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Sunday Age

Another round, another dream

Author: BRIAN COURTIS
Date: 16/04/2000
Words: 2100
          Publication: The Sunday Age
Section: Television
Page: 3
CRITIC'S CHOICE

The Fighting Thornberrys

Tuesday, ABC, 8pm ***

WHEN will boxers learn that the knockout they really should be going for is in the world heavyweight business championship against the likes of Don King? When will boxers realise it's the money men alone who gain from their pain?

It will be a long time coming. Some will still prefer to dream of glory. Dream like the Thornberrys, a family who must surely by now understand how cruel their so-called sport can be.

We keep watching them in the ring, hoping they fulfil their dream. We want them to celebrate with a world championship title. We want it also for Australia. Punch after bloody punch, we hope the dream never becomes a nightmare.

The extraordinary story of the Thornberrys is told from all parts of the ring in director Nicole McCuaig and writer John Orr's compelling documentary, a film that shows a great deal but still has you skipping about and dodging the usual responses to ask the tricky questions.

More than 20 years ago Trevor Thornberry, a courageous boxer known as The Iceman, gained a reputation that put him among the champions, would-be champs and contenders.

"Dad jumped in the ring and just knocked everybody out . . . did basically what everyone was trying to do," says son Noel.

Then something went terribly wrong and The Iceman became a punching bag in a fight that should have been stopped. Trevor suffered brain-stem damage, went into a coma, and didn't recognise his wife or children for six months.

It led the boxer and wife Carol to separate, though they remain close. And now, astonishingly, Trevor's sons Ricky and Noel have dedicated their lives to boxing. Ricky fights, Noel is his coach.

It's not like the old days, they swear. There is knowledge here. Skills. "I just want to add skills to it," says Ricky. "I want to come out unscathed."

We follow them as they prepare to travel to Cardiff to take on Welsh boxing's superstar Joe Calzaghe. It's a "down-to-earth Aussie from the outback" against that well-heeled champion with a customised Beemer.

The Thornberrys talk enthusiastically about their boxing throughout. They're all thoroughly supportive. You just wish a little more time was spent away from the ring, with just a few more questions for Ricky's parents, Trevor and Carol. Do they still believe the dream is worth it?

DRAMA

Nature Boy

Sunday, ABC, 8.30pm ***

Bryan Elsley's Nature Boy promises to develop into an environmental version of The Fugitive if tonight's episode is typical. David (Lee Ingleby), the boy on the run, nestles into the rugged Scottish border countryside around Hadrian's Wall, befriending a fox cub abandoned like himself. When he drops down into the northern city of Middlesbrough, David manages to find himself caught up in a protest against industrial pollution, a rather too intimate affair with the opposition and a friendship that draws words from the mute son of an overbearing member of parliament. Again, there's some wonderful location photography, excelling with both nature's finest and the man-made worst.

Neighbours

Weekdays, Channel 10, 6.30pm **

There's growing tension in Ramsay Street for the Scully family, with jobs and money running out fast. It's just the time for visitors. Coming up the street this week, towing a caravan, are those Australia-travelling relos. Keep a lookout for new neighbours Bud Tingwell and Val Jellay, another touch of class for the long-running sudser.

Ally McBeal: Over The Rainbow

Monday, Channel 7, 8.30pm ****

When he's good, he's very, very good . . . I'm talking about David E Kelley, of course, not Billy Thomas (Gil Bellows), Richard Fish (Greg Germann) or even John Cage (Peter MacNicol). This week, writer-creator Kelley is firing on all cylinders. He's hot. And, yes, so is his wonderful feed, Cage, an indignant, powered-up legal juggernaut tearing into Georgia Thomas (Courtney Thorne-Smith) when she sues the firm over the break-up of her marriage. Georgia's main complaint is that the law firm she was forced to leave is over-sexed, a point evidence from recent episodes would probably back up. But after a wonderfully surreal scene in which the eccentric Cage surrounds himself with dozens of glasses of water, the lawyer is lethal. It's little consolation for Fish, who says he has tried to keep work "fun" rather than being "run like a law firm". Cage's strengths in court are little consolation. "Win or lose, we lose John," he says. Well, actually, Mr Kelley triumphs.

The Bill: No Love Lost

Tuesday, ABC, 8.30pm ***

Strikingly different episode of The Bill that, in many ways, might seem more at home in Tony Garnett's more aggressive, northern variation The Cops. It's a sordid police drama that envelopes cocky Sergeant Matthew Boyden (Tony O'Callaghan) in a tragic affair that not only threatens several young lives but his own career. A simple, boastful claim and a challenge in a night club introduces Boyden to Natalie (Catherine Brooks), a young woman who is ready to flatter the mature flirt. But what begins in such a banal way and seems so promising escalates into a murder mystery and a nightmare for the terrified policeman.

Cold Feet

Tuesday, Channel 7, 9.30pm **

Not even Ally McBeal's Billy could behave as chauvinistically as Adam (James Nesbitt) in Cold Feet. This week, however, the Irishman's three most recent sexual conquests turn the tables. Rachel-1 moves into a new job at an advertising agency and finds herself attracted to a younger man; Rachel-2 keeps Adam awake after turning her attention to a well-muscled barman; and Amy goes off with Pete on an Outward Bound course. Karen (Hermione Norris) has David completely baffled with plans for their wedding anniversary but, apart from that and a few unconvincing coincidences, the British comedy-drama, or drama-comedy, fails to ignite.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Hush

Tuesday, Channel 7, 10.40pm ****

Clever, well-written and brightly directed episode by Josh Whedon . . . Buffy at its best. This episode opens with Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) being sent into a dream from which she recalls a young girl reciting the words, "Can't even shout, can't even cry, The Gentlemen are coming by." A little later, at night, all Sunnydale is struck by laryngitis and some odd, formally dressed, white-masked "Gentlemen" do indeed float through the university with their footmen. It becomes a truly horrific visit, with students quickly losing their hearts to the strangers. This nasty Magritte-inspired tale draws together all the Buffy gang, including Willow (Alyson Hannigan), Riley (Marc Blucas) and that master of nasty fairytales, Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head). Whedon plays this one imaginatively, producing some particularly entertaining scenes when everyone loses their voice.

