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The Age

Programs - Monday

Date: 30/07/1998
Words: 800
          Publication: The Age
Section: Green Guide
Page: 32
Critic's View

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THE likeable Rhys Muldoon has been replaced by the equally likeable Sandy Winton as Bruce, the likeable Aussie genie who, with his son Baz (Glenn Meldrum), is at the comic mercy of the upper class English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 Peruvian wilderness.


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 individualistic.

-- 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.

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