Tis a spa bet­ter thing to skip the first show

The Dame Edna Treat­ment 7.30pm, Nine

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

LET me de­clare from the out­set that I am an un­abashed, un­afraid, out and proud Edna- bop­per. I have howled my way through live per­for­mances, I’ve caught gla­di­oli and waved them in the re­quired flo­ral semaphore ( though, to this day, I have not been vic­timised on her stage), and I’ve cacked my way through television shows such as An Au­di­ence With . . . ( Dame Edna Ever­age) ( 1980) and The Dame Edna Ex­pe­ri­ence ( 1987).

I mar­velled from afar when in 2000, and more tri­umphantly in 2004, Edna ap­peared on Broad­way, and I cheered when she ap­peared in the fifth sea­son of Ally McBeal play­ing Claire Otoms ( an ana­gram of ‘‘ a sit­com role’’), first as a client, then as a sec­re­tary at Cage, Fish & As­so­ciates. And let’s not leave out the in­nu­mer­able ap­pear­ances on Parkin­son , The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and even the ABC’s Spicks and Specks, where last year she sang with the gen­er­ally un­sung Adam Hills.

And now the dear old dame has her own health spa in The Dame Edna Treat­ment. So how is it? Well, fel­low Edna- bop­pers, I’m sorry to be the bearer of sad news, but this is not the Dame’s fun­ni­est or finest hour.

Sens­ing per­haps that the orig­i­nal first episode is prac­ti­cally a dis­as­ter that could sink the se­ries, Nine has dumped us right into the mid­dle of things, show­ing episode six first, never a ter­rific omen. But when com­pared with the tragic orig­i­nal first episode, tonight, pos­sums, Edna is on fire. Where the orig­i­nal pilot’s de­but guest Sigour­ney Weaver got swamped in Edna’s first- night nerves ( un­think­able!), tonight Alan Alda is al­lowed to speak and says enough to en­gage the comic im­pro­vi­sa­tional ge­nius of Edna’s al­ter ego Barry Humphries.

When Alda tells a rel­a­tively long anec­dote about de­vel­op­ing a bowel ob­struc­tion while on top of a moun­tain, Edna leaps in to talk about her sup­port for hus­band Norm’s prostate prob­lem, which led to her in­volve­ment in prostate char­i­ties.

‘‘ I started a prostate move­ment,’’ she dead­pans. ‘‘ Did you ever think of start­ing a bowel move­ment, Alan?’’

This vis­ceral talk is fu­elled by the fact that we are in a treat­ment fa­cil­ity, Spa Edna. Thank­fully, the te­dious cross­ing back and forth to the likes of Pa­trick Ste­wart in a flota­tion tank in the orig­i­nal first episode seems to have been all but ex­cised.

And War­ney? ‘‘ Lots of sports stars do let them­selves go when they re­tire, but not you, Shane.’’ Beat. ‘‘ Be­cause you were never in great shape to be­gin with.’’ Ah, Edna. You’ve got it still.

Ian Cuth­bert­son

Gla­di­oli all over: Barry Humphries in form as Dame Edna Ever­age

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