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The Sydney Morning Herald

TV previews

Author: Michael Idato
Date: 06/05/2002
Words: 653
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: The Guide
Page: 26

Ten, 6.30pm

Four thousand half-hours ago, Neighbours began as it begins today on the eve of a wedding. Then, it was Des and Lorraine. By episode two Lorraine had ditched him, and by episode three Daphne, the stripper at his stag night, had moved in and the couple were on their way to becoming Neighbours' first ``supercouple".

Neighbours was born on March 18, 1985, on Channel 7. After 170 episodes, and a timeslot shift which effectively killed it, it was axed by Seven and, unexpectedly, bought by Ten. They replaced actor Darius Perkins with blond posterboy Jason Donovan, added Anne Charleston and Kylie Minogue, and rebirthed the series on January 20, 1986.

Times have changed since then, but the emotional engines are timeless: boy kisses girl, girl kisses boy, girl's sister realises she's in love with sister's boy and so on. Neighbours, much like its distant cousin Home and Away, has long suffered under the weight of its own volume two-and-a-half hours in a week is no mean feat. It means location shooting is difficult, hence the ``indoorsy" feel to the sets (though thankfully someone has opened the curtains a little) and it shrinks rehearsal time, leaving some of the scenes, particularly with the less experienced cast members, a little wooden.

Curiously, over the years the casting has gradually homogenised; instead of half a dozen teenagers who had quite distinct ``looks", we now have a cast of almost a dozen, who look so much like each other the casual viewer has great difficulty telling them apart. Thankfully, lending the show its solid base are a handful of reliably good actors: Maggie Millar, Janet Andrewartha and Jackie Woodburne.

Guinevere Jones

Ten, 4pm

Although it opens with a big slice of tasty ham helped by Mercia Deane-Johns rather campy Morgana Le Fay, big on hair and lumbered with funny lines such as ``I will have the crystal!" this new children's series from Crawfords quickly degenerates into an uncomfortable clone of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Canadian actress Tamara Hope is our Buffy, a reincarnation of King Arthur's wife Guinevere, whose magical powers are emerging. She's a high-kicking, witch-snuffing teenager who battles all manner of evil in the schoolyard and juggles her homework at the same time. Sounding a little familiar yet?

Her circle of pals echoes even more uncomfortably geeky Tasha (Greta Larkins) replaces Willow, Josh (Damien Bodie) is our Xander and (as yet unseen) moody loner Michael (Yani Gellman) stands in for Angel. Replacing Giles and the bookshop are Dennis Coard and Briony Behets as Gwen's foster parents, proprietors of a new-age shop.

Like all first episodes, too much time is spent setting up characters, leaving the plot a little thin in this case, former Prisoner inmate Pepe Trevor as Mrs Blatt, a not-too-nice type who likes to keep a wand in her top drawer, picks on her students and licks their tears when they cry.

Light, eerie, but a little too thin.

About Us: Rats

SBS, 8.30pm

They outnumber us to the tune of roughly 15 billion and we've been waging war on them for centuries. They nibble and scuttle, and we do everything from stand on chairs screaming to chasing them with brooms. This documentary, from Germany in English, German, Italian, French and Dutch (with subtitles where necessary) is quite revealing.

Myth: rats are filthy. Fact: rats are very clean, though that could be qualified by saying they are common carriers of disease, usually the fun ones such as cholera and dysentery.

From the rat's life as lab animal to the role they have played in history most notably spreading bubonic plague in Europe the life and ecology of the rat is revealed slowly, in icky but compelling layers.

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