Toxic Custard Workshop FilesGuide to Australia

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TV and film

Let's say you're a Yank (I know -- a horrible thought, but let's pretend) moving to Australia. You have a substantial DVD collection, but you know that North American DVDs will not work in Australian DVD players, and even if you were to ship an American DVD player to Oz, the player wouldn't work with an Aussie TV set. Would you: A) go to expense of shipping your American DVD and American TV to Oz (and power them with a universal adapter), B) equip your computer with an American DVD-ROM drive so you could watch your treasured films on your computer's tiny 15" monitor, or C) bite the bullet -- sell all your American DVDs and start from scratch by replacing all your old DVDs with Aussie-compatible Region 2-encoded DVDs? - JR, USA

MichaelDVD - the best Oz/region 4 DVD information

aus.dvd info and FAQ

Whoa... Okay, okay... hold it right there, just a minute. Let's take this one bit at a time. In fact, let's rewind a little bit for people who may not have been paying attention to the world of home entertainment.

The wonderful people who invented DVD put in a feature called region codes. Most of the movie studios love region codes, because it theoretically prevents people in different parts of the world getting their mitts on DVDs before the studios want them to. The bastards! So the theory is that an American DVD (region 1) can't be used in an Australian DVD player (region 4 -- not region 2. Region 2 is Europe).

But the theory is wrong. The DVD player manufacturers and various hangers-on know full well that most consumers are a bit pissed off by this idea. So some of them build in various "secret" codes into the players to let people override it, and for the others, various hangers-on devise hardware modifications to override it. The result is that in Australia, many (if not most) DVD players can actually play DVDs from other regions.

The other factor here is broadcast standards. Australia, along with most of the western world, uses a standard called PAL. North America and a few others use NTSC. I won't bore you by giving you details like the resolution and the meaning of the acronyms, but the two are not compatible. And PAL's better. But in most of the PAL world, where we are sympathetic to those poor North Americans using an inferior system, TVs sold these days can handle both. And equally, Australian DVD players work fine with an NTSC DVD too.

So... to your situation. Some of your options are:

  • You can bring all your DVDs (and if you have anything good, I want to borrow it), put them into an Australian multi-region DVD player, and in all probability all will be rosy. If you don't have an Australian multi-region DVD player and a multi-standard TV, they are easy to obtain for a few hundred dollars each.
  • You could bring your American DVD player, plug it into an Australian TV, and provided it was a newish multistandard TV, all would be rosy (provided you remember to figure out the difference between the power supplies, and your player doesn't blow up). But you wouldn't be able to use any Australian DVDs.
  • It doesn't seem worth bringing your American TV just for this purpose, as you couldn't watch any superb Australian TV programmes on it. However, this would have the important advantage that you wouldn't be able to watch Neighbours.
  • Yes, you could also bring your computer with you and watch DVDs on it. But don't expect too many takers when you invite all your friends to come around for a pizza and DVD night.
  • Or you can give all of your DVDs to the Daniel Bowen Charitable DVD Fund. I'll take good care of them for you.

I just came back from seeing a wonderful movie, entitled "The Dish," about the huge antenna dish in Parkes, Australia that was used to broadcast the television signal of the Apollo 11 landing and Neil Armstrong setting his foot on the moon. Have you seen the movie, and was it a big hit in Australia? From what I can gather it's only playing in the U.S. for a week and has gotten almost no publicity. - Sunita, USA

IMDB: The Dish

The Dish - official US site

Working Dog Films

Movie Review Query Engine: The Dish

CSIRO: Parkes and Apollo 11 information 

Okay, I won't mess about here: Anybody reading who hasn't seen it, grab the opportunity. Get up. Leave your computer. Wait! Before you leave, check your local film web sites to see where it's on. Is it on? Okay, good. So go and see it now, before it disappears from your cinemas.

Yes, I have indeed seen The Dish, in fact it was the last DVD I bought. I watched it for the second time last weekend, and once again enjoyed it immensely. I found it a very funny film, one of the few I've seen recently that made me laugh out loud.

I had heard it was out in the States, and I've been badgering overseas friends to see it (almost to the point of annoyance I suspect), since precious few good Australian films seem to make it overseas. And it's important to show that Australian culture is not limited to Crocodile Dundee and Yahoo Serious (who are both somewhat in the Foster's Lager category, being primarily for export). 

Yes, The Dish was very popular in Australia, one of the most popular Australian films in recent years, I would think. What, you're still reading? I thought I told you to go and see it!

And if you've already seen it, then head down to your local video shop and hunt out a copy of The Castle. Oh, and.... Elbows!

