Green Guide 1 Jan 2009

I filled in for Marieke Hardy on the Green Guide column 'Backchat' for a couple of weeks, which was ace fun! She has the best job in the world (and she's a damn fine writer to boot).

Move over gloomy, hello bad-boy broody

Adam Richard
January 1, 2009

IN BRITAIN they have a Christmas Day tradition of watching The Wizard of Oz. Someone at the Seven Network has decided this is just what we need here in Australia, too, but rather than give us Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, they've got Zooey Deschanel as DG, and rather than a sweet, 90-minute musical, we get the dark and bewildering six-hour miniseries Tin Man.

The magical land of Oz is now 'The O. Z." short, it seems, for the Outer Zone, but it could be an acronym for Optimism Zero. This is a bleak and somewhat depressing telling of the Wizard of Oz story, a cross between Blade Runner and The Matrix, with pretensions to Lord of the Rings, but without the budget. The cast is exemplary, but wasted; alongside the delightful Deschanel are Alan Cumming as Glitch, the scarecrow character with a zip in his head (so he can pop the missing half of his brain back in), and Richard Dreyfuss as the drug-addled Mystic Man who is a rather miserable riff on Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.

Having been enchanted by Gregory Maguire's book Wicked, and the stage musical based on it, I was expecting Tin Man to be a delightful, whimsical reinterpretation loaded with special effects. Instead, Tin Man is gloomy and self-important, and it made me wonder if it had been made by misanthropes who only enjoyed the black-and-white parts of the original film.

The Wicked Witch of the West is called Azkadellia here, and is played by 90210 star Kathleen Robertson, who has the excessively pointy face required of witches. Azkadellia, it turns out, is DG's sister, and can make evil monkey-bat creatures fly out of her exposed bosom. Toto is a shape-changer who can be either a fat black man or an annoying terrier, and apparently used to be DG's teacher. (I once had a maths teacher who could have been a Pomeranian.) The Tin Man of the title is a disgruntled former law enforcer who has more in common with Clint Eastwood's character in Unforgiven than the camp tap-dancing fellow we all grew up with. Thankfully, they have retained the blue gingham dress, albeit only in dream-sequences and a bizarre encounter between DG in colour and Dorothy in black and white.

Needless to say, after six hours of unrelentingly miserable Oz, I needed something naughty. Gossip Girl is being touted on Foxtel's giant billboards as "Mind-blowingly inappropriate", a quote from the puritanical American Parents Television Council, and anything that upsets puritans is my cup of tea. Fox 8 is screening series two (Tuesdays, 8:30pm), the Nine Network letting us catch up with series one (Wednesdays, 10:30pm) and I have found it a delightful distraction while deciding which of the Christmas gifts I received are going to find their way into the Salvos bin.

Gossip Girl is as inappropriate as advertised, and delightfully so. It concerns the lives of wealthy children on New York City's Upper East Side (and one poor family) and the high-class lowbrow shenanigans they get up to. Kevin Rudd would have an anti-binge-drinking fit if he saw the show's protagonist, Serena (Blake Lively), necking a bottle of French champagne before relieving her best friend's boyfriend of his virginity. The Parents Television Council must have been apoplectic watching bad-boy Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) taking drugs openly in Central Park. I am personally affronted by Serena's mother, Lily (Kelly Rutherford of Melrose Place, The O. C.) who appears to be younger than her own child.

The most horrifying thing about Gossip Girl is the storyline about the poor family (they're not actually poor, they're just not as decadently affluent as the rest of the characters). Rufus (Matthew Settle), the father of the economically disadvantaged kids, and his past dalliance with the aforementioned Lily is my main cause for concern. They often talk about their wild days hanging out with rock bands "back in the '90s". Yeah, that's right. The '90s. Like that was so long ago. Long enough ago, it seems, that the main characters would have been born then. I think the Parents Television Council find the show "mind-blowingly inappropriate" not because of the under-age drinking, drug abuse and casual sex; rather, it is reminding them of how damned old they are.

Marieke Hardy is on leave.


Originally published in The Age