In Australia: Thursdays, Seven
In the UK: Not yet acquired, but’ll probably end up on Alibi, Netflix or both
Susan Faludi’s Backlash postulated a ‘sort of two steps forward, one step back’ feminist advancement in society. Feminists would achieve successes and push the envelope of what was acceptable in society – and society would then push back in some way. Everything would move a bit further along in the end, but not through slow and steady advancement.
Oddly, as we learned way back in the depths of the time when TMINE contemplated coming up with an actual list of its best ever TV characters, the 1960s TV show The Avengers provided a nice little example with the slow descent from Cathy Gale to Tara King. Originally, The Avengers had been about two men – surgeon and compassionate amateur sleuth David Keel (Ian Hendry) and ruthless professional spy John Steed (Patrick Macnee).
But when Hendry left to seek his fortune in the movies, the writers had to find a replacement. They trialled three characters, including another doctor Martin King (Jon Rollason) and nightclub singer Venus Smith (Julie Stevens), but it was anthropologist Dr Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), her ‘kinky boots’ and her very real judo, who proved to be the standout hit that turned The Avengers from a successful show into a phenomenon.
Of course, eventually it was Blackman’s turn to leave and become Pussy Galore on the Bond movie Goldfinger, so the writers looked for a new replacement. One that could still do all that fighting, albeit faux kung fu rather than judo. But one who was a bit less strident. A bit less abrasive and confrontational. One with a bit more fashion sense. One with – dare one say it? – ‘man appeal’. Hmm. M Appeal. That sounds handy.
And thus Mrs ‘Emma Peel’ (Diana Rigg) was born. Ultimately, Bond movies beckoned for Rigg, too, with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and she in turn was replaced by Tara King (Linda Thorson), a young secret agent trainee besotted with Steed and thus even less confrontational and whose fighting style was a little less scary, a bit more feminine, a little bit more hair-pully. The descent was complete.
And so was the show’s. Because ultimately, what had made it popular was female strength and King didn’t really have it, thanks to the male writers’ own backlash against what they had created. Thorson? Never got a Bond movie.
Ms Fisher’s Backlash
Why do I mention all this in a review of Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, a spin-off from massively popular Australia crime drama Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, in which a sophisticated, smart woman solved crimes using her brain and skills.
No reason. Not all. Apart from the fact it’s set in the 1960s and has its heroine paired with someone with the name ‘J Steed’. Why? Did you think I was maybe suggesting something? Actually, you might be right…
It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
Turns out, my knowledge of the TV schedules is even weaker than I feared. “Move WHYBW to Tuesday because there’s less on”? That was a stupid idea. Turns out, Thursday’s still best for WHYBW.
This week’s reviews
It has, of course, been stupidly busy for the past week. So busy I didn’t have time to watch any movies, but fingers crossed, Orange Wednesday will be back next week. In terms of tele, though, TMINE has reviewed:
Coming up in the next week, there’s a whole bunch of new shows, most of them antipodean. I’ll be reviewing Fresh Eggs (New Zealand: TVNZ 2) after the jump, and coming later in the week, I’ll cast my eye over Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries (Australia: Seven) and The Heights (Australia: ABC). But there’s bound to be a few other things, too. After all, what do I know about schedules, hey?
Season two of Ófærð (Trapped) started on Saturday, but I’ve not had time to digest more than about 20 minutes of the first episode, I’m afraid, so fingers-crossed, I’ll be onto that before the weekend.That means that after the jump, we’ll be talking about: Cavendish, Corporate, The Magicians, Magnum P.I., Miracle Workers, The Orville, The Passage and Star Trek:Discovery, as well as the season and probably series finale of Counterpart.
In Australia: Mondays, 9pm, Nine
In the UK: Not yet acquired
“I’m mad as Hell and not going to take this anymore” may be Network‘s best known line, but it could also be a motto for the #MeToo movement. TV companies around the world naturally want to take advantage of this female anger at the nature of modern society, either (optimistically) because they too feel the rage or (cynically) they want to cash in on the ratings.
Bad Mothers – which is no way related to or as funny as the movie of the same name – airs on the usually female-friendly Nine network in Australia and is co-created by Rachel Lang (Outrageous Fortune, Hyde & Seek, Westside, The Blue Rose, The Almighty Johnsons), so you’d hope the former optimistic answer was the root cause of the show. But if it is rage at societal expectations of mothers to be perfect and self-sacrificing, it’s quite an unfocused rage, one largely directed at other women for some reason.
The show sees Tess Haubrich (Wolf Creek, Pine Gap) playing regular mum Sarah, who’s starting to suspect that husband Daniel MacPherson (Strike Back) is having an affair with his personal trainer Shalom Brune-Franklin (Our Girl, Doctor, Doctor). However, when she turns up at the gym, she spots he’s actually having an affair with her best friend Melissa George (In Treatment, Hunted, Heart Beat). She takes solace with fellow mums at the school her children attend. Cue lots of drinking, setting fire to MacPherson’s clothes, vandalism of George’s car and abduction of dogs.
However, things take a turn when George is found murdered and first Haubrich then MacPherson becomes the police’s prime suspect. Can this group of mums solve the crime and find out who really killed George? And how much red wine will then need to drink together to do it?
There is a lot of hate going on round here, but surprisingly little for men. As soon as things get a bit tricky between the married couple because of MacPherson’s having an affair, jokes pop up to deflect the conflict and to turn the problem back onto Haubrich. Gaslighting, maybe, but the show’s real bile always seems reserved for other women.
George, admittedly, isn’t the most popular of actresses in Australia following her un-Aussie rant, but the show and she do go out of their way to make her as unlikable and as anti-female solidarity as possible – a mother more interested in herself than others, who’ll have an affair with her best friend’s husband, who’s rich, spoilt and has a stupid little dog, who never has time for anyone else and who seems permanently medicated/drunk. I mean, obviously, she’s got to be as murder-worthy as possible for as many people as possible, but the show does take the path of least resistance to get there.
There’s also the constant exchange of bitchy lines about physique between Brune-Franklin and Haubrich, and Brune-Franklin’s delight in other women’s misfortune. On top of that, there’s the other women in the group of five (Hyde & Seek‘s Mandy McElhinney and Wolf Creek‘s Jessica Tovey) who are very keen to start metaphorically stabbing away at other women as soon as possible (and vice versa). There’s also the constant one-upwomanship in the mothering. Of course, they may all club together and learn the power of female emancipation and friendship by the end, but that’s not the message yet – or from the trailer for the rest of the series.
All of which makes Bad Mothers less of a #MeToo than it probably hopes, more a Mothers Behaving Badly meets The Bletchley Circle. A little bit of quite tame rebellion, a little bit of solidarity, but mostly women a bit miffed and trying to solve a crime, all to be resolved with a return to something just a little bit better than the status quo was.
As of yet, we don’t have a real taste for how good the murder-solving aspect of the show is going to be, though. We’ve also lost the show’s best and most famous actress (Gilbert) and haven’t yet deployed the show’s best actor and most famous actor (Don Hany of East West 101/Serangoon Road fame), making this initial episode decidedly inauspicious and alienating.
Things might perk up and become more coherent in later episodes, but as of yet, there’s nothing really to recommend about Bad Mothers. It’s not that funny, it’s not especially taboo-breaking, it doesn’t have much of a message, it doesn’t have any great characters and it doesn’t really advance #MeToo in any way.