Lowe to wing into Melbourne
Former West Wing star and '80s Hollywood brat-packer Rob Lowe will star in
Salem's Lot, a $25 million, four-hour television miniseries to be filmed soon in
Melbourne. Production on the drama for American cable station TNT, based on
Stephen King's 1975 spine-chiller about vampires taking over a small New England
town, is expected to start in two months. Lowe plays writer Ben Mears, who
returns to his home town and discovers its evil secret. Peter Filardi
(Flatliners, The Craft) wrote the script adaptation and Mikael Salomon will
direct. Lowe has most recently been seen as White House staffer Sam Seaborn in
Channel Nine's The West Wing, but left last year after a salary dispute. A new
series of The West Wing, featuring Lowe's final episodes, is pencilled into
Nine's schedule from March 25.
Andrikidis scores Silver Hugo
Peter Andrikidis has picked up a Silver Hugo award for best achievement in
direction for the Channel Ten telemovie Heroes' Mountain at the 2003 Chicago
International Film Festival. A Silver Hugo means ``a symbol of discovery" and
is the festival's highest honour. Hugos are awarded only to ``outstanding
productions of incomparable excellence, creativity and originality". Heroes'
Mountain won a gold plaque for best telemovie at the same awards. Andrikidis is
currently directing Ten's miniseries adaptation of Jessica, starring Sam Neill,
and worked on Grass Roots and the telemovie BlackJack, which screens on Ten on
March 16. The awards will be presented today.
Going big at Ten
Also over at Ten, work has begun on Go Big, a telemovie written by former ABC
scriptwriters Ellie Beaumont and Michael Miller, after the Film Finance
Corporation approved funding last month. Beaumont and Miller worked closely with
Ten's drama chief, Sue Masters, on projects including Love Is a Four-Letter
Word, GP and Wildside. Miller is also writing for The Secret Life of Us and
White Collar Blue. Rosemary Blight, also from Love Is a Four-Letter Word, is
producing Go Big. The romantic comedy follows the life of Gina, a 30-year-old
telemarketer who is ``sick of being poor, sick of being ordinary and sick of the
world being run by the rich and famous". Unless she was rich and famous
herself . . .
Producer steps up
Susan Bower has assumed the role of executive producer for the Nine drama
McLeod's Daughters after the founding producer and series creator, Posie
Graeme-Evans, moved to Nine as director of drama. Bower began her TV career on A
Country Practice in 1989 and has been with McLeod's as supervising producer
since its inception.
ABC to KISS and tell
Those who missed seeing the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in full KISS make-up
at the weekend need not mope - the ABC recorded the concert for broadcast in
June. Aunty flew in equipment from around Australia to capture the gig, an
effort involving 50 ABC crew, 19 cameras, two cranes, 400 microphones and three
audio trucks with 130 channels of euphonic sound.
Caton to have a gay old time
Michael Caton's colourful career will take on a decidedly pink hue when he
returns to the big screen in the Australian comedy Strange Bedfellows.
Co-written and directed by Dean Murphy (Muggers), the film is about two
old-timers in a small country town who declare themselves a same-sex couple on a
tax return and then have to learn how to appear gay when the taxman arrives in
town. It will be Caton's first lead role in a local feature since he played
Daryl Kerrigan in Working Dog's 1997 movie, The Castle. Caton presents Hot
Auctions on Channel Seven and starred in the ABC comedy Bad Cop, Bad Cop.
Buffy goes for big kill
The rumours have been around for months but now it's official - Buffy the
Vampire Slayer won't be back after the current season. Sarah Michelle Gellar,
who found fame playing Buffy Summers, a perky Californian high school student
who kills demons in her spare time, has told America's Entertainment Weekly
magazine that Buffy, in its current incarnation, is over. The series will wrap
up with a five-part story, which will include the return of Faith, the bad-girl
slayer, and Buffy's first love, Angel. ``We're gearing up to tell a fabulous,
huge, great arc," Gellar said. ``It's going to be pretty spectacular." The
show may come back to life in some form: creator Joss Whedon is planning a
spin-off that may include some Buffy cast members.
