Moving Pictures

March 10, 2011

I helped dismantle Channel 9 today. Not in a “death to the capitalist media overlords” way – sadly – but with a screwdriver.

Yes, the Bendigo Street studios of GTV9 are closing and everything must go! The building was originally a piano factory, then a cannery, but from 1957 it’s been Television City. The glamour of Graham Kennedy, Don Lane and Sale Of The Century clings to the walls like a poorly-cleaned toilet. Some say Bert Newton haunts these corridors and he’s not even dead.

But Channel 9 is moving to Docklands, so they’re having the world’s biggest car boot sale. They’ve auctioned their equipment online and when a friend went to pick up a Umatic tape machine I said I’d go along. In my head this would involve visiting Richmond, selecting a carefully-marked box, and going home for biscuits.  How wrong I was.

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The Cauliflower Of Morbius

February 26, 2011

So, I was tidying around the website – polishing the fonts, putting doilies on the html code, that sort of thing – and I found this image in the comments that you may have missed the first time around. Either enjoy the sheer inconguity of it, or if you’d like to know why this exists read our review of The Doctor Who Cookbook and the follow-up article.

No, you’re welcome.

Thank you to David AA for his photshopping expertise, and why not buy a copy of The Brain Of Morbius from amazon.co.uk? Part proceeds go toward buying John coffee. Or buy the Doctor Who double pack of Kinda and Snakedance just because they’re both grouse and have giant snakes in them.


When I Grow Up, I Want To Be Maxime de la Falaise

May 7, 2009

maxime_de_la_falaise20

Maxime de la Falaise is dead.

You may not have absorbed the full impact of that yet. When I read on Tuesday that Maxime de la Falaise had died, I felt empty – after all, I’d never heard of her, so it didn’t have much of an emotional punch. But as I sat in the cafe, sipping my latte and reading her obituary in The Age, I was deeply saddened. Partly because the world is a less interesting place without her – partly because I will never have the chance to meet her – and mostly because I will never get to be her.

And it really is a most arresting obituary. A real-life mix of Holly Golightly and Forest Gump, Maxime de la Falaise connects a startling number of people and places that should never appear in the same sentence. To give you an idea, this is taken from a paragraph near the end: “When her second husband died in 1975, de la Falaise briefly dated John Paul Getty III, whose ear had been cut off by kidnappers in 1973.”

Let’s look at that again, shall we? She “dated John Paul Getty III, whose ear had been cut off by kidnappers in 1973“. I’m fairly certain that should I ever have a fling with a monaural heir to an oil-fortune, on my death the newspapers will say “One-Eared Millionaire’s Bit Of Crumpet Dies – Seriously, It Was Cut Off By Kidnappers“. But de la Falaise‘s life is so interesting that a mutilated billionaire barely makes it as a footnote.

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Accept No Irritation

May 2, 2009
bitter
(Bitter, lesbiany T-shirts available at http://www.redbubble.com/people/boxcutters.)

Last week we talked about Henrie Stride and – let’s be honest – I wasn’t very complimentary. In fact, I was downright irksome.

You may remember that Ms Stride is convinced that people are only interested in “pretty” and “upbeat”, so how did my low-level sniping affect the popularity of The Outland Institute? We had a massive spike of readers and Wednesday the 29th had the most visitors the Institute has ever seen. Why? Because misery loves company. Everytime I write something that drips of bile – like this review of BBC’s Survivors – the numbers shoot right up.

I think the truth is that “contented” is not the same as “interesting”. As our old friend Leo Tolstoy once said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. He’s a laugh-riot, isn’t he? You should see the thing he wrote for Adam Sandler.

I had been pondering on what this all meant when I found myself at a party, trying to talk to someone I hadn’t met before. The conversation was stilted, so in desperation I said, “Tell me five petty things that annoy you“. And let me tell you – it’s an ice-breaker. Soon we were all getting along like a house on fire. A funhouse on fire. Full of clowns. A funhouse full of burning clowns.

When it comes to misanthropy, of course, no-one beats the British. The BBC have an excellent television show called Room 101, which is like Enough Rope for the terminally depressed. A celebrity guest comes on to discuss the things they hate, hoping the host will remove them from existence (which is to send them to Room 101, in a strange conceptual mangling of George Orwell’s 1984). Starting life as a radio show in 1992, it moved to TV in 1994 and has even seen a Dutch spin-off (presumably as a form of revenge for Big Brother). And that’s without mentioning the “Grumpy” franchise, which started with Grumpy Old Men (2003), then led to Grumpy Old Women (2004), Grumpy Old Holidays (2006) and will presumably soon include Celebrity So You Think I Love The Make Me A Grumpy Old Supermodel, Get Me Out Of Here House (2010).

101

And I find I like Will Self more knowing that he hates airport architecture. Knowing Meera Syal dislikes Austria is strangely comforting. And seeing that Michael Grade still feels the need to openly despise Doctor Who – nearly 20 years after he cancelled it – says more about him than the program in question. I find these petty dislikes give me a much better view of the person – they feel more intimate, somehow, and less filtered than hearing them talk about their love of fine wines, or charity work. (Remember how on Perfect Match everyone used to like “travelling, raging and meeting people”?).

So do the things we hate define us better than the things we like? I sent an email out to a number of the Institute’s Friends and Leavers Of Comment, to gauge their opinion, and to ask them to list five minor things that annoy them. I swear I have NEVER seen emails come back so fast. It would seem people love to talk about things that irritate – but does it give you an insight into their character?

