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The Age

FRIDAY - CRITIC'S VIEW

Author: Kenneth Nguyen
Date: 17/08/2006
Words: 638
Source: AGE
          Publication: The Age
Section: Green Guide
Page: 22
CRITIC'S VIEW REVIEW: Veronica Mars; Everybody Hates Chris; The Steph Show

Veronica Mars

Channel Ten, 10.30pm

For Veronica Mars fans, this is not optional viewing: tonight's episode, A Trip to the Dentist, is perhaps the most complex, confronting instalment thus far of a series that prides itself on being complex and confronting. The protagonists are teenaged but the themes - sex, race, class - are decidedly adult. More importantly, the manner in which the themes are handled are decidedly adult too. That's a good thing, considering the sensitivity of tonight's pivotal plotline. Finally, we see Veronica (Kristen Bell) set out to identify who drugged and raped her one year ago. She has little information to go on - all she knows is that she woke up after a party in a foreign bedroom, her underpants removed by a person, or persons, unknown - so her modus operandi is necessarily basic: all she can do is confront those at Neptune High who were present on the ill-fated night. It is a difficult task for the young detective in training, even leaving aside the traumatic nature of the incident in question: as Veronica says in voice-over towards the start of tonight's episode, "As a rule, people that hate you aren't that helpful. There were about 100 people at Shelley's party. Ninety-eight of them would walk over my corpse for free gum." Step by step, however, Veronica navigates through the different perspectives she is offered, each of which is flawed by partiality, and steers herself towards the truth. The journey towards the truth is expertly scripted, filled with mocked male virgins, class snobbery ("What's the deal, can't buy bronzer with food stamps?" asks one student of the heroine) and queen-bee jealousy. Like Prep author Curtis Sittenfeld, one rather imagines that writer Diane Ruggiero took notes during her own student years, because her command of the tightrope high-school milieu seems pretty much spot-on. It is Ruggiero's resolution of the mystery, however, that will keep fans talking. Like the best resolutions, I suppose, it raises more questions than it answers. What is rape? And if Veronica was not raped, was she nevertheless a victim? Veronica Mars might be filmed with a technicolour gleam but the scripting, right through to the end, is shot through with shades of grey.

Everybody Hates Chris

Channel Ten, 8pm

The shortcomings of Everybody Hates Chris are fairly self-evident: not much in the way of character development has actually gone on in the past half-dozen episodes or so, and Chris Rock doesn't actually have all that many jokes in his arsenal. But who really cares when the jokes are this funny? Personally, I could listen all day to Rock riff on the differences between white people and black people, the fiscal tightness of his father and the dangers of the ghetto. Tonight's episode covers all this territory, as the eight-year-old Chris Rock (Tyler Williams) visits the house of his friend Greg (Vincent Martella) - the Paul Pfeiffer of Everybody Hates Chris - and discovers that not all white people live out Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous; Julius Rock (Terry Crews) shows off his knowledge of dishwasher values while watching The Price is Right; and Rochelle Rock (Tichina Arnold) chucks a fit after little Chris returns home late one night. "You be like ET, you phone home!" she says. Apart from ET, '80s fanatics will also enjoy references to Atari consoles and The Care Bears - an underrated show, says Rock in narration.

The Steph Show

Channel Ten, 6pm

Neighbours star, half-sister of Jason Donovan and erstwhile Merton Hall student Stephanie McIntosh seems very pleasant but the first episode of her The Ashlee Simpson Show-esque reality series had little more artistic merit than your average MySpace webpage. Nine-year-old girls and, say, McIntosh's boyfriend Nick Riewoldt will no doubt enjoy this, but others are advised to steer clear.

 
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