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A generation lost in space

The mobile phone has given us, as if we weren’t bulging with them already, a new kind of cheat: the phone-weasels who infest trivia nights. I was at one recently and the table who won made my gang very suspicious. We suspected that it was furtive texting that was giving such unfeasibly correct answers on Melbourne Cup history to a table of respectable-looking women and their teenagers. My table of eagle-eyed specialists came robbed-second. We were good: Rick the Renaissance man, Tom the sports fan, Terry the scientist, my sister the lit and music bible, and me the useless-info meistress and winner of the bubble-gum-blowing contest. Hah, those bimbos were left picking goo out of their bridgework—they couldn’t text their way out of that one.

Some of us use our TV-watching time profitably. There are those who knit in front of the telly, others who crochet or embroider, and yet others who construct Victorian paper-tassel-work mermaids in tasteful colours to go with that tole picture of the white geese on a blue background that they got from Family Circle. And some of us chew gum, never knowing when it might come in handy. I mean, you have to do something. The telly isn’t the same any more since the end of Buffy.The new stuff doesn’t grab me.

The post-Buffy vacuum has left me grumpy. I discovered this best and fairest emanation of America last year, in its sixth series, the one that purists deplore. Hooked, lined and sinkered on the least Buffy had to offer, I hired out the rest, the sheer gold, and watched them with all the fervour of the middle-aged who’ve discovered something new to think about. The nephew who’d goaded me into watching threw up his hands and rolled his eyes at his Aunt Frankenstein. ‘Never try to get her interested in something because you just might succeed,’ said my son. I think I’ve spoilt Buffy for him. He, being young and male, prefers the more Y-chromosomed approach of Angel, which to me is nice but mere Cadbury’s compared to the pure Valrhona of the Buff.

He occasionally finds he likes something out of the usual 21-year-old male ken, like the reruns of Keeping Up Appearances on cable, though he would die rather than admit it. (He has developed the annoying habit of calling me ‘Hyacinth’ when particularly narked, but that puts me in quite exalted company: readers of crikey.com well know that our beloved first lady is sometimes referred to by that name. It seems we’re not alone when we imagine her answering the phone with ‘The Howard residence, the lady of the land speaking!’)

The trouble with new telly is that it is so predictable most of the time. The Shield looked quite interesting for a time, but The Sopranos it ain’t. Six Feet Under can still make you watch if you’re up at the midnight hour, but it is turning into an excellent soap opera, which is no shame, but, but, but … Perhaps it’s to do with being a decadent 21st-century person constantly looking for the shock of the new. And strangely, finding it in classic reruns.

The ABC has realised this and has acquired the original Dr Who series. It screens at 6pm from Monday to Thursday. You can get dinner ready (or chew gum) while listening to that fantastic WOOEEEYOOO music that was made at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop long before Fairlights or even Moogs. And wonder of wonders, Auntie has started at the first one, the one with the irascible and witty William Hartnell. (I have an affection for Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, because that’s where I began to take notice of the series. But Hartnell made Dr Who what it is.) Until this rerun, you could reliably tell a person’s age by whatever Gallifreyan avatar they attached to: the layers of Whos are like the rings on a tree trunk. It would make a good, though knotty, question for trivia, too: how many Whos? (Do you count the movie one? Who Wants To Be A Millionaire recently had a clever Kiwi chap who wisely took the half-mill because he couldn’t decide how many Dalai Lamas there had been.) The ABC have also bought a revival of Basil Brush, though unlike the Dr Who series, not the original boom-boom. The new one is cute, though, and if it misses some of the élan of the old series, it’s still miles better than the usual stuff aimed at young kids so you’ll enjoy it too. This is presuming that you’re still sensible enough to have only one TV so that you can have family conversation even if it’s mainly comprised of mithering at the choices of whoever has the remote. Though there won’t be any argument when you’re watching Iron Chef, SBS’ wild Japanese cook-off that is like nothing on earth except Japanese TV. It begins 11 October on Saturdays at 7.30pm. Do watch it: it’s like a cross between Takeshi’s Castle and Jamie’s Kitchen. And the food is like, WOOEEEYOOO.       

Juliette Hughes is a freelance writer.



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