Drawn from life as pol­i­tics gets per­sonal

The Prime Min­is­ters’ Na­tional Trea­sures 6.50pm, ABC

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

THE trou­ble with pol­i­tics is that politi­cians are in­volved. How­ever, once they are out of pol­i­tics, it be­comes pos­si­ble to see politi­cians as hu­man be­ings and, pos­si­bly, as in­ter­est­ing peo­ple. In some coun­tries, politi­cians’ per­sonal lives are turned into 90- minute films or television se­ries. Here we’ve ended up with 10 light- hearted five- minute shows that screen on ABC television 10 min­utes be­fore the 7pm news.

The same team ( Paul Rudd, Perry Sta­ple­ton and Matthew Thoma­son) that worked on the sports- based Na­tional Trea­sures , screened by the ABC last year, has pro­duced this se­ries. The Prime Min­is­ters’ Na­tional Trea­sures is a well- re­searched se­ries with each episode con­tain­ing in­ter­est­ing snip­pets about the per­sonal lives of some of our de­parted lead­ers and the ob­jects they owned.

It’s cer­tainly not an aca­demic his­tory. ‘‘ It’s per­sonal,’’ says se­ries writer and di­rec­tor Thoma­son. ‘‘ It goes straight to the heart. It’s about love let­ters and home movies and a gold cig­a­rette case, and each ob­ject has a bloody good story to tell.’’

That is true, but there is enough po­lit­i­cal his­tory in each show to ex­plain who each prime min­is­ter was, and what he did to make him the in­ter­est­ing piece of his­tory he now is.

Pre­sen­ter War­ren Brown has spent decades study­ing politi­cians and their ac­tiv­i­ties for his job as po­lit­i­cal car­toon­ist at Syd­ney’s The Daily Tele­graph .

‘‘ This se­ries has to­tally changed the way I think about Aus­tralia’s prime min­is­ters,’’ Brown says.

Brown’s ca­sual chatty style is well suited to the fast- mov­ing for­mat and he clev­erly gives the im­pres­sion he’s mak­ing it up on the trot. His car­toon­ing skills are put to good use as he pro­duces some nice car­i­ca­tures and draw­ings dur­ing the show.

Each episode in­cludes an in­ter­view with an ex­pert on each prime min­is­ter, but it never gets po­lit­i­cal. It’s all about the peo­ple and their per­sonal lives, with just a hint of An­tiques Road­show about it.

‘‘ That you could have th­ese home­spun char­ac­ters be­come prime minis- ters says it all.’’ says Brown. ‘‘ Chi­fley was a train driver. Curtin was a copy boy. Fisher left school at the age of 10 to work in the mines. They started from scratch. I’m amazed by how pro­gres­sive they were.’’

If you’re in­ter­ested in Aus­tralian his­tory, pol­i­tics, or ob­jets d’art, and if you are even semi- in­ter­ested in trivia or mem­o­ra­bilia, you’ll find The Prime Min­is­ters’ Na­tional Trea­sures rea­son­ably re­ward­ing.

Ca­sual style: War­ren Brown’s im­pres­sion of prime min­is­ters has changed

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