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The Age


Date: 21/04/2005
Words: 655
Source: AGE
          Publication: The Age
Section: Green Guide
Page: 24
CRITIC'S VIEW REVIEWS: Oz; Cold Case; Neighbours

Oz, SBS 10PM

Elizabeth Costello, the central character in JM Coetzee's novel of the same name, is invited to speak at a conference on the timeless problem of evil: why there is evil in the world, and what if anything we can do about it? Simultaneously, she is under "the malign spell" of a novel about depravity. She's been sucked into bottomless dejection by graphic descriptions of the executions of Hitler's would-be assassins. The spectacle has left her sick within herself and with the world, and it's taken her back to an earlier brush with evil and "the flap of Satan's leathery wing". Elizabeth wonders at the cost to the writer of revealing such obscenity and the impact upon the reader as she immerses herself in it "heartbeat by heartbeat". Tonight in Oz, our wheelchair-bound narrator Augustus Hill is similarly, although not nearly as poetically, consumed by the problem of evil. Does a person commit a violent act because of nature or nurture? Because he or she is wired to create havoc or in response to their situation? Biology or environment? Can we end violence now and forever? Is there a magic bullet? Or is the root of violence much darker: pure evil? The Oswald State Correctional Facility's coarse and sadistic inmates, like Hitler's henchmen, pile vilenesses high on top of one another. Unlike Elizabeth Costello, however, Augustus Hill provides no meaningful perspective on the hatefulness. He is a wry observer, on the margins as one frightful assault follows another. First a man is murdered, then another is raped. We flashback in nauseating detail to a woman being raped. And we see the handless stumps of a child's freshly hacked arms. There is an attempted murder and an attempted oral rape, too, ("Suck some chocolate," the attacker taunts). And that's not counting the blood-drenched credits. Writer Tom Fontana claims to have closed his eyes while penning some of the scenes from this prison drama, as he didn't want to see himself scripting the words that he had to produce. But why the necessity to take the viewer to the darkest recesses? Increasingly, Oz makes me wonder - like the fictional Elizabeth Costello - at our "dealings with the devil". Whatever the writer's original intent, the extreme violence appears to have become mere titillation. And we are all soiled when a merry spectacle is made of murder, rape and the dismemberment of a child?

Cold Case, CHANNEL NINE 9.35PM

The cold-case squad has a bad case of death on its hands. Things have gone biblical in the badlands, man. Ice cold. Triple murder gets you a date with the needle real quick, but when the prime suspect for the multiple homicide at Della's chicken and ribs joint proves his innocence, it's clear that the original investigator screwed the pooch and the squad has to start its search for the killer over again. Backing it all up are Groove Armada, Ashanti, Alicia Keys, Soul Hooligan and Shuggie Otis. Killer viewing.

Neighbours, CHANNEL TEN 6.30PM

Sindi Watts knows that dishonesty, a meditation tape and a lavender wheat bag should be an integral part of any intimate relationship, and that's why we love her to bits, but the star of tonight's passionate, explorative and extraordinarily transformative Erinsborough update is Max Hoyland, who attempts to wake his comatose son Boyd by threatening to withhold the outcome of the Bombers versus Pies clash. Not since Oliver Sacks' Awakenings has so much been contributed through the appliance of science in the medium of the arts to the revival of the catatonic. For his neurological journeyings alone, Max deserves a Logie. What better way to top off Anzac Day by getting back to Ramsay Street? Go on, let your mind travel.

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