In The lists regular report from the soap opera trontllne, we head Down Under to discover why the Aussies miss the wave when it comes to surfing serious storylines . . .
When is a rape not a rape? When it‘s a storyline on an Australian soap, it seems. Watching Home and Away (Mon—Fri, Scottish) recently you could be forgiven for thinking that the rape of a teenage schoolgirl was just another easily forgotten event among a variety of increasingly absurd plotlines to entangle the inhabitants of Summer Bay.
To ﬁll you in, adolescent Chloe claimed she was ‘attacked' on the beach after walking home from a party. The word rape is never used. but viewers are left in no doubt as the police ﬁsh her underwear out of a bin. Chloe goes from being your average. sunny sixteen-year-old in a mini-skirt to depressed girl whose mental state is signalled by a baggy jumper and woolly hat. This is the only reminder of the rape, as the life‘s-a-beach atmosphere continues. For a couple of days there’s a shark patrolling the bay, while Angel’s son Dylan is unmasked as a closet maths genius — the usual stuff, basically.
When a rape suspect is eventually arrested, Chloe tearfully testiﬁes on the witness stand shortly before her father shoots the suspect outside the courthouse. So what happens next, who might wonder? Who knows - the residents of Summer Bay are too absorbed by a ‘killer dog’ scare and the aftermath of an earthquake to care.
Think of how British soaps have dealt with rape - Kathy Mitchell in EastEnders; Sheila Grant and Diane Corkhill in Brooksi'de - and the difference is startling. These characters were foregrounded for weeks as episode after episode dissected the effect of rape on the victims and those around them. As in life, these are rapes not easily forgotten by the viewer.
In Home and Away, Chloe is not even afforded the dignity of being the central character in her own storyline as dad’s revenge shooting takes over. So many stories ﬂoat by in this soap that none enjoy any depth of coverage. Admittedly the show’s tea-time slot (compared to evenings in 02) may have resulted in a little editing of this story, but surely not to this extent?
Switch over to Neighbours (Mon—Fri. BBCl) and the problem is the same: despite its ﬁve~nightly slot, there never seems to be enough time to tackle any subject seriously. Medical student Cody Willis literally bit the bullet after a shoot-out between drug dealers and the local cops. A debate about the arming of police, perhaps? At least a fatal accident inquiry? Don’t be daft. Obvioust Cody’s ghost appears to her ﬂatmate - Obi Wan Kenobi-style — promising to watch over him.
Maybe Aussie soaps should concentrate on what they’re good at - high school romances and providing extras for Peter Andre videos — and leave the heavy stuff to the Brits. (Mary Vlacdonald)
After watching too many American sitcoms set in New York apartments, Eddie Gibb ﬁnds 3rd Rock From The Sun is out
of this world.
In a pre-Independence Day age, aliens visiting TV-land were cute and had names like Mork or ALF. Maybe they dressed a little strangely, but basically they were welcomed into the bosom of the all-American family. Harking back to that innocent time is 3rd Rock F mm The Sun. a surprise comedy hit on US television earlier this year. about to begin orbiting Planet Beeb.
Filmed in full nostalgia-vision to look like old episodes of Happy Days, this sitcom revolves around four aliens who land on the third rock from the sun (that's earth, dummy) in a vaguely deﬁned information-gathering exercise. They come in peace from a planet without gender. but to mix with the earthlings they morph into a quartet of human characters led by planet-brained physics professor Dick Solomon (John Lithgow — baddie in Cliffhanger; transsexual line-backer in World According To Carp).
Devised by the husband-and-wife comedy team. Bonnie and Terry Turner, whose writing credits include Wayne is World. the humour in 3rd Rock centres
3rd Rock From The Sun: dumb lokes about aliens vlsltlng Planet Earth
on the aliens‘ difﬁculty in getting the hang of social niceties. ‘lt‘s about being human.’ according to Bonnie. ‘But because they're alien. we can distance ourselves from being human rather than doing a microanalysis of life like Seinfeld.‘
The ﬁrst lesson they learn in the pilot episode is that feelings are central to the human condition. It must be admitted rather a lot of these feelings relate to sex, and breast jokes abound. Dr Solomon falls for his ofﬁce mate‘s cleavage. while Tommy — an elderly information officer on his own planet — is trapped in perpetual puberty as a fourteen-year-old high school kid. ‘I saw you bouncing up and down out there.‘ he says to a micro-skirted
- member of the netball team. ‘Yeah. we
won.‘ she responds. ‘Oh. I see - it's a game!‘ Pure Wayne ‘n' Garth.
After a whole slew of kooky-women- in-llat sitcoms winged their way across the Atlantic. 3rd Rock’s humour is far less self-conscious about lifestyle and heads for more infantile territory. Instead of cutaways between scenes to exterior shots of an apartment block or downtown bar. the funky 50s surf music plays over goofy interstellar graphics with Saturn‘s rings doing a little hula number.
