Tele­vi­sion Graeme Blun­dell and the tale of two Ju­lias: Gil­lard and Zemiro

A doc­u­men­tary of the Rudd-Gil­lard years con­jurs all the mys­tery and drama of the best po­lit­i­cal thrillers

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Graeme Blun­dell RocKwiz, Satur­day, 8.30pm, SBS One. The Killing Sea­son, Tues­day, 8.30pm, ABC. Ju­lia Zemiro’s Home De­liv­ery, Wed­nes­day, 9pm, ABC.

‘T he last week of par­lia­ment,” a woman’s voice says dryly above a bab­ble of com­pet­ing news re­ports. “In pol­i­tics, they call it the killing sea­son.” This is how Sarah Fer­gu­son’s much pro­moted new ABC po­lit­i­cal se­ries, The Killing Sea­son, be­gins. It’s a foren­sic de­con­struc­tion of the forces that shaped the fed­eral La­bor Party dur­ing the lead­er­ship years of Kevin Rudd and Ju­lia Gil­lard. With a tone of fa­tal­ism set at the start, this drama un­folds its nar­ra­tive of spec­tac­u­lar and sin­is­ter machi­na­tions with all the propul­sive­ness of a fine po­lit­i­cal thriller.

It’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary drama: a dis­tress­ing, com­plex, in­ter­twined set of po­lit­i­cal nar­ra­tives about am­bi­tion and ruth­lessly ex­e­cuted power. Fer­gu­son acer­bically, but ob­jec­tively, presents us with a po­lit­i­cal uni­verse rid­dled with weak­ness, im­pa­tience, iras­ci­bil­ity, gulli­bil­ity and mis­guided al­tru­ism and, in some cases, a cer­tain shrewd­ness verg­ing on sheer com­mon sense.

There are many in­ter­views with the large cast of char­ac­ters, many still in par­lia­ment, filmed with just the right de­gree of styli­sa­tion to main­tain our in­ter­est, and they con­stantly sur­prise with their jux­ta­po­si­tion and the way they are in­ter­wo­ven with archival vignettes.

It’s easy to be re­minded of SBS’s im­por­tant doc­u­men­tary se­ries Lib­eral Rule, which was like a big Jef­frey Archer novel, chron­i­cling the march of po­lit­i­cal events and the shift­ing char­ac­ter of the na­tion’s po­lit­i­cal imag­i­na­tion.

Again, here in Fer­gu­son’s ac­count, there’s all the mys­tery and drama you would ex­pect in a block­buster and, oc­ca­sion­ally, a lit­tle un­con­scious com­edy, which it cer­tainly needs given the straight-faced moral fas­tid­i­ous­ness of the pro­tag­o­nists as they look back so de­ter­minably on their place in his­tory.

The crow or raven is used as a kind of Shake­spearean con­ceit through The Killing Sea­son, con­jur­ing just the right sense of fore­bod­ing. The drama in fact be­gins in designer Deb McNa­mara’s evoca­tive ti­tle se­quence, with the evil-look­ing bird, head cocked against swirling dark clouds and a night sky seen through flail­ing tree branches, a por­ten­tous pi­ano track play­ing be­hind the noirish im­agery. You can al­most hear Lady Mac­beth pre­dict­ing the king’s mur­der.

The first episode be­gins in 2006 when af­ter months of lead­er­ship spec­u­la­tion Rudd and Gil­lard, the two most am­bi­tious politi­cians of their gen­er­a­tion, chal­lenge Kim Beasley and Jenny Mack­lin for lead­er­ship. De­spite its Archeresque sto­ry­line, The Killing Sea­son most closely re- sem­bles David Fincher’s cin­e­mat­i­cally lav­ish Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion drama House of Cards, his re­work­ing of the 1990 Bri­tish minis­eries of the same name, about power plays and das­tardly, some­times mur­der­ous, po­lit­i­cal shenani­gans. It stars Kevin Spacey as Fran­cis Un­der­wood, a de­vi­ously bright US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives ma­jor­ity whip, a sweet-talk­ing wheeler-dealer de­nied the job of sec­re­tary of state, ob­sessed by the dy­nam­ics of power.

Like Spacey’s Un­der­wood, Rudd is pre­sented through the tightly writ­ten script as a scar­ilily cere­bral but cu­ri­ously un­em­pa­thetic op­er­a­tor ob­sessed by the Machi­avel­lian dy­nam­ics of power. You al­most ex­pect him to turn to us with Un­der­wood’s form of di­rect Shake­spearean ad­dress — as he presents his false fronts to all those with whom he deals — and bring us into in­ti­mate con­tact with his true self.

His “loyal deputy” takes longer to find def­i­ni­tion in this tale. There’s some­thing al­most Chap­linesque about the younger Gil­lard. She’s com­i­cally awk­ward, tee­ter­ing on high heels in black pan­taloons, her mil­i­tary-style jack­ets worn tight, wob­bling at times as she reaches out to col­leagues for sup­port, off bal­ance as she looks through the me­dia crush.

She ac­cel­er­ates through hair­dos, too, still wait­ing for hair­dresser Tim to turn her into the fac­sim­ile of Mar­garet Thatcher, the way she ap­pears in the some­times emo­tional in­ter­views with Fer­gu­son. She pos­sesses great charm and what ap­pears to be gen­uine hu­mil­ity and a kind of lar­rikin raf­f­ish­ness too, that throaty chuckle with the sexy edge. But be­neath it all the over­ween­ing am­bi­tion smoul­ders be­neath the awk­ward girl­ish­ness recog­nised early on by the im­pres­sive Mack­lin. “I knew she would never give up un­til she had won and I didn’t think this was right for the La­bor Party,” Mack­lin says.

