Mary-The Making Of A Princess

“He didn’t really propose to her on the side of the road to Hobart Airport?”, I asked a couple of colleagues during the week. Both were Hobart born and bred, and in the 40-50 year age group. I figured they’d know.

Having seen only the last fifteen minutes or so of “Mary – The Making Of A Princess” last weekend, but having seen the fairly scathing coverage on Twitter (“They can never show this in Denamrk”), I was still keen to catch up with the tele-movie about the relationship between Crown Prince Fredrik of Denmark and Australia’s Mary Donaldson.

I’m not a monarchist. Quite the opposite. Though I do like the “celebrity of it all”, I think the concept of royalty is anachronistic. But I quite like the Scandinavian royals. They seem a little more “real” than our own “Australian” royal family, the English royal family. Recently for example I watched the wedding of Sweden’s Prince Carl Phillip, and I loved the imagery of the Queen nursing her grand children, and one of the princesses being heavily pregnant. Ten years ago I watched the wedding of of Mary and Fredrik, and remember the image of the Queen chewing gum (nicarettes?) and of Fredrik being close to tears. A long way from the lives of most people in the world, but still a little more realistic than our own.

As for the film? The film began with a slide saying that it was a dramatic recreation (or something like that), meaning there was probably lots of stuff that wasn’t true. It goes along at a good tele-movie pace, the acting is quite okay, and there was nothing terrible offensive about it. That said, I thought the characterisation of the Queen seemed a little harsh. Based on what I’ve seen on her being interviewed, I thought she seemed a little nicer in real life than was portrayed here. Although it’s nothing special, I found the film strangely compelling. Who can resist a love story between a “commoner” and a prince? :)

Unfortunately the film ended just before the wedding itself. “The budget probably couldn’t afford it”, a colleague joked. But I think it was wise. The actual wedding itself, the bit where Fredrik teared up, as he waited for Mary to arrive was really wonderful. And that’s why, though I’m a republic, I think If Australia HAD to have a royal family, I’d be happy with the Danes.

And did he really propose on the roadside? Yeah, apparently he did.



As I mentioned the other week, I’m not a great watcher of fictional television. When friends talk about “The West Wing”, “Orange Is The New Black” and “Miss Fischer’s Murders”, I tend to glaze over. While there are some shows I do watch intently, and with passion, most of the time, television is either background noise or company for me. I’m far more inclined to have music or radio as my “soundtrack”.

But the other week I decided to give “Nashville” a go. And over a weekend I “binged” on about sixteen episodes. I was instantly hooked on the combination of “Dallas/Dynasty” meets “Smash”. I loved all of those shows and “Nashville” seemed to pretty much combine many of the things I really love: music, stories about families, intrigue etc. I thought Series 1 was excellent. I loved all of the characters, even if I found some of them annoying.

As I started to watch Series 2 on the weekend, I started to become even more annoyed by some of the characters. Deacon’s alcohol/drug addiction. Gunnar’s post-adolescent angst. Avery’s transformation from wanna-be star, to born-again roadie. Even Juliette, who I loved in Series 1 started to bore me, as she seemed to become more one-dimensional. Scarlet, who was already starting to shit me with her “small town girl” character moved to a whole level where I have begun to resent her, as soon as she entered a scene. I’m interested in the entrance of Will Lexington as the gay character, though I’m sure Will Lexington is probably also the name of a porn star. And I just wish he and Gunnar would get it on. Seriously. I’m still loving the character of Rayna James, though I did get a little bored with those days/weeks in the coma.

Nonetheless, I’ll stick with it. There’s a lot about the show I like.

A friend mentioned to me the other day Foxtel was about to start screening Series 4, so I guess I’ve got a lot of catching up to do over the next few weeks. “Do you want a copy on USB?”, another friend asked me today, but I told her I was fine, so long as Netflix bridges to Foxtel. I hope it does, and I hope I make it that far.

Please Like Me

Please Like Me

I always feel a bit awkward when friends talk about what they’ve been watching on TV. “Have you seen Nashville? What did you think of the latest episode of Borgen? Have you been watching House Of Cards”. You know what I mean. THOSE kind of conversations where a group of friends talk in intimate detail about a television show, about which you have absolutely no knowledge at all.

