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An archive of blog entries about international TV programmes and production.


April 25, 2015

Review: Deadline Gallipoli (Australia: Foxtel Showcase)

Posted on April 25, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Deadline Gallipoli

In Australia: April 19-20, 8:30pm AEST, Foxtel Showcase

It’s instructive to look around the world and see the emphases placed by different countries on events, even global events. Take the Gallipoli campaign of the First World War, which began exactly 100 years ago this day. The US wasn’t involved with the campaign – or indeed the entire War at that point – so if you look through the US TV schedules, you’ll find that the Smithsonian Channel is the only one airing anything, and that’s a six year old documentary.

Here in the UK, where the Gallipoli campaign is more a “Ooh, I’ve heard of that. Remind me what happened?” event, we have live coverage of the Queen laying a tribute at the Cenotaph memorial this morning; a docu-drama on BBC2 about Keith “Father of Rupert” Murdoch, Gallipoli: When Murdoch Went to War, and his letter to the leaders of Great Britain and Australia that ended up swaying them into abandoning the campaign; and a repeat on More 4 of an archaeology documentary, Gallipoli’s Lost Shipwrecks.

In New Zealand and Australia, where the Gallipoli campaign essentially sparked the dreams of nationhood and is regarded as one of the most important moments in both countries’ histories, it’s slightly different. Indeed, it’s ANZAC Day today, and both countries are predicting it’ll be the largest one ever and New Zealand’s TV One is dedicating pretty much the entire day to Gallipoli programming and is launching big new drama When We Go To War tomorrow.

In Australia, it’s a similar story, particularly on ABC, which again has dedicated the entire day to ANZAC Day coverage. But this is the culmination of existing programming, not the only programming, as the channels have already been doing their best to commemorate the war. The Nine Channel has already aired a multi-part dramatisation of the campaign called Gallipoli and this week, pay TV channel Fox showcase aired a two-part, star-studded TV series called Deadline Gallipoli.

As the title suggests, Deadline Gallipoli eschewed the blow-by-blow recreation of the war in favour of a slightly different angle: the contributions by three journalists to ending the campaign and how they helped to place it so strongly at the forefront of the Australian psyche. Starring Hugh Dancy (Hannibal) as Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, Ewen Leslie as Harry Murdoch, Joel Jackson as Charles Bean, Charles Dance as General Hamilton, it also features Sam Worthington (Clash of the Titans, Terminator: Salvation) as photographer Phillip Schuler, as well as the likes of Bryan Brown (Old School, FX: Murder By Illusion, The Wanderer), Anna Torv (Fringe), Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under, Brothers & Sisters, Very Annie Mary, Muriel’s Wedding), Jessica De Gouw (Arrow) and other luminaries of the Australian acting profession in surprisingly minor roles.

Basically, everyone wanted to be in this one.

However, such is most Australians’ well established understanding of the Gallipoli campaign, you’d actually need to watch both Deadline Gallipoli and Gallipoli in order to really get to know events well, since they all leave out important details in order to get a new angle on the story.

Gallipoli was a pretty straight, blow-by-blow account of the campaign from the point of view of the men in the trenches, showing in gut-wrenching detail the futility and horrors of war. It was so even-handed, in fact, there was almost no attempt to attribute blame anywhere, meaning that although you’d know the landscape, the generals and pretty much every detail about the campaign, you could come out of it not really understanding where it had all gone wrong and why things ended. It was also so focused on the fighting itself that it didn’t really make use of the obvious opportunities to have Winston Churchill (the architect of the campaign) show up, for example.

Deadline Gallipoli, by contrast, spends most of its first episode giving a pretty detailed account of the political beginnings of the campaign and how Ashmead-Bartlett, Bean and Schuler ended up covering it. Dancy gives a surprisingly different performance to his Hannibal turn, but also a more caddish interpretation than James Callis gave, something adding by the rampant shagging he gets to do with Torv. He’s also a bit more heroic than Callis’s Ashmead-Bartlett, whom you might never have known had covered plenty of other wars previously from Gallipoli.

The second episode is where the fighting truly begins, with Deadline Gallipoli focusing on the main push that failed, killing so many ANZAC troops, just as Gallipoli did, before then going through similar ropes to show the lengths that Ashmead-Bartlett and the newly arrived Murdoch went to to try to get word to politicians of just how bad conditions on the ground were, something the army censors couldn’t prevent.