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Great TV Moustaches – Part 2

November 29, 2008

moustaches-2

Moustaches – they’re not just for sexual predators anymore. It’s Movember, so now they’re for charity.

To celebrate the cultural phenomenon that is Movember, we continue our look at TV’s greatest moustaches. You can find part one here.

(And remember, Movember benefits the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and Beyond Blue - you can find more about donating at the Movember website).

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Great TV Moustaches – Part 1

November 20, 2008

mustache1It’s that time of year again. The decorations are up, the shops are busy, children are on their best behaviour. Yes, it’s Movember.

Everyone’s counting off the sleeps until the Great Moustache appears. On the last night of Movember the Great Moustache creeps into every house and leaves facial hair for all the good girls and boys… while bad children get nothing but a lump of coal, an Xbox and a copy of Fallout 3.

Meanwhile, well-built office workers in tight-business shirts are all growing Swedish porn-stars (also known as “the droop” or “the Pancho Villa”). As a bonus, it raises money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and Beyond Blue. Really, there is no downside to this. You can read about donating at the Movember website.

moustache-stand

So while attending one of those celebrity Coburg parties the other day, someone said “you know, The Outland Institute should write about moustaches on television“.

It seemed a good idea. So we followed the usual procedure when preparing a column for the Institute. We sent a telex to Dr Alberto Longenin, the foremost expert in this field; we sent Debbie from the gift shop down into the catacombs to retrieve the appropriate books on the subject; we contracted seventeen work-experience children to go through The Institute’s cabinets of index cards; and we mentioned it on our facebook status.

So without further ado, here is part one of our surprisingly long celebration of TV’s greatest moustaches.

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Eight Theme Tunes No TV Show Could Live Up To

September 23, 2008

A television theme tune serves many purposes – it establishes the start of the show, and it stops all the programmes running together and becoming totally incomprehensible. (“Jon Pertwee was battling the Daleks, and now there’s a man reading the news? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON???”).

It also sets the tone for what is about to follow.  Exciting – spooky – newsy – scantily-clad - all these ideas can be conveyed in theme tune form. The theme tune may be on the way out, with shows like Lost and Torchwood abandoning the concept of the title sequence, but a great theme tune can live forever.

But what if the theme tune is… too good? Is it possible for a theme tune to promise something so exciting, so spooky, so newsy or so scantily-clad that the television show simply cannot live up to it?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Following are 8 theme tunes that no show could live up to. It doesn’t mean the shows were bad, it just means the themes promised such excitement, such drama that the shows were – perhaps – found lacking.

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Artistic Shorthand

September 11, 2008

The Evil Doctor Chris and I were ensconced in the bunker underneath The Outland Institute, working  through the recipes in Passport To Survival – it’s amazing what you can do with wheat gluten. We were both feeling under the weather, so we were doing what all sick people do – watching truly terrible television. And when you think “terrible television” you think Dancing With The Stars.

For those who haven’t seen Dancing With The Stars – I salute you. In a nutshell, it’s a celebrity dance competition for people who don’t like dancing. Or celebrities. In fact, half of the “stars” seem to be chosen as an ironic statement on the nature of fame – I would’ve called it Dancing With Who’s That Then? Among this year’s contestants are various footballers, Home & Away starlets (male and female), “sporting personalities” (yes, I know) and Toni Pearen, who I last remember seeing in 1993 when she had a big hit with “I Want You”.

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Great Literature Of The 20th Century: Further Reading (and Further Eating)

September 10, 2008

Last week on Great Literature I featured that classic tome, The Doctor Who Cookbook. At the end of the article I included the full recipe for Elisabeth Sladen’s Cauliflower Cheese – you may remember Elisabeth Sladen as dauntless lady journalist Sarah-Jane Smith – here’s a picture of her being possessed by a stone hand while dressed as Andy Pandy:

I set the challenge to Outland Institute visitors to make this dish at home and report back (the Cauliflower Cheese, not the stone hand). I didn’t think anyone would be brave – or foolhardy – enough to try… 

I was wrong. Journalist and travel-writer Tim Richards was up to the task, and he even invited me along to try the finished product (incidentally, Tim and I share a set of parents – it’s a funny story).

Tim has sent in this report:

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Great Literature Of The 20th Century: The Doctor Who Cookbook

September 3, 2008

When Doctor Who returned in 2005, it brought with it a flood of merchandise. The BBC had shaken off it’s public servant past and now embraced the market place with moist abandon. It appeared there wasn’t anything you couldn’t stick a logo on, or shape like a TARDIS.

There were books and toys, obviously, but how about a TARDIS ice bucket? Or soft wardrobe? A trolley wheely bag like Nan used to have? How about an air-freshener shaped like K9? Dalek cufflinks, a bamboo curtain or a cereal bowl in which the face of David Tennant appears – like a holy redeemer – as you eat your wheaties?

Old-school Doctor Who fans could remember that back when we were young… the merchandise was rubbish. The cool toys were always for the American shows, while Doctor Who tended toward children’s books that felt like they were written by people who’d never seen the television show. Or any television show. Or even a book.

In the early 1980s Doctor Who was enjoying a particularly popular phase in Australia. Peter Davison (“The Bloke From That Show About The Vets“) was the Doctor, there was an Aussie in the TARDIS, and Myer even brought Davison out to do a tour of shopping centres and champagne breakfasts. Though things would sour in the mid-80s, leading the the show’s cancellation at the end of the decade, there was a sense in 1984/85 that you could brighten any book with a Doctor Who logo.

Which brings us to today’s book – The Doctor Who Cookbook.

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