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Sunday Age

Time for hottest show in town

Date: 22/04/2001
Words: 1200
          Publication: The Sunday Age
Section: News
Page: 12
It's the party of all parties, a backslapping celebrity fest that the beleaguered Australian television industry really needs right now. Bring back the stars, bring back the showbiz, bring back that overworked night of nights and ... hey, even bring back Bert.

Tonight's 43rd annual TV Week Logies Awards show is not only the hottest show in town, but, cynicism and scoffing aside, a celebration of what television still can do.

When those 1100 polished guests shuffle into Melbourne's Crown Casino for their glittery dress-up they will be gathering together the movers and shakers, talented creatives, young and mature performers, international observers, hacks and hangers-on, and some of TV's hopes for the future.

Australian television has never been in such a state of uncertainty. The ratings game is a mystery, the promise of pay TV and digital technology is yet to be realised, and, importantly, there is a desperate need for a boost in budgets, support and enthusiasm for local production. And not just for the reality shows.

The Logies allows us all to look at the state of the art. But, above all, the Logies, a once high-circulation entertainment magazine's promotional centrepiece, is supposed to be fun. That, and, of course, a top-rating television special for guest James Packer's Nine Network. So bring out the gifts, the surprises, the superstars.

Top of the bill is Latin singer Ricky Martin, who is flying in just to deliver the hits Loaded and She Bangs. There will also be performances from Vanessa Amorosi and a medley, with dancers a la Michael Jackson, from the hit group Human Nature.

Michael Crawford, remembered by some for the Phantom and by the olds as Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em will be a guest presenter. As will that grittier Brit actor, Christopher Ellison, star of The Bill and, more recently, Burnside. Magda Szubanski, star of Babe and the Dogwoman series of telemovies, will head up the local presenters.

But surely the most sentimental drawcard of the night will be the presenter of the Gold Logie, Bert Newton. In that era of Muhammad Ali, John Wayne, Graham Kennedy, Dallas, M.A.S.H. and the golden age of TV variety, Bert became the Bob Hope of the Logies, from 1967, hosting 18 of the shows with impeccable skill and dazzling humor.

There is an undoubted revival of interest in this awards show and the sole reason for that is the witty, acerbic and irreverent performance of Andrew Denton as the program's host for the past two years. With his decision to give it a rest, the organisers have turned to another left-of-field choice as master of ceremonies, ABC comedian Shaun Micallef. The TV comic could be an inspired gamble. Micallef has the comic ability to surprise, an elastic performance that is unpredictable and unconventional. He is also a versatile actor, switching from the nerdish, nice-guy romantic in SeaChange to that Basil Fawlty-ish talk-show host in his own sketch comedy series without difficulty.

But there are three big shows trapped within the Logies. There is the presentation of the 22 or so awards, half of them voted for by the magazine readers and half judged by peer groups. There are those VIP guests who need to be wined, dined and kept from getting bored. And there is, for the Nine Network, that all-important TV spectacular.

Hillary Innes, who has produced the People's Choice Awards for Seven and worked on Ray Martin's Midday, is the new executive producer of the telecast. Through the anxiety, tension and planning, she understands how essential it is to keep all the elements in tune.

``There is a great vibe in the room," Innes says. ``People are there to party. You know you want to entertain young people, but also know there is a traditionally older audience tuned in. So you choose entertainers that appeal right across the board. It's not cultish, not niche market at all.

``I love it. You're out there live and anything can happen, anything can go haywire. But as well as being nerve-racking, it's a wonderful feeling. There's nothing else like it in television."

Just how difficult is it guaranteeing the right mix of performers? Kerry Roberts, the network's entertainment executive, spent six months working on getting Ricky Martin to come to Australia just for the Logies. ``He loves Australia, really does, but he's just flying in, then there's a press conference and he's flying out again," Roberts says.

What viewers at home won't see, of course, are the lesser delights of the great parade at the Crown Casino. They will miss the guests trying to push their way along the red carpet past Richard Wilkins and the fashion sleuth. They will miss the ``mezzo-nod", that nervous flick of acknowledgment from one celebrity to another ``Do they really know me, or do I only know them from TV?" They will miss the mascara-smudged gossip from the overcrowded ladies loos. And they will also miss all the parties that go on into the scandalised night.

But much as we crave the opportunity to spot that tipsy star, sink the fashion fiascos, yawn through the thankyous, scorn the mean-spirited air-punching nongs who use the acceptance speech as a soapbox, and catch celebrities and network bosses scowling, the Logies, like so many televised awards shows, has become warily efficient.

The bland plays on.

There is precious little time for editing, but, if someone does make an extravagant fool of themselves on camera, the cynics will delight in being proved right, the viewers will remember the awards embarrassment forever, and television will again confirm its ability to entertain and excite us with the unexpected.


* www.tvweek.com.au/logies/homestephens

* www.theage.com.au/entertainment/television

* Planning for the first Logies began in 1958, two years after TV began in Australia. Run by TV Week magazine and then known as the ``TV Week Awards", the first winners were announced in 1959.

* The first ``star of the year" was In Melbourne Tonight's Graham Kennedy.

* The awards were named after the inventor of TV, John Logie Baird.




Lisa McCune (Blue Heelers, The Potato Factory, 7)

Ada Nicodemou (Home And Away, 7)

Georgie Parker (All Saints, 7)

*Sigrid Thornton (SeaChange, ABC)

John Wood (Blue Heelers, 7)



Daniel Macpherson (Neighbours, 10)

William McInnes (SeaChange ABC)

Martin Sacks (Blue Heelers, 7)

*John Wood (Blue Heelers, 7)



Rebecca Cartwright (Home And Away, 7)

Rebecca Gibney (Halifax f.p., 9)

Georgie Parker (All Saints, 7)

*Sigrid Thornton (SeaChange, ABC)



All Saints (7)

Blue Heelers (7)

Home And Away (7)

*SeaChange (ABC)


Rove Live (10)

Surprise Surprise (9)

*The Panel (10)

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (9)


Backyard Blitz (9)

*Better Homes And Gardens (7)

Changing Rooms (9)

Harry's Practice (7)


Animal Hospital (9)

*Popstars (7)

RPA (9)

The Mole (7)


A Current Affair (9)

60 Minutes (9)

*Today (9)

Today Tonight (7)


*The Dream, With Roy & H.G. (7)

The Footy Show: AFL (9)

The Footy Show: NRL (9)

The Olympic Show (7)


Beau Brady (Home And Away, 7)

*Jamie Durie (Backyard Blitz, 9)

Chris Egan (Home And Away, 7)

Ben Steel (Home And Away, 7)


Karina Brown (Sale Of The Century, 9)

*Caroline Craig (Blue Heelers, 7)

Tammin Sursok (Home And Away, 7)

Madeleine West (Neighbours, 10)

* Indicates Sunday Age Critic's Choice.

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