From Bert to Paris…a busy week

It has been a busy week of interviewing everyone from chefs and children’s performers to actors and presenters. With so many questions and phone numbers I am grateful I managed not to call the wrong one about the wrong subject.

One of the more amusing things to happen this week was learning one of the people I was interviewing had looked me up, presumably on Google, and read my Valentine’s Day review. Now that’s not something that happens every day.

In the last week I have also discovered which brand of batteries suck – of the eight pack purchased just last week about six are already dead including two sets that died mid interview. I got better life out of the cheap ones from Ikea.

Anyways, last week I finally had the chance to talk to TV legend Bert Newton about his TV show  20 to 1 among other things. A few years ago I had the chance to go visit Bert on the set of his new game show in Melbourne (forgotten the name already – it got axed) but it was a fly in and out tight turnaround that I just couldn’t sort out with the kids, so someone else went.

Bert’s refreshingly upfront and talkative – no airs and graces, no snobbery and not at all difficult like some other presenters I’ve talked to over the years.

So, here’s a link to the feature story from today’s edition of The West.

Bert had so much to say I could have written twice as much if space permitted.

In other news of all the movies I wanted to see this week, From Paris with Love was the only one I ended up getting to and alas, it wasn’t much chop.

Read my review here; shame they didn’t use a pic of John Travolta in character.


Movie night

Okay, been a bit busy with movies this week to properly post on matters pertaining to TV. Thank heavens for Twitter.

So here are some quick links to reviews of two films that opened this week, one for the family, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and one for the rom-com and chick flick lovers, Valentine’s Day.

The latter was a serious disappointment; not entirely unexpected given the bloated all-star cast including Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner.

As for the former, look out for the amusing performances of Uma Thurman and Steve Coogan, an unlikely pair of villains.

Both reviews appeared in The West yesterday.

It’s time for ratings…and time to cry

It’s a tough call on Sunday night with the first night of the official ratings year bound to lead to some squabbles over the remote.

Seven is going for the heart-strings at 6.30pm with its special on separated conjoined twins Trishna and Krishna: the Quest for Separate Lives. Then it’s on to Airways, Bones and Castle – a pretty solid line-up.

Nine’s hand is forced by the cricket and the forthcoming Winter Olympics, so we get the movie Mission Impossible III at 9pm. Yawn.

Ten has the enviable line-up of The Biggest Loser at 6.30 followed by its multi-generational hit quiz/panel show Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation in its new home at 7.30pm. Oh and it’s in 3D, apparently, so get your goggles from this week’s TV week.

At 8.30pm is where the trouble starts and where you might need to crank up the PVR, DVDR or VCR if you still have one.

Ten has the series premiere of The Good Wife, featuring Julianna Margulies in her Golden Globe winning role.

Since leaving ER (she was Nurse Carol Hathaway to George Clooney’s Dr Doug Ross), Margulies hasn’t has much luck on the small screen; her last series Canterbury’s Law didn’t even screen in Australia to the best of my knowledge.

Margulies is Alicia Florrick, the good wife in question, who is forced to return to work as a lawyer after her husband, former state’s attorney Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) is jailed over a political corruption and sex tape scandal.

Alicia has plenty on her plate – the humiliation of sex tapes revealing her husband had sex with prostitutes, raising two children and returning to work in a law firm where she has to compete to keep her position against a cocky and conniving junior, Cary.

Margulies is a bit stiff in the pilot but that’s almost to be expected as Alicia tries to keep it together in public and private.

Chris Noth, aka Mr Big from Sex and the City and Detective Mike Logan from Law & Order and Law & Order: CI, is well-cast as her adulterous husband Peter.

Noth’s not in it a lot and most of that he’s in jail or but his presence is important.

What I enjoyed most about the first few episodes is the multi-layered plot. This isn’t just another legal drama.

Alicia is struggling to fit back into the workforce while raising her teenaged children with the help of her mother-in-law.

