TV programs worth watching
Sun August 17 — Sat August 23
There are a lot of music or dance programs this week, beginning with the West Australian Ballet's award winning contemporary take on Bizet's Carmen (ABC 2.05pm Sunday). Later, Duke Ellington, Paul Whiteman and Louis Armstrong popularise their medium in this week's episode of Jazz (ABC 5.00pm Sundays). This week's episode of The Voice (ABC 7.30 pm Sundays) is Getting Intimate: The Male Voice, which attempts the near impossible task of tracing a continuum between Enrico Caruso and Elvis Presley ("why?" is the question that springs to mind). Born To Be Wild: The Leading Men of the American Ballet Theatre (ABC 9.25pm Sunday) appears to feel that male ballet dancers have a sissy image that must be corrected, hence the program's daft title. Interestingly, only one of the four dancers profiled is actually from the US (the others are Cuban, Russian and Spanish). The Car Man (ABC 11.25pm Sunday) is the second "contemporary take" on Bizet's Carmen to be screened that day. This one turns it into an "auto-erotic dance spectacle" that even the ABC admits "barely resembles the classic original". With fame and fortune for the individual athletes and prestige for their countries at stake, it is small wonder that athletes and officials resort to performance enhancing drugs to try to ensure that all-important victory. But, as the Cutting Edge documentary GMA: Genetically Modified Athletes (SBS 8.30pm Tuesday) shows, soon we will have cell replacement and gene therapy developed to a point where we can create hyper- strengthened tendons and muscles. It will be possible to construct athletes with bodies specifically strengthened and modified for their specific sports. This nightmarish situation is already on our doorstep. Such use — or misuse — of the various emerging bio-technologies, including gene transfer techniques, actually undermines the very concept of sport as a means to develop a healthy, fit population. Episode two of The Big Picture: The Age Of Terror, entitled In The Name Of Revolution (ABC 8.30pm Wednesday), purports to trace "the evolution of 'red' terror groups from their emergence in Cuba in the 1950s through to their European incarnations (the Red Brigades in Italy and the Red Army Faction in Germany)". Apart from equating armed struggle with terrorism, the program also ignores the well-known fact that US and other imperialist intelligence agencies fostered these Italian and German middle class "revolutionaries", using them for provocations to discredit the left (the way the FBI fostered the similar Wethermen in the US). The program's pro-US line is clearly shown by its coverage of FARC in Colombia: "this ideological revolutionary group has become little more than a band of organised criminals". True to form, the ABC insists on hiding the repeats of Daria (ABC 5.30pm Thursdays) away in a timeslot when most adults can't watch. This clever, observant and often scathing feminist animated series attacks commercialism in education, the fostering of empty-headedness among teenagers and the cult of conformity. When Murdoch's then newly launched "serious" broadsheet The Australian was not doing very well, Rupert sacked the English editor he'd imported and informed a meeting of journalists and editorial staff that they weren't in the news business, they were in the entertainment business. That approach is nowhere more evident than in television news, especially cable channels like CNN or Murdoch's own rabid right-wing FoxNews. The new series of the satirical comedy CNNNN — The Chaser NoNstop News Network (ABC 8.30 pm Thursdays) takes "newstainment" to new heights (or lows), with live bands beefing up the newscasts, and a live studio audience. The audience even gets to vote on what news items it wants to hear. The worry about this clever and often spot-on show is that it could give Murdoch ideas for further improving the news! If any state deserves to be called "rogue", it has to be Israel. Armed with a sizeable stockpile of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems, Israel also has a record of frequent aggression against its neighbours (and of course on-going aggression against the Palestinians). Israel secretly developed its nuclear weapons in conjunction the apartheid regime in South Africa (another rogue state if ever there was one). The story of courageous Israeli Mordechai Vanunu, the man who blew the whistle on Israel's secret nuclear weapons, is told in True Stories: Israel's Secret Weapon [(ABC 10.00pm Thursday). In 1986, Vanunu spilled the beans in The Sunday Times. Following his revelations, he was kidnapped, drugged, chained and taken back to Israel, then subjected to a secret trial. Condemned as a traitor, he has spent 17 years in prison, 11 of them in solitary confinement. The US has been as silent on his treatment as it has on Israel's nuclear weapons. Was the 1967 torpedoing of the US spy ship the USS Liberty during the Six Day War an attempt by Israel to provoke the US into a nuclear attack on Egypt? Or was it an even more sinister conspiracy by Israeli and US intelligence agencies to provoke nuclear conflict with the USSR? These questions are asked by the As It Happened documentary Dead In The Water (SBS 8.30pm Saturday) in which survivors from the Liberty reveal that they were told in the past to keep quiet or face being court-martialled. The US was, after all, not taking part in the Six Day War, was it? The independent British film studio Ealing operated from 1931-1955. Beginning with films built around music hall stars such as Gracie Fields and George Formby, Ealing came to maintain a regular production team and drew its future directors from their ranks. In the post-war years, Ealing became famous for its comedies. Ealing's films enjoyed great popularity and affection among ordinary people (here in Australia, too) because of the way its films were set in closely-observed working class or lower-middle class surroundings, and often based on real events. Famous Faces: Forever Ealing (ABC 9.30 pm Saturday) traces the history of Ealing and shows clips of many of the now-classic films produced there. It is narrated by actor Daniel Day-Lewis, grandson of studio production chief Michael Balcon.