I've just come back from a trip to Perth. I couldn't help but notice that Aussie T.V. is terrible - especially SBS. How do you put up with such crap T.V? - Martin, location unknown
ABC TV

Seven Network

Nine Network

Ten Network

SBS

Toxic Custard TV

Actually I'm pretty happy with the standard of Australian TV. Okay, so there's some crap on, but by and large I think our channels show the best of what the world has to offer, plus crap that the world has to offer, and some of their own stuff thrown in as well. The trick is to watch what you want to watch, and not what they want you to watch. And if there's nothing worth watching, turn off your TV and go and do something else. 

As for SBS, they show some of the most interesting programmes from Australia and around the world. It's obviously not your cup of tea, but you've gone home now, so you're probably happy.

To be honest this question leaves me wondering what you would consider to be good TV.

I was just wondering if you get many British programmes down there? - K., Leeds, UK.
Links:

ABC TV schedules

Foxtel: UKTV

The Goodies - Australian-based fan club

Heaps. Loads of them. On the five free-to-air TV networks, there is probably not a moment of the day when something from Britain is on the telly. The ABC in particular specialise in putting to air most of the best television programmes from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 that they can find and afford.

You think British TV is over-run with Australian stuff? That's nothing to the amount of British stuff on Australian TV. In fact if you're willing and able to splash out for cable TV, you'll find a whole channel dedicated to British telly.

Among the most popular UK TV programmes in Australia are The Bill, Teletubbies, Heartbeat, Ballykissangel, The Vicar Of Dibley, Men Behaving Badly, Red Dwarf, and endless different historical dramas, which still leave me believing that the BBC put so much money into faithfully re-creating 19th century England that they have to film every story they possibly can to get a decent return on the investment.

Some much-loved older UK TV programmes that still get repeated occasionally include Doctor Who, Kenny Everett, The Sweeney, Minder, Blakes Seven and The Goodies.

What a shame you Brits seem to only get the worst dross that Australian television has to offer. Thankfully for us, Neighbours and Home And Away are not the epitome of great Australian television.

Is it really true that the person who the crocodile dundee movies were based on was killed by police who were trying to take away his firearms??? (and yes, we can get good beers in America)... - James, USA
Links:

News story about Rod Ansell's death

And another

It's true that the man who inspired the Crocodile Dundee movies, Rod Ansell, was killed in a shootout with police in August 1999.

They weren't after him because they wanted to take away his guns; in fact they weren't after him at all, but were searching for a gunman who had fired shots at a house, injuring two people. Whether or not Ansell was the man in question is not known, but Ansell shot and killed a policeman at a roadblock, which is when the shootout started.

But yes, presumably had he been caught instead of killed, they would have taken away his guns... In fact after he was killed they probably took away his guns anyway!

On a related note (to the question) the current US NRA campaign showing Australians living in fear because their guns have been taken away is a complete load of bollocks. The relevant authorities have said the statistics used showing an increase in crime since the guns buy-back of 1996-97 are wrong, and the NRA has apparently been unable or unwilling to say where they got the figures from.

Of course you can get good beers in America. They're called "Imported"!

Mel Gibson was born in the US, grew up in Australia and now lives in the US, claiming US citizenship. Do Australians consider Mel to be an import or an export? Inquiring Mel FAN-atics want to know! - Anonymous
Links:

Referendum '99

Yes

No

Yahoo: Mel Gibson

Mel's one of a number of Australians who have gone overseas and become mildly famous. Do we consider him to be Australian, or not? I don't know. To be quite honest, I've never really thought about it.

We had an impromptu poll on the issue, just to get the Aussies in the audience into practice for the November 1999 referendum on the republic and the constitutional preamble. The results:

  • Yes: 52.5%
  • No: 47.5%

So apparently he is. But only just.

Are there any good tv shows made in Australia? When I lived in the UK we were bombarded with REALLY bad mini-series. - Mabel, Chicago, USA
Links:

ABC Television

SBS

Channel 9

Channel 7

Channel 10

Heck yes! It's just that it's only the dross that gets shown overseas. Virtually all the world sees are the clichéd soapies full of bronzed Aussie surfgods and goddesses in flimsy bikinis (Home And Away), or middle-class suburban types from leafy streets (Neighbours). Not that some Australians aren't like that, though few are as disaster-prone as these characters.

And it's worth pointing out that most of these crappy shows get far higher viewing figures overseas than they do in their own country. But thankfully there are some good Australian TV in just about every genre. Some examples are:

One day we'll have global television networks, and you'll be able to watch anything you like anywhere in the world - without even having to rely on a dodgy Internet connection and a modem that can barely transmit your e-mail. Until then, if you're outside Australia you'll have to scour your local TV guide to have any hope of finding these gems. (Except Bananas In Pyjamas - they're everywhere.)

I love all things Australian, is every one in Australia as happy go lucky and friendly as Paul Hogan portrays? - Anonymous
  As a general rule, yes - except for the people who aren't.

