TV Programs Worth Watching Sun May 26 — Sat June 1
Help! I have an uncontrollable urge to don a powdered wig and white stockings and announce to an arrogant old woman that her loyal Australian subjects beg 15 minutes for an audience with her in order to present her with a life-size model of the Sydney Harbour Bridge built entirley from gold toothpicks. In short, I am suffering from a condition currently doing the rounds called "a surfeit of Royalty on TV". First we had that eruption of unseemly weeping and wailing over the death of the Queen Mother, who was a ruthless, fascist-minded old biddy even when she was young. Then, shortly afterwards, we had (and have — it's still running) Queen And Country on The Big Picture "(ABC 9:30pm Tuesdays). This PR love fest for Elizabeth II was promoted with a sound bite of the young Liz assuring us that she would devote her life to "serving" us — whether we wanted her to or not. In return, all she expected was that the population of a couple of dozen countries would bend the knee when ever she passed by, would shower money and priceless gifts upon her and her family, would fawn over her and her assorted relatives, and would suck up to them at every opportunity in a sickeningly undignified way. Seems a fair exchange to me. And now we have another instalment of Royalty adulation. The two-part drama series Victoria And Albert (ABC 8:30pm Sunday) boasts that it is "the true story of the remarkable romance of Britain's Queen Victoria and her German-born husband, Prince Albert". Ooh, golly, doesn't it sound good? Lavish costumes and sets, and a budget big enough to lure actors like Victoria Hamilton (as Victoria, who else?) and Jonathan Firth (Mr Darcy from Pride And Prejudice) as Albert together with Diana Rigg, Peter Ustinov, Nigel Hawthorne, Jonathan Pryce, David Suchet, Penelope Wilton, Richard Briers and Patrick Malahide. Don't expect any unpleasant revelations, any honest appraisals of the main participants, least of all any relating of the developing fortunes of this "Royal" family to the massive increase in exploitation of the British working class and the workers and peasants of the whole of the British Empire that took place in the 19th century. Despite the presence of Nigel Hawthorne in the cast, this is no Madness Of King George. A completely different kettle of fish is riting The Wrongs (Dockers) (ABC 10:35pm Sunday). A repeat screening of the compelling documentary about the "creative collective" that was formed with some of the locked out Liverpool dockers who, working together, wrote their own feature length television drama about the dispute — Dockers. Some things just don't strike you as likely subjects for a ballet. Hunters in forest glades, yes; enchanted princesses, love-lorn princes; Roman gladiators; Scythian warriors; Ruritanian kingdoms, poor village maidens; all of these, yes. But a Lancashire bootmaker, his spinster sister and their browbeaten bootboy Will Mossop? Unlikely or not, the classic yarn Hobson's Choice has been made into a ballet (ABC 11:25pm Sunday). The original is a splendid study of character and has made an admirable play and film, both of which depended for their effectiveness on the Lancashire setting (and accents) at the turn of the (previous) century. How it fares as a three-act ballet will be interesting to see. How many times have you heard people say to you, "I had the worst case of flu I ever had after getting a flu shot"? The fact that it's a killed vaccine and can't give you anything, least of all influenza, never seems to dampen their certainty. Something similar is happening with mass inoculation campaigns for measles, mumps and rubella (German measles). Followers of various medical quacks claimed excitedly that mass inoculation campaigns were nothing more than a clever ploy by the transnational drug companies to make a lot of money (which of course they do). The fact that every socialist country carries out the same inoculation campaigns, only even more vigorously, despite the fact that no money goes to drug TNCs, makes no dent in their warped logic. For several years, especially in the US, these people campaigned against the inoculation of children, claiming that inoculating children caused autism, hyper-activity (now "there's" a contradiction), asthma and a host of other unrelated conditions. These mischievous claims are backed up with evidence that is spurious at best. The anti-inoculation lobby as a rule holds the mainstream medical profession in contempt, keeping its praise for practitioners of "alternative" medicine. But when a mainstream doctor, for whatever reason, joins their ranks he or she is hailed as an authority. Such a one is English doctor Andrew Wakefield, formerly with the Royal Free Hospital. Although Dr Wakefield has no problem with inoculating children with a single vaccine (against measles, say), he has been taken up by the anti-inoculation lobby illogically as their latest guru. Why? Because he believes that giving children a triple vaccine (against measles, mumps and rubella) may cause autism. He can produce no evidence to support this claim and the weight of medical opinion is rather angrily against him. Scare stories in the media based on his assertions have caused many parents in Britain to shun the inoculation program, despite mounting fears of a measles epidemic. Dr Wakefield's scientific arguments have been roundly dismissed as seriously flawed, certainly falling into the category of bad science. Resigning from the Royal Free Hospital, he has gone to the US and joined "virus hunter" Professor John O'Leary. They have attempted to put the onus of proof on the rest of the medical profession, claiming that the triple jab vaccine should not be used until "further research" rules out the possibility that it could cause autism and bowel disease. Most of their research seems to be anecdotal evidence, from parents of autistic children who were inoculated before they showed signs of autism, then later developed autism: "ergo", the inoculation must have caused it. Since most children are inoculated before the age at which autism commonly becomes evident, it seems logical that autism will appear to follow inoculation rather than precede it. Despite the lack of evidence establishing any sort of causal relationship, The MMR Vaccine: Every Parent's Choice, screening on The Cutting Edge (SBS 8.30pm Tuesday) takes a very supportive line towards Dr Wakefield (the maverick up against the system). The program also shows three very emotive case histories of autistic children whose parents believe (without benefit of any actual evidence) that inoculation caused their condition. The number of children getting inoculated is already dangerously low. Watch it go lower.