The nearest equivalent on UK television is probably Red Dwarf— it’s dumb as anything but when did that ever stop people laughing? (Eddie Gibb)
RADIO HIGHLIGHTS 3
I At The Shoulder Df History (Radio 3) Fri l8 Oct. l0.02pm. Valentin Berezhkov shares memories with John Miller of his time as interpreter to Josef Stalin and Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov during World War II. Working for Molotov could be quite stressful. recalls Miller. especially when he realised the minister‘s last four assistants had all been shot. Meeting Stalin for the ﬁrst time also proved a disappointment. The tall. strapping. handsome Uncle Joe he'd been led to expect from all the glorious statues turned out to be a wee skinny felly with smallpox scars. But then that‘s propaganda for you.
I Documentary - Everything But The Girl (Radio 1) Sun 20 Oct. 7pm. The decline of Tracy Thorn and Ben Watt‘s Everything But The Girl into seven albums-worth of drippy blandness. and subsequent rebirth as a hip chart-topping dance act who get remixed by (not to mention hang out with) extremely cool club-type persons like Todd Terry. Spring Heeled Jack and trip hoppers Massive Attack. The programme includes frank discussion with Watt on his long-term battle with a rare life-threatening disease. and anecdotes from Terry. Spring Heeled Jack and members of Massive Attack on their roles in the return of EBTG.
I Coffee Shop Bookstores (Radio Scotland) Mon 2i Oct. noon. David Stenhouse carries out some exhausting research drinking coffee and reading books in this top-level investigation into the largely American phenomenon of cafe-cum-bookshops.
I In Concert: Suede (Radio I) Mon 2| Oct. 9pm. Half a ton ofjet-black hair dye. black logs and chiselled cheekbones converge live on stage at London's Kilburn National to prove Suede and their foppishly indie frontman Brett Anderson
are back With a vengeance and a couple of recently chart-topping singles to boot.
I Hearts And Minds (Radio 3) Mon 2! Oct. 9.35pm. New series with cheery children‘s author and broadcaster Michael Rosen looking at four (not very cheery) historical attempts to mould children's minds with the power of the written word. Puritan tots in England and America. says Rosen. were read terrifying tales of Protestant martyrs being tortured to death: Soviet kidskis under Stalin were denied fairy tales for their lack of reality and. in apartheid South Africa. white children were fed mother country classics and fake history while blacks were lucky to get books at all.
I The Hearts And Lives Of Men (Radio 4) Thurs 24 ()ct. l().02pm. Sharp-witted. heavily-satirical author Fay Weldon narrates her fairy-tale for adults set in London’s art world during the swinging 60s. Clifford, whizz-kid director of art house Leonard‘s meets Helen. an artist's daughter and a child is conceived on their ﬁrst date. The future looks bright. until evil South African heiress Angie starts plotting to keep Clifford for herself.
I Documentary - The Party Pack (Radio 1) Sun 27 Oct. 7pm. The shift from Ecstasy to downers like Ternazeparn and Ketamine as dancefloor drug of choice is chronicled in this one-off documentary. Also covered is the increased use of heady cocktails of drugs known as ‘Party Packs'. Radio 1 goes out among the crowds at some of Britain‘s hippest clubs to investigate the highs and lows of being one of The Party Pack.
I The Essential Mix - Andrew Weatherall (Radio I) Sun 27 Oct. 2am. The legendary DJ reports from the cutting edge of dance music with a two-hour slice of original sounds ranging from panel- beating techno to minimal dubbed-out soundscapes. (Ellie Carr)
From the people who brought you Ghattbite comes Charthite II: The Great Escape. Ewan Mcleod and Mari Steven are back, and this time it’s personal. Dr later in the evening, anyway. A combination of falling ratings and the fact that Scottish Television had an extra edition of Emmerdale to fit into the afternoon schedule sounded the death-knell for Scotland’s favourite video-based music show (0K, only video-based music show).
A rethink prompted the realisation that rather a lot of the target audience were not actually around at ten-past five - or at least they shouldn’t be. Thus was born The Great Escape, which bounces onto our screens with a late-night slot, a new audience and a wider, looser remit to seek out popular culture wherever it may be. There will still be music - described as ‘more mainstream, for the grown- up, album-buying audience’ - but also video reviews, features on cinema, location filming and outdoor events.
‘Ewan and Mari are fantastic presenters,’ says executive producer Agnes Wilkie, ‘and that humour between them is worth trying to retain. But they are ready to grow up.’ (Damien love)
The Great Escape is on Wed 30 Oct at 11.30pm on Scottish.
The List l8-3l Oct I996 95 .