The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia on December 23, 1999 · Page 44
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The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia · Page 44

Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia
Issue Date:
Thursday, December 23, 1999
Page 44
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Living in the 70s with comedic flare Prognosis: funny with poignant moments WORD of warning don't get too attached to all of the new series that have debuted on TV in the first two weeks of this silly season. Most of them will not be around after January, liven one or two of the better ones, like Nine's new David Caruso series, Michael Hayes (Thursday, 8.:i()pm), have a limited life because the American networks that commissioned them have already given them the flick. Heaven knows why. The good news is that some, albeit a minority, have survived their first season on US TV and will be back in 2000. Providence (Wednesday, 9.30pm on Seven) looks like staying around even longer. And That '70s Show ( Thursday, 8pm on Seven) is a definite stayer. It debuted on Rupert Murdoch's Hox Network in the US last year. Thirty-three episodes have gone to air there so far, sometimes out rating The Simpsons. We have seen only the first two episodes. And Fox has just signed it up for another two years, another 44 episodes. It might take me that long to figure out why I like this show so much. It's not the cast. There are probably thousands of young American actors who could have played the six teenagers around whom this series revolves, and while you might recognise some of the adults in it, they're not superstars. It's not the plot, because there is precious little of it. The first episode was about the lead character, Hric, getting his first car. The second was about his 17th birthday party. And while some of the characters are very funny, especially Fez, the young Venezuelan exchange student who mangles the linglish language like Manuel in Fawlty Towers, and Kelso, the dim-witted Lothario, some of them are overbaked to the point of being incinerated. No, my current theory is that That '70s Show succeeds because it reminds we baby boomers of the good old days when we were teenagers or young adults struggling to understand our lives, our parents and our world. OK, this show occasionally is as hokey and cheerily mid-suburban as that ode to the '50s, Happy Days. But it's better because it s more honest. There is Eric Forman, a 17-year-old longing for independence from his fuddy-duddy parents, Red and Kitty. There is Donna, the girl next door, with whom Eric is fumbling towards some kind of relationship; Kelso, the dim-wit who imagines that every attractive girl lusts for his body; Jackie, who does; Hyde, who has a healthy contempt for just about everything, and Fez. Together, they do what teenagers have always done. Twenty years on, community standards have changed to the point where we can admit in a TV show like this one that sex was on our minds 24 hours of every day, that a party was not a party unless there was at least one bottle of Southern Comfort to mix with the Coke, that while we respected our parents, we resented their constant interference in our lives and their attempts to thrust their values down our throats. That's not to say that That '70s Show is all about sex, drugs, rock'n'roll and rebellion. Anything but. Nor is it the best US sitcom of the '90s, although its imaginative use of dream sequences and voice exchanges, where one character imagines what another is saying behind his back, is very clever. But it is one of the freshest and most innovative, and has enough hilarious moments to keep you watching. Having said all that, however, I'm no closer to knowing why I won't miss an episode of this show. But there has to be something. Bowel cancer is no joke unless you're Alan Lovell. By Anne Crawford CTOH Alan Lovell is sharing an account of his latest colonoscopy with me. He is lying spreadeagled in the doctor's surgery, he says, watching aghast as the doctor unpacks a huge, black tube. The device will make a voyage through his body to show what's going on in his, well, bowels. Ever the comedian, he asks the physician whether they'll be watching pay TV or free-to-air on the attached screen. "We're on cable," says the doctor. Bowels, and the jokes associated with them, are often used as comic devices. Bowel cancer isn't. Yet Lovell has made a whole show about the topic. Six Months to Live, screening on the ABC's Smallest Room in the House (Monday 10pm), is his story of how he was diagnosed with cancer and, 10 days later, faced an operation that would reveal how long he'd live if it didn't kill him. "I thought it would be a great way of dealing with it," he says. "Therapeutic. We deal with things through laughter." It wasn't funny at the time. Lovell, a big guy with a broad, radiant smile, had a lot to live for when he was called in to "have a chat" with the specialist. He had a richly varied career in theatre, television and film behind him. He'd played Constable Evans in Channel 7's Rafferty's Rules, Constable Davies in the ABC's Swap Shop, appeared in TV comedy series, including The Comedy Company, in guest roles in drama series, including Miami Vice and A Country 11 J, Therapeutic laughter Alan Lovell, Practice, and consolidated his credentials as a soapie actor as Gordon Amadio in fcio Point. He had lived wildly, then settled down with a woman with whom he wanted to grow old. He had a three-week-old baby and a son aged three. The prognosis was four years or six months; the operation threw up a frightening set of percentages. "1 was just scared, so scared of the operation and what was going to happen, what they were going to find," he says. "It was so painful, so shocking and it took so long to get over I'd never really heard anyone talk about what it's like to have your stomach cut open." Let alone in stand-up comedy. That was three years ago and Lovell, while he decided against finding God, found a new lease of life. "When life's looking you in the face, you want to grab everything with both hands. You want to be excited by it. My life has taken a lot of changes of direction." Lovell has since turned his hand to directing short films, creating the outfit Great Southern Shorts with a business partner, Darryl Robinson. His six-minute film, The Kiss, featuring Hugo Weaving and Gia Carides, won the Best Comedy award at Sydney's Tropfest last year. "I've also been putting myself out there more for (acting) work," he says. Roles in the movies Siam Sunset and Mission Impossible, (yes, he was in a scene with Tom Cruise), and television, including O'Loghlin and Water Rats, have kept him busy. Six Months to Live has poignant moments, but mostly it's funny. Lovell has made good use of the available material from scatological jokes to a take-off of stereotypical "I'm right" Australian blokeyness and word-play on medical jargon. He warns delicate viewers about the unpleasant content matter first, then lets loose. "I pretty much went for it," he says. "It wouldn't have been good if I hadn't bared my soul. I felt very vulnerable about doing it. I don't think I'll be able to watch it when it goes to air." This is the third stand-up routine Lovell has created about his life. A monologue performed live by the US actor Spalding Gray in 1986 initially inspired him, but it took five years to muster the courage to try it. Tales of a Transient Alien was written about his time in New York, where he almost got a job on a big soapie, but was deported when his tourist visa expired. Material from Al of Africa was drawn from Lovell's time working as a lighting electrician on the African set of .the movie Gorillas in the Mist. Lovell wrote Six Months to Live when he was convalescing from the operation and trialled it at Sydney's Harold Park Hotel. That was almost two years ago. If you want to find out his prognosis, you'll just have to watch the show. Pick of the day page 20 SPECIALISING IN QUALITY P.C'S FOR OVER 10 YEARS. 73FHElDEtBETCTnrACPHINGTON3l PH: 9499 6243 FAX: S4OQ.7B30 IBM 333 S74S AMOK6-2 400 $795 Cel 433 S830 Cel 500 $960 Pen! III 450 email BRComDulonOblaDond.coi 45 Cel 433 l30 tiGb TiDO S1S0 UOOMOOO S730S209S COI 466 $1210 S-Z1U0UDMUU 3ZWIZ mturbllhtd LlHr ftOffl 1150 Pent III 450 $1445 UOQ50GBHDD (2454250 Stylus 460 S2I5 Stylus 660 Pent III 533 lun&ihinn kmi i7rvi AMUAinion S13ZU 7.7J.1 AT1 J..7 ' dcut u iiwm 3&HXMoum fluh virion PENT M 533600 U PU HADE OPTIONS: 7. . 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