Meanwhile, Peter thinks everything will be fine once he is released from prison and he misguidedly tries to steer clients and information Alicia’s way.

Bubbling along below the surface is the truth about Peter – is he really guilty of corruption and infidelity or could he have been set up?

 Alas, there’s also a compelling documentary on at exactly the same time as The Good Wife (and episode three of House).

Forget the tears and sob stories of The Biggest Loser and So You Think You Can Dance: I cried more than I have in years watching Inside the Firestorm.

Inside the Firestorm, image courtesy ABC Publicity

To commemorate Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires of February 7, 2009, the ABC will screen this feature-length documentary at 8.30pm on Sunday.

Heart-breaking in the extreme, it follows events as they unfolded, using a single narrative to create a compelling drama where the audience is at various times left not knowing the fate of  the various participants.

The horrific heatwave weather conditions, a breakdown in fire alerts and a monster fire that did not play by the rules resulted in 173 deaths.

Families that should have been safe perished. Fire-fighters saved people’s homes and businesses but lost loved ones. People who fled their homes and shouldn’t have made it somehow survived. Courage and despair, hope and tears, bravery and battles lost. It’s all there. This is must watch TV.

Many Australians have become complacent about the dangers of bushfires. This is the sort of program that needed to be made and needs to be seen.

Hats off to director Jacob Hickey, all the brave survivors and narrator Hugo Weaving for his compelling and important piece of work.

 For more of an insight into the making of Inside the Firestorm, visit the ABC website.

Lost for time…watch Lost in 10 minutes!

Lost fans old and new have been eagerly awaiting the premiere of the sixth and final season …happening round about nowish in the US and on Wed Feb 10 for those who wait to see it on free-to-air Australian TV on 7Two.

If you’ve been madly trying to finish the last five seasons ready for the final season, save yourself some time and watch this 10 minute quick guide to Lost from the Reduced Shakespeare Company, via The Guardian.

Think of all the time we could have saved! Loved the Oceanic 11 bit…

Too many cooks?

Between all the book labelling and mad hunt for hats and socks and uniform bits I finally finished watching My Kitchen Rules last night.

And although I probably shouldn’t say this, I don’t think I like the South Australian team. Nope. Can’t wait to watch when it’s Paul and Melissa’s  turn to cook for 10 people.

The first episode features Michael “Mossy” Moss and wife Gabrielle from NSW; he’s a senior police officer, she’s a lawyer and they’re the only competitors with kids (six from memory).

They have to prepare a three course meal for their competition rivals as well as judges Pete Evans and Manu Feildel.’The meal is prepared and served in the contestants’ homes – so having a flair for entertaining and interior decorating helps.

After just one episode it’s easy to tell Pete and Manu know the ropes when it comes to the demands of reality TV, which is quite a different beast  to daytime cooking shows.

They know how to work the camera, play with words and make the contestants squirm as they await the verdict. But so far, they’re not being mean – just honest. No one wants to wait 90 minutes for a main course.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said of  Mossy and Gabrielle’s rivals, who are happy to dump on them and are brutal when it comes to scoring.

During the interview segments with the rival couples, I couldn’t help feeling these people have all watched too many episodes of Survivor and all think they are Matt Prestons or Rob Broadfields in the making (minus the years of experience).

They complain about the mashed potato, the choice of meal, the presentation, the cheesecake. About the only thing they seem to like is the jus.

Key to any show like this is casting. There is always going to be a degree of animosity in a competitive environment, contrived or otherwise. It’s not just about cooking, it’s about presentation, conflict and performing under pressure.

Unlike Masterchef, I don’t see My Kitchen Rules necessarily sending viewers for the pots and pans. What it may lead to is more dinner parties and a more picky, discerning (and potentially backstabbing) breed of diners and guests.

My Kitchen Rules premieres tonight Feb 1 at 7.30pm on Seven, with episode two screening tomorrow at the same time.