The Reality of TV These Days

On the one hand, I can’t believe this is TV season Prime Time in Australia – on the other hand, it’s all too stultifyingly obvious. Reality shows, stretching as far as the schedule can go – weight losers, cooking losers, building losers in hard hats and neon vests – all bursting into tears and having tantrums at the least excuse.

One look at The Biggest Loser (what a perfect name for this show) told it all. The hulking trio of Rambo, Xena and the other guy strode into the fattest town in Australia assuring us that they were going to make it shape up. I thought they were going to do a Jamie – open a gym, drag the population down to the park for push ups and improve eating habits by teaching the denizens how to cook. But no, only the chosen ones would get the opportunity to be snarled at by Rambo, yelled at by Xena, and handed tissues by the other guy.

The usual bunch of self loathing fat people sobbed and self immolated their way through the auditions, while Rambo et al deliberated which ones needed to lose weight most. How’s this for a radical idea? All of them! Get them all out there running in circles in the park!

A first glance at My Kitchen Rules (which I have to admit I have watched before – I did love those two bitchy gays in Season 3) but I’m over lame-assed dishes, sob stories, ‘my dream’ and sniping Disney villains now. Watching someone try to slow boil duck in a baking dish full of oil (I think its called a confit) was utterly disgusting. I think it’s safe to say I have moved on.

But I don’t mind if other viewers love these shows and want to see them return. Fine. I’ll watch something else. Except that there is nothing else. What’s this deal with putting them on every night? What’s wrong with once a week? Maybe twice for recaps? But EVERY night?

Last year I would have chuckled and said ‘SBS to the rescue.’ Not only better cooking shows, but better TV all round. Until I moved into an area that doesn’t get the SBS signal. At. All. Luckily, I have also recently upgraded to a new laptop – one that streams SBS on Demand like a boss, not like my old laptop, which didn’t. So instead of people dropping their ingredients on the floor and sobbing in Manu’s arms (is there nothing these women won’t do to inhale his Frenchness?), I have been watching a couple of shows that have restored my faith in the better nature of TV programers.

In Archeology: A Secret History, Dr Richard Miles traces back to the first archeological explorations – and surprisingly, that’s not that far back. Ancients, after all, made the stuff we dig for and like today, didn’t think it was ever going to be worth that much (Barbie collectables, anyone?) and later societies just saw it there every day and didn’t think about it much. I was tickled to learn that the first true archeologist was the Emperor Constantine’s old mum, Queen Helena, whom he sent off to the Holy Land in search of relics that proved the existence of Christ after he shook the scattered pieces of the new religion into order. Nothing like slamming the stable door shut after you’ve let the horse loose on the populace.

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Dr Richard Miles – I love the way he loves archeology

In her 80s, Helena was a game old girl, toppling a temple in her quest, and bringing back a nail from the cross, a robe (not the Turin Shroud) and bits of wooden crosses. Irrefutable proof, now on display at the Cathedral of Trier, in Germany. They even made a solid gold container encrusted with jewels to  house the nail- imagine that, a rusty nail as long as a man’s hand given a solid gold container.

None of it proves that it had anything to do with Christ (unless there is a good sample of his DNA still to be found) but it is still astonishing to see an actual nail – the sheer heft and size of it – and imagining it being hammered through a man’s hands or feet. Dr Miles was pretty exited to be holding it, and well he might – real relic or not, it is an amazing link with the past. Good on ya, Helena.

HISTORY OF ANCIENT BRITAIN

Neil Oliver, part rock star, part archeologist

In A History of Ancient Britain, another windswept and interesting archeologist takes the viewer back to the dawn of humanity and a Britain that was still part of the frozen tundra of the ice age. Neil Oliver has the rugged persona of a true Celt and looks a bit like Gabriel Byrne. The camera loves him a bit too much, but in between rugged close ups, there is a lot of fascinating information – such as the ancient Paleolithic tribe that made Nutella (by grinding hazelnuts to a paste to take on long journeys) and a huge tsunami that finally freed Britain from the mainland. Riveting stuff, can’t wait to see the rest. Both shows are also availble on BBC4 as well.

This is probably how I will be watching TV until the reality shows end. SBS On Demand has Iron Chef, as well. Bargain!

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I love this man!

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For crying out loud!

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I have to confess I absolutely love Top Gear. I love the TG Triad of Clarkson, May and Hammond, the cars, the jokes and the madcap adventures around the world. How does this sit with my rather Greenish and liberal stance on everything else? Very badly. But I also love being entertained by witty, cheeky – yes, even bombastic – Englishmen(QI is another case in point)and yes, I love Jeremy Clarkson best of all. Even if most of it isn’t irony, sarcasm or just plain self mocking British humour, I love the way he talks, the way he writes and the way he slags off sacred cows.  Knowing this, my eldest daughter bought me a gift pack of three of his books, and I have happily devoured them all. Drat the man, I laughed even when I disagreed with him. But actually, quite often I did. The world, according to Clarkson, is a daft place that has abandoned common sense and is slowing strangling in its own politically correct red tape. Honestly, who can argue with that? Well, the people busy wrapping the tape obviously. The rest of us are too busy choking on it.

Clarkson has no such restraints, he talks right through it, about everything, from Audis to Coke Zero, about cars, phone boxes, binge drinking, droughts…he fills that column of his in the British Sunday Times with whatever is on his mind at the moment – and there’s a lot. He’s not always wrong either. “The sea’s a frothing maelstrom of terror and hopelessness” does sound more exciting that the bland weather forecast of “stormy”. This book is dedicated “with gratitude to the Green movement, the Americans and the Health and Safety Executive for giving me so much to write about.”

But is he betraying green sympathies in How to Blow Up a Dead Seal when he writes of his efforts to dispose of the body of a seal dead from natural causes on a beach. In typical Top Gear style he does try to blow it up, but the body is barely touched, although the rest of the beach looks like Beirut. Finally he tries to dig a hole in the sand with a bulldozer but it keeps filling itself in, so he is forced to leave the seal to decompose aromatically while Clarkson wears a gas mask to write his column.

Lovely, side splitting stuff. He’s a one man Monty Python. OK, so he didn’t actually manage to give the dead seal a decent burial. But at least he tried, and that might just make him green enough to pass muster. I hope so, because I really don’t want to have to stop loving him – and Top Gear.

Get the book at Amazon

Can there be too many mangos?

In short, yes! This is how our mango tree looked a few weeks ago.

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garden laden mango tree

Loads of green mangos, waiting to ripen. It looked like the lushest bounty imaginable.

Do you remember that Whomping Willow in the Harry Potter films? How it suddenly threw off every leaf as if it had become extremely irritated with them? Well, mango trees seemed to do the same thing. The mangos ripened practically over night – might have been something to do with the big heatwaves we have been experiencing – and next thing you know…

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As if the groaning weight of all that fruit just proves too much for the tree to bear, down it all comes. We have been picking as as much as we can, peeling, cutting and freezing (mangos are good for the skin, by the way, my hands have never been so soft) but there’s just so much! The birds love it, we have had some delightful parrots in the garden lately, but even they have struggled to cope with the glut and there are half eaten fruit everywhere.

The rainbow lorikeets are so gorgeous, I have been trying to capture them on camera, through the back porch window.

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Not as close as I was hoping to get, they spotted me hanging over the windowsill with my camera very quickly.

Between us we are clearing up the mango glut – but there is still some way to go…