The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia on December 2, 1999 · Page 89
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The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia · Page 89

Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia
Issue Date:
Thursday, December 2, 1999
Page 89
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! Preview Willing to kill: The Japan subway attack. laugh track cranked up to II a ruse usually applied In sitcoms lacking a certain something (humor) Norm lifts itself above the throng with some clever, cheeky lines and deft delivery. Norm plays Norm Henderson, a former ice hockey star on probation for gambling and tax evasion. For his community service, he plays social worker to misfit young folk and helps get them on the straight and narrow with the help of his offsider, Laurie (played by Laurie Metcalf, who reprises her nervy sister act from Roseanne), who is also his probation officer. The hook is that the directionless, dry-humored and nihilistic (but likeable) Norm is not really interested in helping anyone, but screwing up would mean having to complete his sentence in prison. If The Norm Show builds on this solid start, it'll have its own prime-time slot in the big league by next season. Gordon Farrer That '70s Show Thursday, Channel 7, 7.30pm If you remember the 70s, tragically you really were there. And if you really were there, you will know it looked much better through the wrong end of a telescope, like all black holes of taste and enlightenment. This cute show is set in 1 976 and features four mid-western American teenagers grappling with dates, parents, cars and entertainment in a pre-digital age. That 70s Show will score with at least three audience demographics. Baby-boomers will remember the safari suits and flares, lava lamps and the Captain and Tenille singing "Love will keep us together. . . fooorever". Their kids will remember staggering along in platform shoes, trying to figure out how to pee while wearing a jumpsuit And their kids can laugh themselves sick, grateful they weren't there at all. That '70s Show was brought to the screen by a tribe of writers and producers whose impeccable comedic credentials include Roseanne, The Cosby Show, 3rd Rock From The Sun, Wayne's World and The Brady Bunch Movie. Like the 70s themselves, the concept may wear thin. Until then, pop another tray of pizza toasts in the oven and hang out on the sofa or was it a beanbag back then? Barbara Hooks Thai testes: Not so daring for a British audience. Glynn Christian Tastes Royal Thailand Friday, SBS, 8pm The title of this nine-part BBC series suggests the eponymous Glynn travels through the former Siam licking members' of its sprawling royal family. He comes close to Thai royalty, that is. The title music was composed by King Bhumibal IX, whose other names combined are as long as a Bangkok klong. And one of his guides is a lesser royal who has a baht on the side as a restaurateur. Not that Glynn needs a guide. The author of 25 cookery books and the great, great, great, great grandson of the Bounty's mutineering Fletcher Christian, he is a consummate all-rounder, writing, presenting, producing, directing, eating and digesting the entire show. He's also very knowledgable about Thai ingredients and cooking. But, as the series was made for a wussy British audience, he's rather coy about fish sauce and shrimp paste, describing them as "the terrible twins", like Nanny in the nursery. And he's rather waspish with a street vendor, bidding viewers to: "Note the diamond ring, will you there's cash in sate, believe me." But, in between, there are arts, crafts, shopping and tips for travellers. Indeed, it's rather like the perfect seven-course Thai meal a bit of everything. Barbara Hooks Killer Cults: Soldiers of the Apocalypse Saturday, SBS, 8.35pm It's been interesting, while watching this hamfisted but intriguing three-part series, to try to figure out just which of the featured cult leaders was the most dangerous. How do you measure such a thing? If you go by the number of people they were willing to murder for their cause, the winner has to be the bearded Aum sect leader from Japan, Shoko Asahara. That sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway in March 1995 killed 1 2 and injured 5000. If, however, you go by the number of people a leader has actually killed in their own name, the People's Temple leader Jim Jones takes the dishonor with the 923 who died after drinking cyanide at their Jonestown compound on 18 November, 1978. His son, Stephen, is featured heavily in the final episode and his father's legacy clearly weighs heavily on his heart and conscience. The opening shots of his looking at pictures of the Jonestown dead are very moving, and underscores the program's implicit warning to the vulnerable people these cults prey on live your own life, not somebody else's. Jim Schembri Front Up Tuesday, SBS, 7.30pm It's like he's following me. I've seen him twice doing his thing in Acland Street, St Kilda, in Sydney's Bondi Junction and at the Corso in Manly. Each time he pops up, I fear he's about to stick his mike under my nose and ask me to reveal details of tjti. if ill i . 