It is probably important to note that not all Australians divorce their wives after 20-odd years of marriage and go off to America to marry young blondes and have absolutely no success at directing movies.

i am desperately looking for any and all pictures of Yahoo Serious. There seem to be none on the net anywhere. i am sad. - Mike, location unknown
  That's because Yahoo Serious is a nobody. As far as I can see, he made two movies, grabbed a bunch of money off whatever movie studio was dumb enough to give it to him, then legged it with the cash. I'm thinking of embarking on a similar strategy myself.

You might find something on him in the Internet Movie Database or perhaps somebody out there runs a web site about 80s people who have faded (or sprinted) into obscurity? If you badger Greg Bulmash of the Washed-UPdate enough he might do some digging for you.

PS: There is now an official web site.

Here in the U.S., we've got various pseudo-patriotic mascots who encourage you to do (or not do) whatever it is that they stand for. For example, "Smokey the Bear: Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires!", "Woodsy Owl: Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute!", and of course, "Uncle Sam: Wants YOU For the U.S. Armed Forces!"
So does Australia have "Eucy the Koala", "Plato the Platypus" or other such "mascots"?
- Mark, USA
 

Sid the seagull (SunSmart)

[Norm, from Life Be In It]
Norm (Life. Be in it)

Here's a few mascots that spring to mind. At least, they spring to my mind. No doubt some people reading this will have others spring to their minds. Some of them are from public service announcements, some aren't.

Wally
Wally appeared in water conservation adverts a few years ago. A kind of accident-prone garden dag, he managed to waste water, generally in ways that involved him flooding his own garden and/or house, and looking like a complete drip. Each ad would end with the tagline "Don't be a Wally with water".

Sid the seagull
Sid the seagull appeared on TV adverts about a decade ago, encouraging Australians to "slip, slop, slap" - that is, slip on a T-shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat. All in the name of reducing skin cancer, which seems fair enough. They've replaced Sid now with catchy jingles instead, but it's just not the same.

Hector The Cat
Hector was a gigantic stripy cat (a bit like Marty Monster, the infamous morning TV character who got attacked by a kangaroo live on TV). Hector taught the kids how to cross the street safely.

The Toothbrush Family
I still hum the Toothbrush Family's song sometimes as I brush my teeth. They were in a short (five minute?) cartoon about a family of toothbrushes. You can guess what they mostly talked about at night. And the song? All together now... "Brush your teeth... round and round... circle small... gums and all..."

Skippy
Skippy, The Bush Kangaroo, is one of those characters from the Flipper, or Lassie school of animals. You know, the super-intelligent kangaroo who knows when things are wrong, and has the incredible ability to tell her master exactly what's going on using just her normal animal speech. And never attacks morning TV characters.)

Paul Hogan
Paul has departed for Hollywood now (or did he come back? I can't remember), but before he did, back when he was on TV rather than in big-budget movies, he represented the typical Australian bloke, wearing nothing but a singlet, shorts and thongs (flip-flops, not skimpy underpants) and maybe a hat, and having the sophistication of a dead slug.

Many readers have also suggested Norm, from the "Life - Be In It" campaign, a beer-bellied cartoon slob who showed some of the results of not getting any exercise. A kind of 70's-80's Australian Homer Simpson.

What would be the five 'Must see (rent)' Australian films? - Paul, somewhere in the USA
Related sites:

The links in the answer are to the entries in the Internet Movie Database

Well, I can't say I'm much of a film buff, but I do like the odd flick, so here's a few that come to mind... I don't know which of these are available outside Australia, but at least a few of them have made it out into the big wide world.

All the ones I've thought of are comedies, which I suppose is because I like comedies more than other varieties of film. And of course I've purposefully left out all those Aussie films that everybody in the universe has seen already (Croc Dundee, Yahoo Serious, Babe etc.)

  • Muriel's Wedding - Some people prefer Priscilla, which came out around the same time, but I like Muriel better because it's got more than one joke. (Priscilla's joke is that blokes in drag in a bus in the desert is funny. Not that that makes it a bad film.)
  • Cosi - This one has a lot of the same people as Muriel's Wedding, and I think manages to be even funnier.
  • Malcolm - It's getting on a bit now, but Malcolm was a great film, especially for blokes, who as everybody knows, love gadgets. Malcolm was full of gadgets.
  • The Big Steal - A very funny film about a guy who tries to get hold of the car of his dreams by any means possible.
  • The Magic Portal - A comedy adventure short starring a bunch of Lego characters who encounter Liquid Paper Daleks, weird bulldozer monsters and escape in a turbo-powered sneaker. Originally I said: "Hardly worth looking for - you'll probably never find it."... but now its creator has put up a web site all about it, including downloads from the film.