Fer­gu­son gets the po­lit­i­cal thriller con­ven­tion just right, fore­short­en­ing in the in­ter­est of nar­ra­tive but never sim­pli­fy­ing. We are con­stantly try­ing to read be­tween the lines, chas­ing sub­text in the vo­cal in­flec­tions and the body lan­guage of each in­ter­view sub­ject.

It splen­didly main­tains the tone of a su­pe­rior TV fic­tional drama, that level of ab­strac­tion, set as much by com­poser Pete Drum­mond’s sound score as by pic­tures. Doc­u­men­tar­ian Paul Clarke, who gave us Whit­lam: The Power and the

Pas­sion, calls this kind of ap­proach “play­ing mu­sic upon the col­lec­tive mem­ory”, but the sound here is hardly sweet or even nos­tal­gic. It’s dis­cor­dant and some­times chill­ing as we look closely at the dis­sem­bling faces of for­mer lead­ers. We’re still un­cer­tain if they speak the truth or if they be­lieve the words that tum­ble so ef­fort­lessly from their lips. The other Ju­lia — Zemiro, that is — also is back, star­ring in the 13th sea­son of SBS’s RocKwiz, that glo­ri­ously knock­about dis­play of rock nerdery, com­edy, mu­si­cal trivia and per­for­mances by some of the big­gest names in mu­sic.

It’s still recorded live be­fore a pub au­di­ence at the Gersh­win Room at the Es­planade Ho­tel, aka the Espy, in Mel­bourne’s St Kilda, bathed in blue, yel­low and red light. Co-hosted by Zemiro and the com­i­cally lugubri­ous Brian Nankervis, it’s one of the few se­ries that re­calls TV’s old days when live shows were makeshift and spon­ta­neous, built on the re­as­sur­ing re­it­er­a­tion of stock phrases and comic busi­ness, the au­di­ence eternally in on the joke.

Zemiro com­peres while Nankervis stage­m­an­ages from be­hind her on the small stage, wickedly drawing fo­cus now and again, a jazz clown with that show­ground spruiker’s voice.

There’s some­thing of the court jester about her too in this role, dis­or­derly and zany and rather ex­trav­a­gantly sex­ual, flirt­ing with men and women, unashamedly li­cen­tious, im­mod­est and lust­ful. There’s no one like her on lo­cal TV; by some magic of in­nate show­man­ship she man­ages to make au­di­ences feel they are all part of the tele­vi­sion game, spokesper­son and friend, never afraid to snap her fin­gers in the face of the elec­tronic mon­ster.

This sea­son the show salutes the decades and this week it’s the 1960s and Zemiro is the It Girl, chan­nelling Twiggy, Anita Pal­len­berg, Jane Birkin and Mar­i­anne Faith­full in a black sheath cock­tail dress, the high­est of heels and a fleck gold evening jacket. The mu­sic is just as cool, tight and con­cen­trated, though the house mu­sos, Peter Lus­combe, Ash­ley Nay­lor, Clio Ren­ner and Mark Ferrie, and back-up chicks Vika and Linda Bull, tough, hard­ened pros, also love a gag and a bit of lairis­ing.

The celebrity guests are Bri­tish In­dia’s front­man De­clan Melia, icon of an­tipodean pop Di­nah Lee and Australia’s top teen idol of the late 60s Normie Rowe who, while he’s look­ing a bit like Harry Dean Stan­ton, is still in mirac­u­lous voice. Zemiro is in fine form, om­nipresent, lend­ing grace, suavity, and a jo­cund tooth­some­ness to the low­brow show busi­ness, the saw­dust-on-the-floor pub rock ’n’ roll. Zemiro is also back on the ABC with the 11-part third sea­son of Ju­lia Zemiro’s Home De­liv­ery. Again we travel with the ir­re­press­ible Ju­lia around Australia and to Bri­tain to ex­pe­ri­ence en­ter­tain­ing and can­did in­ter­views with celebrity guests, an­other for­mat rarely seen th­ese days. She has proved a charm­ing and adept nat­u­ral­is­tic pre­sen­ter, her broader in­stincts usu­ally un­der con­trol — though hap­pily not al­ways.

This week it’s the very pri­vate Matt Lu­cas from Lit­tle Bri­tain, a comic of dis­dain­ful de­fi­ance with that so­phis­ti­cated ve­neer of high camp who, dressed in three-piece grey suit, pink tie and fe­dora, proves to be charm in­car­nate.

“I was al­ways a bit of a joker,” he tells her as they wan­der around the Lon­don in­ner sub­urbs where he grew up. “I had very bad health, bad eczema, lost my hair when I was six years old so I didn’t want to de­fine my­self by be­ing ill but by be­ing funny.”

He re­flects on how he learned to cope with play­ground taunts and how an in­ner re­silience, es­sen­tial for a life in com­edy, was born. At his old pri­mary school he comes across a song­book from his ju­nior years and plays Ju­lia one of his favourites on the pi­ano, his voice a dead ringer for El­ton John’s. It’s a lovely episode and cel­e­brates a bearer of hap­pi­ness in the very funny Lu­cas, an artist of supreme con­fi­dence who can be iden­ti­fied si­mul­ta­ne­ously as an or­di­nary per­son and a star de­spite him­self.

Ju­lia Gil­lard faces the

TV cam­eras in the three-part ABC se­ries

The Killing Sea­son

Ju­lia Zemiro with Matt Lu­cas

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.