Angel: Parting Gifts

Wednesday, Channel 7, 10.30pm **

Just what are Cordelia and Angel going to do without Doyle? The Oracles, that curious, classically dressed couple with the great tats, are certainly not going to let their Irish "semi-demon" return from the hereafter (wherever that might be). The best Angel can organise is a replacement. Joss Whedon's Buffy spin-off is still struggling to create as strong an ensemble as the original, so Doyle's departure will probably be seen as something of a disappointment. Nevertheless, in this week's show, another old friend turns up. On a vampire-chaser's Harley, we catch the unlikely figure of that Giles clone Wesley Wyndham-Pryce (Alexis Denisof). Clumsy as ever, Wesley, the "watcher" who once upset Buffy, reveals he is now a rogue-demon hunter. Meanwhile, the demons all have eyes on Cordelia's eyes. Confused? The PTB (or powers-that-be) will help sort it all out for you.

LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

Cleo Bachelor Of The Year

Monday, Channel 9, 9.30pm *

And you thought we'd gone beyond those beauty contest days? Well, not so. Sydney's magazine femmes show us the pretty fellas they're drooling over this year. Those splendid young men with rich fathers, fast cars, high-profile careers and sporty good looks should do well again. The rest of us can have a laugh at the silly gels who flutter their eyelashes towards them and try to make sense of what they're on about. The debs' delight.

The Women Of Charmed

Tuesday, Channel 10, 8.30pm *

Cast the spell that will take you as far away as possible from this hocus-pocus about Aaron Spelling's hit series Charmed. It's a promotional piece of wizardry that makes Shannen Doherty, Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano actually sound like they're working in a show on existentialism. The three Charmers talk about their romances, clothes and the supernatural. Television magician Spelling's own big trick? Finding a way to revive his Charlie's Angels for a 21st-century audience. Best of all is creator Constance M Burge explaining how she based the three witches on her own sisters. Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble.

C'mon Get Happy: The Partridge Family Story

Thursday, Channel 10, 8.30pm *

The family that plays together on TV stays together . . . and reveals all together for years to come. The more dysfunctional the better. Never mind how many times they've told us of the horrors of being rich and famous. There is indeed a sense of deja vu in this E-True Hollywood Story, right down to the quotes and clips. We hear the usual bits on Shirley Jones being stuck as Mother Partridge, David Cassidy unsure whether he was son Keith or the king of bubblegum rock, Susan Dey suffering her eating disorder, and Danny Bonaduce earning a reputation as a TV brat. Comedian Dave Madden, who played the Partridge band's manager Reuben Kincaid, oozes out the narration. And, if that isn't enough, well there's always Angela Bishop to top and tail it.

The Magical Legend Of The Leprechauns

Wednesday, Channel 9, 8.30pm **

Star-studded piece of Romeo and Juliet nonsense in which Randy Quaid plays an American businessman whose rest, relaxation and golf in rural Ireland introduces him to Colm Meaney's rule-breaking leprechaun Seamus Muldoon and family. The three-hour telemovie features an unlikely romance and a full-scale battle between the leprechauns and their arch-enemies, the trooping fairies. All the fighting takes place despite the warnings of a character known as The Grand Banshee. This latest Hollywood assault on Irish mythology features Whoopi Goldberg as The Grand Banshee, Roger Daltrey as King of the Fairies, and Zoe Wanamaker as Muldoon's long-suffering wife.

Royal Children's Hospital Good Friday Appeal

Friday, Channel 7, from 9am **

Will telethons be with us much longer? Today they really do seem a fading, nostalgic reflection of more caring times. The great survivor, of course, is Seven's Good Friday Appeal. Who can resist the emotional pull of those camera shots around the hospital wards? And, of course, this is one of the last bastions of TV variety.

DOCUMENTARIES

A Cry From The Grave

Sunday, SBS, 8.30pm ***

More horror from the Balkans. A tearful widowed mother scratches through a bush of thorns to talk to the bones of a murdered child. Nearby a cruelly agonised young man gulps in his guilt for being the only survivor of his family. We flash back. Catch news clips of strutting generals and ridiculously costumed warlords prancing around in home videos. We see them spewing their jingoistic garbage, dictating perverse, murderous commands to those bands of sub-normal gangsters posed as patriots. More obscenities. The location is Srebrenica in Bosnia. This powerful BBC program, screened as evidence at the recent War Crimes Tribunal hearings, covers those four days in July 1995 when Bosnian Serbs ignored the UN and slaughtered 7,000 Muslim men and boys in what was Europe's worst massacre since World War II. The world just watched. The world is still just watching.

Reluctant Enemies

Wednesday, ABC, 8.30pm ****

Winners and losers? If we can gently put aside the greater terrors, deprivation and loss, it becomes easier to understand that for some there was indeed "a good war". Producer-director Maria Chilcott moves in with admirable sensitivity and a fine ear for reminiscence to hear stories from Italian prisoners-of-war brought to Australia during World War II. About 15,000 were sent to work on farms and Chilcott discovers how their arrival often created lifelong friendships, romance and extraordinary ties. A heart-warming, compelling film that is not so much about war as the shared humanity of different peoples.

***** Cancel all appointments

**** Excellent viewing

*** Better than average

** Worth considering

* Fugedabadit

 
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