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Sunday Age

critic's choice

Author: Brian Courtis
Date: 23/10/2005
Words: 1515
Source: SAG
          Publication: The Sunday Age
Section: Preview
Page: 38
TELEVISION REVIEW: CASANOVA; LAST MAN STANDING; THE 19th ANNUAL ARIA AWARDS; NEIGHBOURS; SEX IN THE BUSH: RULES OF ENGAGEMENT; McLEOD'S DAUGHTERS: INTENTIONS; STORYLINE AUSTRALIA: PIONEERS OF LOVE; STRICTLY DANCING; BORN AND BRED: COMMUNITY SPIRITS

top pick

CASANOVA ****?, Sunday 8.35pm, ABC

There is no question on this delightful, bodice-ripping romp. It's love at first sight. Russell T. Davies, who broke ground for television with Queer As Folk then went on to surprise us again by finding new life in the universe of Doctor Who, has taken Giacomo Casanova's classic 12-volume autobiography and come up with a wonderfully charming, witty and pithy comic production. Enjoy a funny, spirited, sumptuous two-parter with lots of gags, campy choreography and tastefully mischievous sex. In a way, it's a colourful 21st-century response to Moll Flanders or Tom Jones. Costume drama on Viagra. Davies has produced a splendidly bawdy production, but managed to gilt-frame the saucy mischief without ever letting it slide into juvenile crudity. And in this he is wonderfully assisted by the casting. Peter O'Toole plays his ageing, rheumy-eyed romantic, while wide-eyed David Tennant is the energetic, bed-bouncing Casanova in the more-play-than-foreplay, foolish youth of his life. They are superb. The story is told in flashback by O'Toole's roue, now in 1793 the much-scorned elderly librarian of Castle Dux. Kitchen maid Edith, played by Australian Rose Byrne (recently in the movie Troy; once with Heartbreak High and Wildside), finds herself reluctantly drawing out the reality of the old man's loves and leg-overs. Casanova seduced nuns, young ladies, elderly ladies, other men's wives and their sisters. There were all positions, combinations, possibilities and, essentially here, one, never-abandoned true love. Somehow, it is accomplished to everyone's satisfaction.

worth a look

LAST MAN STANDING ***?, Tuesday 10pm, Channel 7

There will be tears. Not enough tears, mind you, to make the network change its mind. This will be the final episode for Marieke Hardy's Last Man Standing, a show that looked at three likely lads and their loves in order to put a masculine Melbourne accent upon Sex and the City. We're with Adam, Bruno and Cameron through to the end. And with AB and C there is always Z . . . the irresistibly unpredictable Zoe. In this week's episode it's pants-man Cameron (Matt Passmore) who convinces Zoe (Miriama Smith) there is still a future and Adam (Rodger Corser) who decides to make big life changes. Bruno (Travis McMahon) continues to agonise Seinfeld-like about his relationships. Ah, but where would Last Man Standing be without its wild party? After this one, however, Adam makes a couple of bombshell revelations that might just change everything.

THE 19th ANNUAL ARIA AWARDS ***, Sunday 7.30pm, Channel 10

Undoubtedly among the more easily recognisable celebrity guests at this year's live-to-air ARIA awards at the Sydney Superdome will be David Hasselhoff. As well as starring in Baywatch and Knight Rider, the actor has, of course, made it big as a singer in Germany. But there should also be other familiar faces in Ten's telecast. The show's format has changed again. There is no solo host, so keep an eye out for Chris Lilley (aka JaMie), James Mathison, Hamish & Andy and Natalie Bassingthwaighte among the presenters. Performing will be Ben Lee, Missy Higgins and Anthony Callea. Australia's burgeoning talent will be prominent from the early red-carpet arrivals to the final speeches. The ARIAs, which were first launched before 500 guests in Sydney in 1987, now attract 3000 from the industry, 6000 fans and followers and, Ten hopes, up to two million viewers. There are 28 peer-voted awards in all categories of music, as well as Hall of Fame recognition.

NEIGHBOURS **, Monday 6.30pm, Channel 10

Sinister Paul Robinson answers the prayers of many this week by taking half of Ramsay Street to Tasmania for the joy flight of their ill-fated lives. How innocent! Had they only realised those prized Lassiters invitations coincided with the cliffhanger and contract-renewal seasons, they might have reconsidered. It's a 1940s-theme trip to Launceston, with a couple of the spivvier young passengers already on the run from the law. But the biggest note of concern is the sinister one-liner left on Izzy's seat suggesting she reflect on her past. So suspend your sense of disbelief, appreciate the Flash Gordon modelling delights, wait for that squib to explode on the model plane and appreciate the lighting of the bath tubs standing in for the Bass Strait. It's all a little like The High and the Mighty, with Connor, Dylan, Sky, Izzy, Elle and the Bishop family instead of John Wayne. Used to be a time when they just sent the show's cast-offs to Brisbane.

