Monday, January 02, 2006

New Year Televisuals

Forgoing the attractions of the Hobart CBD on new year’s eve (drunken 20 to 30-somethings, soggy fireworks displays plus the usual gouge-orama hosted by local restaurants) and keenly aware of the need for blogging material, Little Mr Square Eyes shipped in quantities of seafood, champagne and those tiny, irresistible, marinated Huon Valley mushrooms and settled down for a night of what the old conti announcers used to call “viewing pleasure”.

And really, is there anything more sad arse than seeing in the New Year via the flickering blue glow of the telly? (well yes, that would be writing about it the following day but I digress). Various kitchen duties, including the frenzied preparation of a beurre blanc sauce meant the set wasn’t switched on until Elton was well into his second wig change for Elton John at Radio City (7:30pm ABC).

Pudgy, slightly puffy but ever the old pro, Reg — sporting an outfit so bright it threatened to interfere with microwave signal transmission — banged out his back catalogue, ably supported by a symphony orchestra and gospel choir. The highlight was Tiny Dancer and the opportunity it afforded to maliciously substitute lyrics:
Hold me closer, Tony Danza,
Judith Light never cut it any way…

Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you'll marry a music man
‘lyssa-Milano, you must have seen her, nude shots on the sand…
Over on WIN (the Nine Network regional affiliate) Lorelai and Rory were engaging in the sort of relentlessly perky banter that helps make the Gilmore Girls one of the most annoying programs of the last decade. This theme continued when Richard Wilkins popped up to host the first part of Nine’s New Year’s Eve 2005. Dick, looking more like Dorian Gray as the new century progresses, was assisted by a trio of network personalities so lacking in talent that Little Mr Square Eyes started searching the crowd shots to see if Kerry Anne Kennerley was going to put in an appearance.

A quick jump to Southern Cross (which in Tasmania broadcasts a weird mix of network Seven and Ten programs) plunged you into two hours of American national security wish fulfilment with NCIS (the swabbie/jarhead version of CSI) and Numb3rs (the Poindexter/ Professor Julius Sumner Miller version of CSI). After speculating on just how down on his luck Judd Hirsch must have been to appear in Numb3rs and singing another verse of “Hold me closer, Tony Danza” in honour of the Taxi connection it was back to Aunty for Long Way To The Top: Live in Concert.

The original LWTTT documentary series was a long overdue nod to local rockers and their determination to make music, score drugs and ensure that even someone as delusional and lumpen as Jim Keays could pull. Whether it was then such a good idea to get all the old belters together, load up the band bus with walking frames and oxygen cylinders and set off on a national concert tour is debatable.

Little Mr Square Eyes is probably just a bee’s dick outside the show's perquisite demographic and thus the emotional circumstances that allowed some members of the concert audience to applaud wildly at the sight of elderly, former rock stars strutting onto stage in leather pants. Even some of the acts that really had little to prove (and yes we’re talking about you, Brian Cadd) were infected by stage-light-swine-flu and butchered their own material with hammy, over the top performances (admittedly, Cadd was egged on by renowned serial camera hog Glenn Shorrock).

In between acts, and to soothe away any irritation, the repeat of Inspector Rex – The Early Days (9:00pm SBS) got a quick once over. You either get Rex’s shaggy charm or you don’t. Rice paper thin plots and acting so wooden you can almost see the grain are all part of the cheesy fun, and at least Rex doesn’t do reunion tours.

Back on Southern Cross, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo – A Salute to Australia (10:40pm), squealed into action. Shot in February 2005, this repeat was a clear indication from Southern Cross that when it comes to asking inane questions, keeping an eye on the big hand of the New Year's clock and remaining oddly unwrinkled around the eyes and mouth, Richard Wilkins could not be bested.

Little Mr Square Eyes’ long suffering co-viewer revealed the fake Edinburgh Castle used as the setting for the Sydney performance took 40 people four months to construct. Or was it four people 40 months?

The arithmetic seemed as impenetrable as the logic behind the notion that after transporting a 55-year military nostalgia-fest to the other side of the planet, it must have exactly the same friggin’ backdrop as all the others. Tony Squires and Anna Coren co-hosted this two and a half hour kilty knees-up, with Squires doing his usual boy-oh-boy patter.

Only a slight bugging of his eyes at crucial stages betrayed the inner struggle between Squires' mind and mouth. At one point, breezily introducing a contingent of Scandinavian cadets (The Norwegian Blues? Bjork Warriors?) the veil lifted and we got a glimpse of a man whose entire higher brain functions were on hold and silently screaming the question, “What the fuck are we doing here?”

Meanwhile Anna — another of those talented creatures who can look good, smile at the camera and read an autocue, which the television industry seems to unearth regularly — demonstrated all three of her skills, at one stage, simultaneously.

Towards the end (of my patience, not the show) the CEO or perhaps OIC of the Tattoo appeared and drawled something about tradition, duty and pride, while in the background the sound of tartan bladders being prodded and pipes being fondled gathered strength ominously. A quick stab of a button and a mumbled “good luck champ” under my breath for Tony Squires took us back to WIN.

Richard Wilkins, possibly in preparation for the countdown, did a visual gag to indicate Leo Sayer is very, very short, not as good looking as Richard, yet inexplicably more famous. The New Year was almost here but would anything change? Somehow it didn't seem likely