Wednesday, July 4

Free to air
Nanjing Night Net

Rugby League: State of Origin, Game 3, Nine, 7.30pm

Pubs across the state will be full of drinkers with their eyes glued to the television. Homes will resonate with groans and cheers. Will the Blues put an end Queensland’s six-year winning streak? Probably not, but whatever the result, all that emotional exuberance will be good communal catharsis.

Speed of Life, SBS One, 7.30pm

In the mid-’90s, the cool kids in the playground watched Gladiators on Saturday nights. On the show, men and women with biceps the size of chihuahuas tried to bludgeon each other off suspension bridges and such like. Mike Whitney was the referee (”GLADIATOR! ARE YOU READY?”) and hosts provided hyperbolic narration.

Replace the human competitors with cobras and praying mantises and you have Speed of Life. A voice-over introduces us to a spitting cobra (”five feet of muscle … and menace!”), a chameleon (”a master of disguise!”) and a bird of prey (”a black-winged menace!”). Even a guinea fowl gets the treatment, lauded for its super-bird speed.

The footage doesn’t need the histrionics. The chameleon suckers a bug with a tongue longer than its body. An African cat leaps more than three metres into the air. Without all the zap-and-kapow, these would be extraordinary moments. As it is, they feel like overblown special effects from a B-grade superhero movie. But, as with Gladiator, the drama sucks you in.

Junk Food Mums, ABC2, 8.30pm

Past the age of about eight, most of us learn that pointing and laughing is not a reasonable way to deal with fat kids. Nor, I would suggest, is it the way to treat their mums. Masquerading as a concerned documentary, this program throws its energies into provoking disgust and derision for mothers of overweight children.

The narration is fairly innocuous, but the footage is deliberately cruel. It shows a child eating chips from the floor with a dog. Later, it lingers as a two-year-old repeatedly drops the f-bomb. Implicit in all this is blame. While it is fair to suspect the parents of these children have made mistakes (who hasn’t?), the program fails to examine the bigger issues of social and educational inequity.

Life’s Too Short, ABC1, 9pm

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s comedy is always hard to watch. It’s the Brent effect; the character so full of delusional self-importance, they make the audience squirm.

Life’s Too Short feels even more uncomfortable because its lead character is a short-statured actor. This is not a problem in itself, of course, but the show does feature a great deal of dwarf slapstick. Warwick Davis, playing himself in a mock reality show about his hobbling career, clambers up bookshelves to reach high objects, falls out of large cars, and gets stuck in a bathroom because the doorhandle is over his head.

Comedians often say no joke is taboo as long as it’s really, really funny. Life’s Too Short is funny, but maybe not quite funny enough.

Dumb, Drunk and Racist, ABC2, 9.30pm

Tourism Australia won’t be using this as promotional material any time soon. Four Indians tour Australia with journalist Joe Hildebrand to discover the truth behind India’s stereotypes about Aussies.

Their findings are often disturbing – though not in the ways the Indians expect. Sure, the odd Australian thug will bash an Indian but they’re not necessarily racist. Mostly they’re just drunk.

It is a far from rosy picture but more accurate and balanced than the one the Indians have seen in their media. As they explore Melbourne – infamous for attacks on Indian students – they learn that Australians, though far from perfect, are as mixed a bunch as any other race.

It can be hard to watch, especially as a drunk hurls racist obscenities, but Hildebrand brings a nice, light touch, showing through banter that stereotypes of all kinds are dangerous.

Louise SchwartzkoffMovies

Knights of the South Bronx (2005) Seven, noon

Businessman Richard Mason (Ted Danson) sees his destiny as shaping the lives of tough inner-city kids at a high school in the Bronx. These youngsters enjoy gang war so it follows they will take to chess like ducks to a unicycle. Danson has elements of Mr Chips, Miss Jean Brodie and, of course, Sidney Poitier’s Mark ”Sir” Thackeray. The Knights of the South Bronx is the name the students on the school chess team adopt, and the feel-good factor is as obvious as the story, based, as they say, on actual events.

Open Hearts (2002) SBS Two, 11.45pm

This spartan story from Susanne Bier is among the more commendable examples of Dogma theory – elementary but not oversimplified. Bier’s narrative concerns Cecilie and Joachim, a young couple madly in love and looking optimistically at their future together. Their expectations are smashed when Joachim is struck down and seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver. Niels, a doctor at the Copenhagen hospital, breaks the news to Cecilie that her fiance has become paraplegic. The 23-year-old turns to Niels, who responds by becoming personally involved in her problems. Her affection transfers to Niels and they fall into a passionate liaison, complicated by the fact that the doctor is happily married and compounded by the fact that the driver of the car that injured Joachim was driven by Niels’s wife, Maria.

The Vicious Circle (1957) ABC1, 1.05am (Thu)

A film producer friend asks Dr Latimer (John Mills) to pick up movie star Frieda Veldon from the airport and drive her to Claridges. He does so then drives off to meet his fiancee Laura and best friend Ken. A colleague, Dr Kimber, phones and recounts how a disturbed patient claims to have seen a woman’s dead body beside a candelabra. Curious! The subsequent discovery of Frieda’s corpse in Latimer’s flat, with a candlestick nearby, adds to the mystery. As does the murder of Dr Kimber’s upset patient, Mrs Ambler, who, before she is killed, says she’s never heard of Dr Kimber. Things begin to look rather sticky for the good doctor when the film producer claims never to have asked Latimer to meet the dead actress. Special agents and international criminals begin to appear as this hectic and convoluted whodunit unfolds.

Doug Anderson

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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