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The Sydney Morning Herald

I went to the Ramsay Street party, but it seems I missed all the fun

Date: 24/01/1998
Words: 1173
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Spectrum
Page: 24
THIS viewer hadn't visited his Neighbours (Ten, Friday) for roughly 2,000 episodes. While that may seem terribly unfriendly, there just hasn't been any compelling reason to drop in. But a 3,000th party for this internationally successful sudser was just too damned tempting, so the doors to Ramsay Street were once again flung open.

It'd be marvellous, as Harold would say, to report that nothing has changed between episodes 1,000 and 3,000 . . . that storylines were picked up as easily as Carr Government mistakes. I imagined it would be like tuning back into Days Of Our Lives to find one of the crusty old Hortons finally finishing the sentence they'd begun when you'd kicked the TV screen in during an attack of boredom when last watching eight years ago. And since all the old Neighbours favourites had famously moved on, the least we could have hoped for was a dream sequence involving Des (the man with the face of a knee), Jim (the grey man), Kylie, Jason, Craig and Bouncer (the fat labrador and my personal favourite).

But no. Only Madge and Harold remain from those heady days, and even they, apparently, ponced off to greener pastures for a few hundred episodes before returning in a glorious cloud of gravel-voiced earthiness (Madge) and lip-quivering indignation (Harold). Most of the other inhabitants are bright young things who have been struck squarely with the Spunky Stick. Sadly, some of them missed out when the Acting Stick was being wielded.

In hindsight, it's probably an honourable thing that episode 3,000 was about as special as a pie and sauce. It was like some trainspotting nerd going through the books had discovered that the episode shot three weeks ago was the 3,000th. It makes more sense that nothing happened than if the producers had got together and thought, "Bloody hell, 3,000 episodes . . . let's have the Spice Girls' bus getting lost and ending up in Ramsay Street . . . yeah, and Posh Spice falls for Harold because he's a pompous git, and Jeff Kennett turns up and says, `No way, Harry, the doggone girl is mine,' and they fight a duel at dawn . . . or something."

In fact, trying to piece the clues together backwards, it would appear that the nervous 2,990s were fabbo episodes. Madge must have collapsed after dizzy spells and looked for all the world like a brain tumour victim. In the big 3,000 she went to the doctor, who confirmed that she had the flu. That very same doctor, Karl, was seen talking to his receptionist, Sarah, in episode 3,000 about, presumably, the fact that he must never examine her again using his trouser-stethoscope. That's right. In an earlier episode, the well-married Karl (Alan Fletcher) and the luscious Sarah (Nicola Charles) daubed themselves with oil and thrust their guilty, naked bodies at one another. Or the soapy-friendly equivalent. In ep 3,000, they said they must not do this any more.

Still, we got tension from this pair. "That was a lovely speech," Sarah said to Karl over her empty champagne glass after the good doctor had offered a toast to his wife. But was it a lovely speech, I wondered, desperate to find intense 3,000-ep meaning in every word.

"Before everyone demolishes the food, I think a few words are in order. This is a special occasion. My very talented wife, Susan, is about to embark on a new job. I am not going to say I'm not going to miss her, because I will. Very much. I'm also very, very proud of her, so charge your glasses, here's to Susan."

Obviously, Sarah's right. That's a very, very lovely speech. While Karl had two chicks, no waiting, his son Billy seems to be in the same fix. That's right . . . the suddenly racy Neighbourshas a father-and-son team each going the snog with two gorgeous women. Woo-hooo! Naturally, Billy's moment of teenage cheatin' happened in an earlier episode, but got talked about in the 3,000th. So, all in all, it seems like there's plenty going on in Ramsay Street at the moment. I think I'll wait only 1,000 episodes for the next visit.

Speaking of lewd sex, Coltrane's Planes and Automobiles (ABC, Monday) has none of it. Much as I love the adipose Coltrane, he has struggled to make some dead boring people sound interesting in this series about engines. Got up in his mechanic's outfit, looking for all the world like a boiled egg painted for Easter, Coltrane has done his best to make boffins yapping about pistons seem like the kind of people you'd like to invite around for dinner. But I'm sorry, the bloke who wrote the biography of the bloke who invented the jet engine is never setting foot in my house.

The ABC seems intent on making science incredibly interesting. Its new series, Hyperscience, almost succeeds. In fact, its opening episode about volcanoes was like watching When Animals Attack. Scary music underpinned Craig Donarski's voiceover, which hinted that when you least expect it, a volcano is coming for you. The style was far too frantic for me, visually and aurally.

Then again, I'm probably just an old fart (no volcano reference intended).


Married With Children, Nine, 8 pm: Not much reality at work here. The Bundys are still alive and living in a television studio where people go "whoo-hoo" at the lowest dirty gag or the sight of Christina Applegate's breasts. Most of the irony was leached from this show many moons ago, but the occasional laugh is still on offer. Hear No Evil, SBS, 9.30 pm: You've got to admire a bloke who has vampire teeth permanently implanted in his gob to help create the dark image of his gothic heavy-metal band. Either that, or believe he is a total idiot. Kieran from the Melbourne band Catwitch has done just that. He's a tad obsessed, as this strange-but-true documentary reveals. It's Spinal Tap without the irony. As part of the LOUD festival, this film looks at the band and the young woman manager who would take them to mega KISS-like fame.

T. S.


Cricket, Nine, 2.20 pm: What's to become of us? As Australian swimmers and the occasional tennis player grab hold of glory, Seven's ratings have leapt accordingly, sometimes at the expense of Nine's cricket coverage. Why? Because our cricketers, in the one-day form, have been nothing short of abysmal. There is still the chance to end the season in spectacular fashion. Today's is the second final against South Africa. Exile In Sarajevo, SBS, 8.30 pm: This isn't the piece of television that will make you smile. It's gut-wrenchingly tough stuff as the Australian film-maker Tahir Cambis joins Alma Sahbaz to give us an inside look at the atrocity that was the siege of Sarajevo. It's horrible and powerful, ultimately asking was passive observation through our television screens the correct way to deal with this conflict.

T. S.

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