Friday, January 20, 2006

Something magical

Ahh-Eeeh! – Bok!
Huh-Hrnn! – Thwock!
Ahh-Eeeh! – Bok!
Huh-Hrnn! – Thwock!

So it went for three sets -- and, with the contest between Tszvetana Pironkova and Venus Williams sounding more like SFX for a “Xena versus She-Ra” adult entertainment video, it was clear that Summer (or Seven’s Summer of Sport as it was once referred to) was here in all its sweaty splendour.

As with other seasons, the Summer of Sport encompasses change and renewal. The laid-back Hopman Cup gives way to the Australian Open, one-day internationals replace test cricket and the commentary teams continue to throw out the banal and fluffy.

“Some pretty bad things have happened there,” observed Mark Nicholas sagely, by way of explaining the form of a Sri Lankan player during a one dayer against Australia. You had to wonder what tipped Nicholas off -- the tsunami or the generation-long civil war.

Meanwhile back at the tennis Allan Stone and John Alexander were musing on what the tournament promised for the locals. “Shortly, the great man begins his Australian Open Campaign,” intoned Stoney employing the sort of overstatement normally reserved for advertising dietary fibre products. “Something magical happens when Leyton Hewitt walks onto centre court at the Australian Open.”

Well, yes -- usually he fails to make it past the quarterfinals. Given the artistic media milking of the fairytale wedding, new fatherhood and a seeming inability to finish off lesser players in a timely fashion Hewitt probably doesn’t need any help from Stone and JA to ‘build the drama’.

A flick across to SBS revealed another short great man had already started his campaign. “Eat is sew beautyfool et the sturt”, noted Christian Clavier playing Napoleon at the beginning of a battle, just before ordering his troops into a cannonade. Made in 2002, Napoleon the mini-series combined gorgeous locations, an international cast -- including Isabella Rossellini, Gerard Depardieu and John Malkovich -- and English dialogue for Clavier to lathe with Gallic élan.

In between the carnage (and John Malkovich moping in the background) a Polish princess pleaded with Napoleon to mend her broken country. What are the people like, countered the wily Corsican looking up into her eyes. The princess then offered herself as a representative of Poland. “Shee must bee a fantas-teak leetle countree,” murmured the compact conqueror, his words and eyes falling level with her upper works.

Not so 'beautyfool 'is Growing Up Gotti (ABC) the latest fly-on-the-wall, putative reality show to hoist itself onto the increasingly teetering bandwagon set in motion by Sharon Osborne a few years back. Please note, the name Gotti in this case is pronounced with an ‘r’ between the G and the o.

The only amusement Little Mr Square Eyes squeezed from the program was when he absent-mindedly switched over to a Today Tonight story on a botched facelift a woman underwent in Thailand. Clicking back to GUG, Victoria Gotti’s scarified visage suddenly made sense.

Perhaps Vicky should sic Crane Poole & Schmidt onto her plastic surgeon. Boston Legal (Southern Cross), a spin-off from The Practice (remember Bobby Shouter, Catholic Jimmy and Helen ‘Skeletor’ Gamble?) is credited with refloating William Shatner into prime time, giving him a chance to chew the scenery, ogle woman and mow and glower at male cast members. In other words, act pretty much like Bill Shatner in any lead role.

Brief, Aretha Franklin-style riffs divide the scenes and break up the bon motts. Any appreciation of the show depends on just how much you enjoy David E. Kelly’s addiction to, and deployment of, inexorable quirkiness. Not that it isn’t fun -- “My ass may lie,” declaims Shatner quietly, in the manner of George Patton addressing the Seventh Army, “but it’s all muscle.”

The same could be said of the second series of Carnivale (ABC) that has re-established itself as the Sunday night event around which all other social activities revolve. If unavoidably dragged away from hearth and telly, the VCR programming is checked and doubled checked to make sure nothing is missed. Little Mr Square Eyes hasn’t been this smitten since the he first spotted Lee Majors performing a bicep curl with an engine block as The Six Million Dollar Man back in the seventies.

Now that’s something magical.