South Park, SBS, 8pm
IT'S startling how quickly TV shows can acquire cult status these days. It
used to take years, but now, just get the right industry buzz at the right
moment and - shazaam! - the media and merchandising flywheels get spinning.
Almost overnight the characters and catchphrases of South Park have appeared on
t-shirts and ties the world over to advance the cause of this excessively crude,
crudely animated, outrageously funny comedy about a group of small town kids
who are like a foul-mouthed, over-caffeinated version of Charles M Schultz's
Peanuts. In the lead-up to the new series, beginning 12 September, we're being
blessed with a re-run of the old series, which tonight includes an adventure in
genetic engineering as the boys attempt to cross-breed an elephant with a pig.
The show thrives on kids spouting bad language and on pushing a degree of
political incorrectness that is so extreme and affronting it is almost
unavoidably funny. Says the teacher: "Genetic engineering lets us correct God's
horrible, horrible mistakes. Like German people." Whether the comic novelty of
the show's vulgarity will survive beyond the next season is a tough call, and
South Park is definitely an acquired taste. But at the moment, at least, it's
one of the funniest things around, and probably for all the wrong reasons, which
makes it all the more funny.
Spin City: The Pope Of Gracie Mansion, Channel 9, 9pm
A FLEETING visit to the mayor's office from the Pontiff inspires the
boneheaded mayor (Barry Bostwick) to re-evaluate the voter appeal of old-time
religion, while Mike (Michael J Fox) has a divine encounter of a more disturbing
kind. His repeated encounters with God are a notch above the levels of comic
cleverness Spin City usually operates on.
The Genie From Down Under, ABC, 5pm
THE likeable Rhys Muldoon has been replaced by the equally likeable Sandy
Winton as Bruce, the likeable Aussie genie who, with his son Baz (Glenn
Meldrum), is at the comic mercy of the upper class English girl Penelope
(Alexandra Milman). As fun as the first one, with Mark Mitchell proving again
that he has a natural talent for this sort of fare.
MOVIE: Robin Hood: Men In Tights (1993), Channel 10, 8.30pm
THIS desperately lame parody of costume adventures and swashbucklers adheres
to the rigid demands of the Mel Brooks' school of spoofery, which comprises a
jumble sale of bad-taste puns, pratfalls, musical numbers and sight gags.
Television stand-up comic Richard Lewis fails to register on the comedy Richter
scale as the neurotic Prince John and English stage actor Roger Rees hams it up
as a pantomime villain. Robin is played by the bland Cary Elwes as an Errol
Flynn-Ronald Colman clone with a perfect English accent, and the blandly
unappealing Amy Yasbeck is Maid Marian of Bagel. Other wasted cast members
include the ubiquitous Dom De Luise, Tracey Ullman and Patrick Stewart.
MOVIE: Chariots Of The Gods (1974), Channel 9, 11.30pm
THE movie version of Erich von Daniken's bestseller on the supernatural,
directed by German veteran Harald Reinl, offers the possibility that
extra-terrestrial intelligences visited Earth several thousand years ago and
that God is an astronaut. These theories are illustrated by various items of
factual evidence, delivered with awestruck solemnity by an offscreen narrator.
The so-called evidence includes the Egyptian pyramids and giant furrows in the
The Pick Of Pay TV
FOXTEL: Family Affairs, UK-TV, 5.30pm
DEBUTING today on Australian TV is the current hit soap on the British
circuit. Compared to its brethren, Family Affairs is a surpringly sober and
upbeat depiction of a bourgeois household. Underpinning the Hart clan is the
social and economic mobility of the "new Britain". Chris (Ian Ashpitel), a
working-class lad from Newcastle, is married to Annie (Liz Crowther), the
daughter of the nouveau riche Jack and Elsa (the vile Elsa is fast shaping up to
be the series' obligatory ogre). Their four kids - ranging from 24-year-old
twins Duncan and Holly, 19-year-old "power babe" Melanie to 14-year-old Jamie -
complement the troupe. Love, money, jobs, familial bonds and the pursuit of
happiness are emerging as the prime movers of this phenomonally successful
series, which has tripled its viewing figures in one year.
OPTUS: Road Rules, MTV, 10.30pm
MEET Chris, swimming champ of the Tau Epsilon Phi Fraternity at Penn State
University; Michelle, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader; Antoine, from Belgium;
Patrice, a German of African and German parentage; and Belou, from Amsterdam.
Road Rules (pictured left) returns tonight with a new series. Apart from this
being a European vacation, the reality soap series hasn't changed a bit,
offering the same blend of adventure, travelogue, dramatic intrigue and
contrivance. It goes without saying that Road Rules presents a frighteningly
normalised view of youth culture; optimistic, enterprising and avowedly
-- Paul Kalina
Concert Hall, 3MBS-FM (103.5), 1pm
SINATRA, Seinfeld and a stack of others might have New York, but it's hard to
top Rome for success in artistic inspiration. Filmmakers, writers and musicians
have all tried to pay tribute to the ancient city. Italian composer Ottorino
Respighi was a classic example - he wrote three popular tone poems (Fountains Of
Rome, Pines Of Rome and Roman Festivals) as his way of showing what he thought.
The composer's works will be on display in the Concert Hall timeslot during
August and September, and today's program is the first in the series. It also
features Respighi's three sets of Ancient Airs And Dances, which built on the
music of other artists.
-- Darrin Farrant
On The Web
Race Around The World, ABC, 9.30pm
To keep up to date with racers' progress around the world, tune in here.