Others of all genres that are worth looking for are Strictly Ballroom, Picnic At Hanging Rock, Shine, and Gallipolli. If you're a TV fan, then probably the best Aussie shows to look out for are Frontline (aka Behind The Frontline) and Lano & Woodley.

Readers' suggestions have included: Breaker Morant, Mad Max, The Light Horsemen, Death in Brunswick, Love and Other Catastrophes, The Last Wave, Don's Party, Puberty Blues, The Getting of Wisdom, Space Dogs, Romper Stomper, Stork, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Year of Living Dangerously, The Odd Angry Shot and Newsfront.

Late addition: Lantana.

So, what do Aussies REALLY think about Paul Hogan and Yahoo Serious??? - Ken and Jan in Canada
  First I should point out that I don't speak for all Australians. This is something that has escaped the notice of a few (other) correspondents, so it's worth mentioning every so often. However, since I'm Australian, I can speak for what this Aussie thinks.

Paul Hogan's Crocodile Dundee stuff is okay... but he was a lot funnier with his TV show. Alas it's fading into memory now because it's been so long since they were made and shown. Will we never see Leo Wanker again?

As for Paul's movie career... well, it looks like he's achieved One Hit Wonder Plus A Sequel status. Which also sums up Yahoo Serious.

The difference is that Mr Serious has vanished off the face of the planet. Anybody know where he got to? Probably took the money and retired.

What on Earth is "Club Buggery"?
Related sites:

ABC TV

Club Buggery

CUB page

Well, it's nothing to do with homosexuality. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

"Club Buggery" is an extremely bloody amusing TV show hosted by Roy Slaven and HG Nelson, under the guise of a variety show, but it's really more of a sports/comedy show. The politer announcers promoting the show on the ABC call it "Roy and HG."

I'm told that Roy and HG are now doing beer commercials on British TV for Carlton United Breweries. It all goes further to proving my theory that the best Australian beer commercials are never seen in Australia.

Why do people get so excited over the soap "Neighbours"? - Gavin and numerous others
Related sites:

Channel Ten

For those of you who have never heard of "Neighbours", good for you. It's a daily soapie made here in Melbourne, which for some unfathomable reason is one of the most popular TV programmes in Britain. Nobody, but nobody in Australia knows why. But we're glad it is so popular, because every year more of the alleged actors who are on it go over to Britain to make their fortune. And we usually never hear of them again.

"Neighbours" and its rival soap "Home And Away" are both curiosities in Australia because hardly anybody watches them, but channels Ten and Seven keep churning out the episodes because they sell so well overseas.

Does it bother Australians that America also starts with an A? It causes us to have many similar national acronyms, such as ABC. Since many of you call your country "Oz", would you consider changing the A in your acronyms to O to prevent confusion? - Greg Bulmash, USA
Links:

ABC

USBC

Channel 7

NBC

Now there's an idea. Not that it really bothers us, since the American ABC (don't you love redundancy) and other clashing acronyms (of which I can't actually think of any at the moment) rarely have any significance whatsoever down here.

But I think that perhaps since the (Aussie) ABC was formed in 1932, and the (American) ABC only came about in 1948, it's probably more fair that ABC America should become the USBC.

By the way, does anybody want to tell NBC that Australia's Channel 7 stole their news music?

I've noticed that in some of the Aussie movies I've seen, the doorknobs are positioned so high on the door they could just about poke someone of my height (5'4") in the eye if they weren't careful. Is this a common occurrence in Australia, and if so why? - Jo, probably somewhere in the USA
  Blimey we get some fascinating topics here, don't we. But it's still no excuse for Web reviews that judge the entire site on a single question here.

The location of door knobs can vary quite a bit. It's common in older buildings (or perhaps I should say on older doors) for the knobs to be quite high up, but on newer buildings and doors, they tend to be much lower, perhaps only about a metre or so off the ground.

Of course, us Australians are always very careful when looking out for dangerous doorknobs. Especially short Australians.

As for why - I don't know, maybe it's to instil some suspense into people's lives.

Being an avid "Home & Away" fan ever since Carly fell madly in love with Ben and all that stuff and also from watching the odd (please don't tell my friends) episode of "Neighbours", what I really want to know is if all families in Australia really consist of everybody else's children? There really does not seem to be one normal family among the whole lot of them. - Lorraine McElgunn, Ireland
Related sites:

Channel Ten

Channel Seven

It probably makes the scripts more interesting. In reality, life is a good deal duller than "Neighbours" and "Home And Away" would have you believe. Well, at least, it is for me.

Actually a few years ago there was a whole series based around foster parents and homeless kids. It was called "Home" and it had a very cheesy theme tune and a cast of delinquents.

Anybody know the email addresses of any of Lorraine's friends?

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