Surprisingly, despite Worthington getting an exec producer credit, he doesn’t get to do that much, the lion’s share falling on Dancy and Jackson’s shoulders, appropriately enough. And we get to see how they become more and more convinced that they must do more than simply observe and report, but also end the battle.

However, despite that focus on the journalists, Deadline Gallipoli doesn’t do that much better at giving us well rounded, historically accurate depictions. For example, while both it and Gallipoli show the sinking of the HMS Majestic, which Ashmead-Barlett was aboard at the time, both show this as a big surprise to him and use it to show either the risks of war or how effete he was (in Callis’s case). However, in real life, the HMS Triumph had been sank two days earlier and he’d actually brought his mattress up on deck so that if the Majestic were sunk, he wouldn’t be trapped.

Deadline Gallipoli’s big failing – at least for an international audience – is that it assumes the viewer knows everything already. Coupled with the shorter running time, that means you will get a better idea of the politics surrounding the war, but surprisingly, despite the big name cast, you’d have been better off watching Gallipoli to get a good understanding of the campaign itself.

On the flipside, Deadline Gallipoli is much better at remembering that there were other nationalities and ethnicities present, with Indians, Sikhs, Maoris, Africans, Australian Aborigines and other members of the British Empire all being represented, some even getting lines. On the other flipside, Gallipoli was a lot more equitable to the Turks, with Deadline Gallipoli only giving us cannon fodder and helpful translators.

So, if you have the time, watch both. Watch the movie as well. None of them are perfect, but together they’ll give you a good understanding and different views of such an important moment in history.

April 14, 2015

News: Michelle MacLaren off Wonder Woman, Veep, Silicon Valley, Good Witch, 19-2 renewed + more

Posted on April 14, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

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April 13, 2015

What TV's hot in Athens right now?

Posted on April 13, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Fresh from my recent Lisbon posting about what’s hot on TV in Portugal, I’ve just spent a few days in Athens. So what’s hot on TV in Greece, judging from the advertising in Athens?

Well, purely from the advertising in the centre of Athens, you’d think nothing at all. There is none. Ewan McGregor, however, is everywhere and it turns out he speaks remarkably good Greek. He’s in the airport.

Ewan McGregor advertising NN in Athens airport

Ewan here is saying: “Our name is changing. The values, however, remain exactly the same.”

He’s also all over bus stops and the Metro.

Ewan in the Metro

Look carefully and you’ll spot two Ewans on the other side of the tracks.

2015-04-12 09.10.52.jpg

Here, Ewan is revealing that insurance group ING is now becoming NN: “New name, same vision,” Ewan there doing a nice bit of wordplay on “όναμα” (‘onama’ or name) and “‘οραμα” (‘orama’ or vision).

But TV? Nothing in the centre of Athens. However, head off towards the port of Piraeus, about 10-15 minutes down the road, and we start to head into more media-friendly territory, albeit radio. Pretty much every bus stop here is dedicated to 90.1FM.

90.1FM

In case you can’t read that: “ΝΕΟ ΠΡΟΓΡΑΜΜΑ, ΝΕΑ ΠΡΟΣΟΠΑ” (‘neo programma, nea prosopa’ aka 'new schedule, new faces'). Basically, the entire station is (re)launching with new programmes and a whole new bunch of hosts, usually of the “schlubby older man, hot younger woman” variety. But sometimes two schlubby older men for a bit of variety.

Still no TV, though. But along said road to Piraeus (the unimaginatively titled “Athens-Piraeus main road”), you’ll find every side lined with adverts for the new channel Epsilon TV, "the new channel for young people".

Epsilon TV

Epsilon TV poster

Epsilon TV

As the logo, the “ΠΕΡΙΟΔΙΚΟ” (‘periodiko’ or ‘magazine’) tag and the fact that EPSILON TV is spelt out in English suggest, Epsilon is somewhat akin to the US/UK E! channel. However, there is some scripted programming, too, including Σουλεϊμαν Ο Μεγαλοπρεπης (Suleiman the Magnificent), which is described as “A series set in the 16th century and depicting the powerful love/erotic story of Alexandra, who is captured by the Turks and ends up in the harem of Suleiman the Magnificent”.

However, this is actually a 2011-2014 Turkish TV show, Muhteşem Yüzyıl (Magnificent Century).

So repeated soap operas and reality TV. Ah, Greek TV - this is why I don’t write about you much

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