedy, safe surgery. But some people are happy to do this, and I guess we should all be grateful for that.

The program, of course, concentrates on physical conditions. It would be interesting to see them deal with mental illness, for example, though the treatment would obviously be far more complex and long-term than chopping off a bit of foreskin (which is not a good idea at the best of times in my humble opinion), I guess.

Yes, a good show. But what’s going on right now? Why is it that every time I turn on some late night television there’s someone with some awful scabby condition on their bum? :)