0lf W?t ' )I I'J i Cute and caring: Dr Matthew O'Meara presents Kids' Ward but children are the stars. my personal life. Each time in my head I run through a prepared script geared to elicit maximum pathos from a national television audience in case I'm cornered: I was orphaned at six, Mr Urban. Kicked out of the circus at eight Sold matches in fog-bound 1 9th-century London at 1 2 to earn enough for gruel to feed me and my blind aunt . . . The competition to be interesting on Front Up is strong most of the people interviewed by (in his other incarnation) film journalist Andrew L Urban in six seasons of this simple but effective format are fascinating. Ordinary people stopped in the street give moving accounts of drug problems and saucy details of extra-marital affairs. Peccadilloes are admitted to, transgressions confessed, secret yearnings revealed. And it all happens in shopping centres, in front of a video camera, with a gentle question asked by a fellow holding a microphone. Tonight, Hazel talks about raising two young grandchildren after her daughter was murdered. It's just as well Urban hasn't approached me no fiction can compare with that, Gordon Farrer Howard Goodall's Big Bangs: Notation Wednesday, ABC, 8.30pm Don't let the title fool you: this is not a series about a wacky new scientist claiming the universe was formed by several Big Bangs, but an engaging Englishman and his love of music. Howard Goodall believes the history of music over the past 1 000 years or so has been marked by several huge leaps forward and, in these documentaries, he explains why. The first Big Bang is notation, taken for granted now, but non-existent around the time of the last millennium eve. Then, choristers and others learnt their songs through personal instruction. This was fine if you had both a brilliant memory and a top musical ear, but for most people, it meant a kind of Chinese whispers in which tunes became more and more distorted as they were passed on. Then an Italian chap named Guido Monaco latched on to the idea of using a thin red line to mark and separate notes on a page. Suddenly a perfect stranger could pick up the paper, recognise the notes and learn the song. Eventually, other lines were added and it began to resemble the notation we see today. In the hands of many, this could become an esoteric series, but Goodall always has an eye for the lay audience, ensuring that his Self-parody: Pamela plus in VIP. Big Bangs is intelligent, enjoyable television. Darrin Farrant VIP:Valleryofthe Dolls Saturday, Channel 10,8.30pm When the definitive history of the 20th century is written sometime in the next few decades, the name Pamela Anderson Lee is bound to feature prominently. How could such a harmless celebrity scare so many people? Pamela never pretended to have much of an agenda, and Vallery Irons, her deliberately vacuous character on VIP (on which she is an executive producer), shows a degree of self-parody that commands admiration. Yes, there are lots of really nice-looking women with very little on in the series and this episode, which involves a Playboylike magazine called Rogue, offers lots of excuses to show them, but since when was that a crime? Besides, the rest of the personal protection team that Vallery heads features a host of women who Urban Frontage: Front Ufft Andrew Urban. deserve a place alongside Xena, Dana Scully and Lisa Simpson in the pop-cultural pantheon of strong, intelligent TV women. They're all great, and not to be messed with especially the fiercely magnetic Natalie Raitano, who wears dual holsters like nobody else can. Jim Schembri Hyperion Bay: Static Monday Monday, Channel 9, 9.30pm Former thrtysomethng producer Joseph Dougherty clearly knows what he's aiming for with this family-based drama series. He wants to contrast the big-city values represented by a computer whiz, Dennis (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), with those of his rather resentful older brother, Nick (Dylan Neal), who stayed behind in their small home town to run the family construction business with their straight-as-a-rod father (Raymond J. Barry). He wants to set up an opposition between the new ways represented by the computer software company Dennis manages and the types who work in its open-plan, sand-blasted walls and the old. He wants to look at the pressures on adult relationships, from Nick's troubled marriage to Dennis's newfound opportunity to woo Trudy (Cassidy Rae), the voluptuous blonde cheerleader who didn't know he existed when they were in high school. He wants to allow his nice-looking cast a bit of room to move in a very pretty coastal setting. But the problem with Hyperion Bay is that too often it veers from engaging character drama into soapy predictability: there's tension in every lounge room, kitchen, office and bedroom, but it seems to play in a grinding, whining fashion: "I don't really know how fast we should be going when we don't know where we're heading," says Dennis's girlfriend, Jennifer (Sydney Penny), in her way of appearing brooding and non-committal. The heavy-handedness could wreck a promising premise. Debi Enker Kid's Ward Sunday, Channel 7, 7pm This new, half-hour, real-life series has got everything family viewers could wish for (apart from a Daddo). Filmed in Sydney and Melbourne, Kid's Ward has cute little'uns, caring parents and sad stories with mostly happy endings. There's just one hitch the paediatricians are like vampires. Every five minutes they're wanting to stick a needle into some poor rug-rat and sap herhis blood. It can get pretty hairy if you're the sort of person who's squeamish about the red stuff . This week, four-year-old Shayden is treated for a persistent brain tumor. "The little boy has been to hell and back. It's just not fair," says his mum. Although, at about this point your eyes may well be blurred by tears, you'll be glad to know you will be spared the most graphic details of the medical procedure in which the tumor is cut out The good-looking young Dr Matthew O'Meara presents the show and helpfully wears a stethoscope draped across his shoulders just in case we mistake him for a professional golfer (or a Daddo). But the kids are the stars here. They're brave, sometimes eloquent invariably wide-eyed. If you're prone to cluckiness, this is sure to have you double-checking your maternity leave provisions. - Misha Ketchell

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