Drawn from life as politics gets personal
The Prime Ministers’ National Treasures 6.50pm, ABC
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