Four Cor­ners: Amer­ica’s Bro­ken Dreams

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

Mon­day, 8.30pm, ABC1 This is the kind of doc­u­men­tary that opens your eyes and breaks your heart at the same time. While Amer­ica’s poor bore the brunt of the sub­prime and credit cri­sis of 2008, it now seems to be the turn of the mid­dle class to cop it sweet. This is what life looks like in an eco­nomic down­turn in a coun­try with no safety net. If you lose your job in Amer­ica, you gen­er­ally lose your house. The pro­gram fol­lows peo­ple known as the half-home­less, those forced to sleep in their cars and in cheap mo­tels af­ter be­ing thrown out of their homes. Meet Larry Dod­son. He used to man­age a huge cus­tomer ser­vice de­part­ment but lost his job and house 21/ years ago. He has five chil­dren and now, like hun­dreds of oth­ers, he lives in a sin­gle mo­tel room with his wife and two of his chil­dren. The three old­est chil­dren were placed in fos­ter care af­ter Larry was de­clared eco­nom­i­cally in­ca­pable of rais­ing them. The mo­tel room costs $US149 ($144) a week and Larry clears $US228 a week as a kind of door­man at nearby Dis­ney World, where he stands on his feet all day, ev­ery day. This leaves $70 to buy food, cloth­ing, medicine and any­thing else the fam­ily needs. In 21/ years Larry’s pay at Dis­ney World has gone up from $7.40 an hour to $8.20. Ap­par­ently, 900 fam­i­lies now live in the cheap mo­tels that sur­round the Florida theme park. Evic­tions from the mo­tels are rou­tine for non-pay­ment of rent. The next stop is the street. Sum­mers, Christo­pher Pyne, David Brad­bury and Amanda Vanstone. Frankly it wasn’t the pro­gram’s best hour, though Tim Levin­son (who per­forms as rap­per Urth­boy) and the bril­liant Sum­mers did their best. Too of­ten the pro­gram be­came mired in pre­dictable pol­i­tics as MPs Pyne and Brad­bury bashed away at their party’s re­spec­tive lines. In an omi­nous sign, host Tony Jones of­fered no names for tonight’s pro­gram, though op­po­si­tion le­gal af­fairs spokesman Ge­orge Bran­dis and re­cently re­tired La­bor Se­nate leader Chris Evans have since been con­firmed. Jones says in coming weeks there will be a spe­cial se­ries of po­lit­i­cal de­bates in light of the elec­tion be­ing called so early, fea­tur­ing cab­i­net min­is­ters and other rel­e­vant op­po­si­tion spokes­men and women. In other words, it will be par­lia­men­tary ques­tion time all over again, with Jones as the speaker. Great. Just what ev­ery­one needs right now — more com­bat­ive po­lit­i­cal dis­course. good friends’’ Ali and Sa­muel as they pre­pare, shop, cook and serve a three-course meal for their fel­low con­tes­tants and the judges. Cu­ri­ously, they don’t get to eat. In­stead they must stand watch­ing, like the down­stairs crew of Downton Abbey, as their ri­vals pop food the cou­ple has slaved over into their mouths. Cu­ri­ous ex­pres­sions as ri­vals mas­ti­cate must be in­ter­preted. Of course th­ese might be signs of food pass­ing over a wob­bly tooth, or the vac­u­ous­ness of peo­ple not ca­pa­ble of any sort of ex­pres­sion other than a kind of in­ner reverie. Or per­haps they are the masks of ri­vals un­will­ing to ad­mit to plea­sure. For all its pre­dictabil­ity and a near to­tal lack of orig­i­nal­ity, My Kitchen Rules is mys­te­ri­ously com­pelling. Tune in for a few min­utes if only to see how dif­fi­cult it is to turn off.

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