I don’t watch a lot of television. Sure, I have Foxtel and I have Netflix, but I’m not one for discovering new programs. For me, television is like “comfort food”. It’s something you have to keep you company. Obviously when there’s news, I binge-watch all of the appropriate channels. But on a regular day to day basis, I use both services for repeats of The Simpsons, Will & Grace, Absolutely Fabulous and the like.

But occasionally I really get into a program and become a little obsessive about it. This happened recently with the Danish series, “Rita” which I absolutely loved. And for the last couple of years, I’ve really loved the Josh Thomas series, “Please Like Me”.

I’ve seen Josh perform live at the Sydney Opera House. Though I quite liked what he did, I wouldn’t say I was a fan of his stand-up, or even some of the many times I’ve seen him perform on television. But when it comes to “Please Like Me”, I’m a complete fan.

What I really like about the show is that it combines both head and heart. While there are some wonderful moments of intellectual comedy, the program also has rounded out characters who you genuinely care about. Series 1 was good; Series 2 was better. That wonderful program where he and his mother (with a mental illness) travelled together to Tasmania was remarkable for its honesty as well as its comedy.

When the latest series (Series 3) appeared as a digital download I bought it immediately. It added to the collection, as I regularly watch Series 1 and 2 over and over again. I have to say, though, it’s frustrating having to wait week by week for the series to be complete, as I’d love to watch it all together over a weekend.

The first two episodes of the latest series have been terrific, especially for the evolution of the character of Josh’s boyfriend, Arnold, in the new series. From last season where we saw him as a character purely with a mental illness, to this series, where we’re seeing him as a more rounded character has been a wonderful transformation.

So yeah, next time we meet don’t ask me about “House Of Cards”, but I’ll happily chat at length about “Please Like Me”. Oh yeah, and I have a bit of a mancrush on Josh’s best friend in the series, Tom.

Judi Nunn, Tracey Mann, Cornelia Frances (and Andrew Mercado) pay tribute to Lois Ramsay, seated watching The Box 40th Anniversary at The Alexandria Hotel

The Box

In some ways I was a rather precocious child. Really? You sure about that? No way! Unlike other children of my generation I was allowed to watch some of the more “adult” television programs screened on Australian. For example, I loved Number 96. As I wrote on the fortieth anniversary screening of the show…

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?

Set in Sydney, “Number 96” was an incredibly popular television show. Inevitably, it wasn’t long before there was a Melbourne “equivalent”, “The Box”, set in the fictitious television station, “Channel 12”. Like “Number 96”, “The Box” had its fair share of scandal. But in contrast to the staid, rather boring lead gay character, “Don Finlayson”, “The Box” had “Lee Whitehead” who was wonderfully, outrageously camp. I loved his character. The contrast between the two shows was further illustrated recently in an email conversation I had with someone who noted the following:

Number 96 was written by gay men in Sydney, hence its strong female characters. The Box was written by straight men in Melbourne who’d all worked on cop shows – and the women are all doormats and sluts.

As an adult, I haven’t watched enough episodes of “The Box” to know if I agree with this. While there are lots of “Number 96” clips available online, there’s not a lot when you search for “The Box” on Youtube. In some ways it seems to be one of the “forgotten” shows of Australian television. For example, at the screening at Sydney’s Alexandria Hotel, which featured guest appearances by Judi Nunn, Tracey Mann, Lois Ramsay and Cornelia Francis, the younger member of the audience were more inclined to remember them for “Home & Away”, “Sweet and Sour” and “The Weakest Link”. This was further re-enforced when I told work colleagues about the screening the following day. But I still remember the show with fondness, even if specific memories of the show are a little weak.

It was a fun night. It was great to see such legendary Australian actors sitting comfortably in the midst of a bunch of 40-60 year old Australian television geeks. And it was great to remember a time of Australian television when comedy and drama were so comfortably combined. And my favourite quote from the movie? It was when Mrs H (the tea lady) called one of the characters a “trumped up little poof”. Very un-PC these days, but I’m determined to do my best to bring it back into the lexicon :)

88 Documentary

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.

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

Number 96 Turns Forty

“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?

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.