Another shot at football glory
Do you have what it takes to be a footballer's wife? That's the tantalising
question visitors to Britain's ITV website are asked when they play the
Footballers' Wives game (www.itv.com). Depending on your answer to questions
such as ``What gets you up in the morning?" (getting into uniform and on the
checkout by 8.30am, or vodka and tonic), prospective brides are recommended
either to stick to their chase or opt for a librarian. Unfortunately, fans of
the Ten soap opera will have to wait until later this year to find out how the
cliffhanger of mother-in-law-from-hell Jackie, having a surrogate child for
Chardonnay and Kyle, will be resolved.
Footy's feminine face
Closer to home, Fox Footy will give its weekly ``AFL wives and girlfriends
talk show", Living with Footballers, a makeover when the show resumes at the
end this month. Leah Hudson, whose husband Paul retired last year, will be eased
from the show while Lisa Marie Lloyd (Matthew Lloyd, Essendon), Danielle Harvey
(Robert Harvey, St Kilda), Bianca Twigg (Simon Beaumont, Carlton) and Sarita
Stella (Brodie Holland, Collingwood) will be joined by new faces Georgina Lucas
(Scott Lucas, Essendon) and Donna Johnson (Brad Johnson, Western Bulldogs).
Six Feet later
The third series of HBO's funeral parlour drama, Six Feet Under, premiered in
the US on Sunday but Australian fans are unlikely to see it on Channel Nine
until the second half of this year. Changes include the addition of two
characters: Catherine O'Hara as Carol, a neurotic and tyrannical Hollywood
producer who hires Lisa, the mother of Nate's child, as her live-in chef; and
Kathy Bates as Bettina, a new best friend and bad influence for Ruth (Frances
Conroy). Australian Rachel Griffiths, soon to appear in After the Deluge on Ten,
returns as Brenda Chenowith.
US dramas renewed
American television networks made a flurry of announcements last week as
their winter ratings season drew to a close. Among those affecting Australian
audiences were the renewals of sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage
Daughter, the spy drama Alias and a third season of 24. There will also be a
second instalment of Joe Millionaire.
Summer Bay, just south of London... and then some
It's a ripper of a television show, with bonzer tales about life in sunny
Summer Bay and barbies on the beach by the surf club.
After 15 years, teen soap Home & Away has established itself as one of the
best-known windows on Australian life. Yet the show created on the other side of
the world and conceived by Australia's Seven Network is being counted by
Britain's Channel Five as programming it has ``originated" and co-produced
under quotas designed to promote original program ideas in the UK.
The Independent Television Commission has agreed that Home & Away is
``originated" by Channel Five because Britain's youngest terrestrial
broadcaster now funds more than half the show's production costs and has
editorial and creative influence over it.
Channel Five poached what is now its leading series from ITV1 in 2001. Under
ITV it was classed as an acquisition.
As for Neighbours - the other popular Australian soap - which is shown by the
BBC, it is also classed as an acquired show.
The disclosure is likely to add fuel to the debate about relaxing foreign
ownership restrictions on British broadcasters. Many in the industry suspect
foreign owners pack schedules with overseas rather than locally generated shows.
Regulations require that 53 per cent of Five's transmission time, excluding
sport and news, must be devoted to ``originated" material. Home & Away, shown
five times a week, accounts for 130 hours a year, a substantial proportion of
``This makes a mockery of the system," said one leading broadcasting
executive. ``On this basis, if Rupert Murdoch buys Channel Five we'll probably
see The Simpsons and Buffy the Vampire Slayer being deemed originated
programming or co-productions."
A Five spokeswoman insisted the regulator was happy to count Home & Away as
an originated series.
``We fund more than 50 per cent of its production costs and have considerable
creative and editorial impact on it," she said. -- The Guardian
Home and Away stars Christie Hayes (as Kirsty Sutherland), left, and Mitch
Firth (Seb Miller).