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The Sydney Morning Herald

tv previews

Author: Greg Hassall
Date: 03/04/2000
Words: 775
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: The Guide
Page: 16

On the Edge:

Christina's Birthday

SBS, 8pm

'This is the first of three short films from Western Australia commissioned by SBS Independent and airing over the next three weeks. It's a likable film, although the feel is pure Home and Away and the plot's straight from Jane Austen's Emma (or Clueless, if you prefer).

Broome local Christina has been studying in the city and returns home with a friend, Josephine, for her 21st birthday. They meet two Aboriginal cousins - Jacko, who lives in Darwin and thinks himself a bit of a ladies' man, and Junior, a shy ringer from the Kimberley. Josephine wants to set up Christina with Jacko, but Jacko's already fallen for her. With the boys' Uncle Baama (Stephen Baamba Albert) playing muse, everything is resolved with the breezy efficiency of a good soap. It doesn't labour its gentle message of racial harmony and Broome does a fine west coast impression of Summer Bay.


Flight For Life

ABC, 8pm

(The popularity of reality TV seems to be fuelling a belief that everyone has a story to tell and every story is intrinsically interesting. Well, sorry, but it's just not true. Andrew L. Urban does a good job of sustaining the illusion in Front Up, but he has a rare knack and we don't see what ends up on the cutting room floor.

I shudder to think what Simon Target left on the cutting room floor when putting together this oddly lifeless series. Flying doctors might have seemed an interesting subject, but even a great story won't work if the talent doesn't light up the screen. And Target compounds the problem by focusing on a different character each episode, removing the one element that might have enlivened this - ongoing story arcs.

Tonight we meet Anneliese Cusack, a remote-area nurse who tends for orphaned kangaroos in her spare time. Cusack is clearly a very nice person, but also profoundly shy, making her an awkward subject. Matters aren't helped by Target's trademark monotone, furthered dulled here by a slight outback drawl. He perks up briefly at the end as he badgers Cusack about her love life, but she's mortified by his intrusions, withdrawing into a deep, inarticulate blush. Having always found Target's interest in his subjects' love lives a bit odd (his attempt to matchmake two students in Uni was downright creepy), I was only beaten to the off switch by the credits.


Stopping Traffik: The War Against the War on Drugs

SBS, 8.30pm

Ronald Reagan's "war on drugs" is being waged with the same ideological fervour as when it was launched 18 years ago. Never mind the arbitrary way in which certain forms of drug are deemed acceptable (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, tranquilisers, diet pills, codeine, Viagra, etc) and others illegal. Never mind that drug prohibition has created an enormous black market, feeding organised crime and over-crowding jails. Never mind that there has never been a drug-free society.

This sensible, low-key documentary sets out a compelling case against drug prohibition. It looks at America's Harm Reduction Coalition which attracts support from across the political spectrum, free-heroin treatment in England, and the failed Swiss experiment with "Needle Park", an open-air shooting gallery in Zurich that became a Mecca for addicts, leading to scenes that resembled a modern-day version of Dante's Inferno. The park was eventually closed and replaced with small clinics, but legal heroin remains available as a last-resort treatment.

No-one here is advocating drug use; they merely share a belief that it is a health issue and there's nothing to be gained from further marginalising people by criminalising their behaviour. As a policeman says here, a war on drugs is a war against your own community.


The Drew Carey Show

Nine, 7.30pm

*This is the famous Drew Live episode that aired in the US last November. While it's not an original idea - E.R. had a live episode the season before - Drew Live is only partly scripted and includes elements of improvisation.

At the sound of a bell characters have to come up with alternative lines and songs are made up on the spot. Little more than a blokey version of theatresports, the format suits the show's ramshackle, self-congratulatory style. It's only intermittently funny, but fans should enjoy it.

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