SEX IN THE BUSH: RULES OF ENGAGEMENT ***?, Tuesday 8pm, ABC

Well, if Sex in the Bush is to be believed, when it comes to passionate pursuits we're not alone in dirty deeds. Australia's frolicking fauna is apparently all at it when it comes to nooky, bullying, cheating, showing off to fussy prospects and trying to convince the target of romance that one not only has excellent genes but plentiful resources. For some reason, and perhaps it's the result of years of David Attenborough overkill, I had always thought bush babies, if not elephant seals, conducted themselves a little better than we did. But apparently not. It's natural to be naughty. Anyway, the four-parter Sex in the Bush, illustrated with some of the ABC TV natural history unit's fine footage, is a lightly amusing trip with Australian biologists, scientists and researchers through the battles of the sexes. And take heart. In the wild, also, the course of true love never did run smooth.

McLEOD'S DAUGHTERS: INTENTIONS ***, Wednesday 7.30pm, Channel 9

Who says there are none of McLeod's daughters left around Drovers Run? Now that Jodi (Rachael Carpani) has sent Meg (Sonia Todd) into a tizzy about that $100,000 inheritance, there are undoubtedly questions to answer. Perhaps there's a whole clan of McLeods out there waiting to be discovered by the writers? DNA tests all round, thanks. This week Jodi has gone walkabout, looking anxious and angry . . . well, petulant at least. Never mind that, thanks to Jack, there's a few dollars more for her to spend on sheep-dip and the like. Poor Meg has sped off in that lowered ute looking for her, leaving Terry (John Jarratt) gobsmacked again and practising his Dad and Dave impressions. So everything is back to normal down on the farm. Except that miffed vet student Catriona (Sophie Cleary) does make a surprise return, producing a sexual harassment charge for her bemused former mentor, Dave (Brett Tucker). A woman's work is never done.

STORYLINE AUSTRALIA: PIONEERS OF LOVE ***?, Thursday 8.30pm, SBS

Love can indeed require great acts of courage. For Russian immigrant Leandro Illin and Aboriginal widow Kitty Clarke, the honest revelation of their feelings for each other and desire to marry led mainly to hardships and tragedy. It set off choking bureaucratic harassment in an Australia plagued by its racism. Their remarkable story, told in this complex but compelling two-part documentary, takes us from 1910 when the Illins, a family of aristocratic Russian dissidents, fled home to escape persecution. Eventually they set up what they hoped would be a Utopian community in the Atherton rainforest in tropical North Queensland. But for idealistic Leandro, who always believed in "truth, justice and equality", Australia proved no Utopia. Pioneers of Love, produced by Richard Dennison and directed by Julie Nimmo, tells how the couple persevered and the inspiration they brought to others. Among the film's strengths is Flora Hoolihan, offering an articulate, affectionate memory of her parents.

STRICTLY DANCING *?, Friday 8pm, ABC

Tired ballroom dancing competition that, pumped up with Paul McDermott's muddy-stream-of-consciousness gags and some minor backstage trans-Tasman fascinations, is surely hobbling towards its final final. This was the first one to go to air, but is sadly lacking the hype and pizzazz that a few old celebs and sniffy judges brought to Daryl's hit show. Lex Marinos now looks bored by it all and Angela Gilltrap is low-key. There are some familiar figures strutting the nuevo tango this week, but it's difficult to be convinced that any of them deserve the title of "Australasia's Hyper Ultra Ultimate Dancing Couple". Still, we are getting closer to that grand final on November 18. Then, perhaps, we can get back to something more interesting. Like kiwi chasing or wombat crutching? Or perhaps trans-Tasman morris dancing?

BORN AND BRED: COMMUNITY SPIRITS ***?, Saturday 7.30pm, ABC

Another dollop of heartwarming post-World War II British nostalgia from the BBC. In Born and Bred, set oop north where the sun always shines on vicars, pubs, bobbies, doctors and bruising kids, you will never see any telegraph wires, supermarkets, or prospective insurgents. And life continues to be rosy, even if James Bolam and company have tootled off to the Antipodes. Petty thieving tends to be the crime of this century, while measles or mother's ruin the greatest worry for local doctors. This week, it's Deborah's flirtatious younger sister, Nancy (Kelly Harrison), who creates a stir in Ormston. That, and the behaviour of laundress Janette (Denise Black). Janette's son has been acting strangely and there is the hint of a rare dark cloud over those Lancashire hills.

 
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