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The Age

CRITIC'S CHOICE

Author: JIM SCHEMBRI
Date: 06/01/2005
Words: 691
Source: AGE
          Publication: The Age
Section: Green Guide
Page: 28
Altered Statesman: JFK

ABC, 8.30PM

It's a little hard to know how we've all managed to cope, but it's been several weeks now since the last documentary on JFK. Breaking the drought is the second instalment of the Discovery Channel's excellent five-part series, a myth-smashing revelation of how John F. Kennedy's carefully self-managed image as a young and healthy leader hid a man prone to illness and chronic back pain. Stricken by Addison's disease, an energy-sapping ailment with the potential to turn fatal in moments of stress, JFK spent much of his life on medication, upon which he grew increasingly dependent as his political career blossomed. His 1960 campaign was apparently fuelled by massive doses of pain-relieving hydrocortisone tablets, and by the time of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, Jack was addicted to amphetamines. The drugs made him feel physically better but weren't much help with his thought processes, especially when dealing with Soviet premier Nikita Kruschev. It's a sobering thought indeed, that while JFK had his finger poised over the nuclear button he was probably having speed pumped into his forearm. The program keenly plays on the irony of how JFK's telegenic appearance - tanned face and hair untouched by grey - was, in fact, due to his ailment, though he couldn't conceal the face-bloating side effects of his medication, highlighted here by before-and-after photos. Also under scrutiny is JFK's legendary sex life, which makes Bill Clinton's oval office shenanigans seem like a Catholic prayer meeting. Eager to counter any public perception that his hospital stays suggested a sick or withering man, Jack boisterously reported in letters from his hospital bed fanciful, image-boosting stories of how much sex he was having with the nurses. Most of his reputed dalliances were not fictitious, however. We learn how Jack once ducked out of an official function to grab a slice of heaven and was back in his suit within seven minutes. One affair earned him a dose of VD, and another caused a large-scale security scare when he got jiggy with a suspected East German agent. Of course, you can't do a JFK doco without including the assassination, and the film ends on the discordant note that catastrophic as his murder was, it may have only hastened a decline that was not far off.

The West Wing

CHANNEL NINE, 11PM

Even after all these seasons it's still difficult for a normal human being to withstand the blasts of politico-waffle that cast members of The West Wing periodically give off. Rapid-fire discussions about deductible college tuition, capital gains tax, corporate tax cuts, budget negotiations, jurisprudence and rising deficits make it an absolute relief when somebody slows down to talk about something vaguely human, such as the first daughter's impending TV interview, or the ailing chief justice (Milo O'Shea), who may be losing his marbles. And having a straight-faced Matthew Perry in a show without him performing at least one pratfall seems, somehow, wrong. Oh, and as for the much-touted veracity of The West Wing, watch the final scene and ask yourself: is the electrical power supply to the White House really that unreliable?

Home and Away

CHANNEL SEVEN, 7PM

There's someone alurkin' in the bushes as Robbie (Jason Smith), Tasha (Isabel Lucas) and Kim (Chris Hemsworth) visit a secluded lake for a quiet camp-out. It's all fun and games until Robbie, challenged by his spunky girlfriend to run about naked, happens upon evidence that they are not only being watched, but being watched by somebody with very poor hygiene. In the very outdoorsy return of the soap that locates Australia on the beach (while Neighbours places it deep in suburbia), we see more evidence that men of an equal amount of upper torso-buffing just do not get along. While on an abseiling adventure, Jesse (Ben Unwin) continually digs away at Dan (Tim Campbell) for unintentionally emasculating him by making Leah (H&A long hauler Ada Nicodemou) so happy so quickly, something he failed to do after two years of trying. Jesse has a new squeeze, the lovely Josie (Laurie Foell), but, you know, the dude just can't let go.

 
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