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To market, to market: Kitchen crew hit the road to pressure cooker

Tasmania’s Sam is feeling the farming vibe with his checked shirt. Going bananas… just another day in the My Kitchen Rules competition.
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Tonight on MKR it’s Market Madness, as Australia’s most popular reality program turns to social commentary with an unflinching look at the failures of late capitalism.

We begin with the theme song blaring “This is the best night of my life”, a lyric that is by now devastatingly ironic, and then some dramatic action film music as the teams walk purposefully towards Kitchen Headquarters.

“My heart’s thumpin’,” says knockabout bloke Mick in a knockabout way. Is he nervous? No, just really unhealthy.

“Hey guys, the kitchen’s closed,” calls Luke with the sort of naturalistically convincing depiction of surprise rarely seen outside Meryl Streep acceptance speeches. All the contestants are shocked at this unexpected twist – they never saw it coming.

The sign says more information is in the cars. “Go to your cars? I can’t drive!” exclaims Ashlee. Oh no! I guess she’ll just have to stay there then, sitting outside Kitchen Headquarters playing with passing ants, as she was woefully unprepared for this dynamic and utterly unpredictable turn of events.

In the cars they find a letter telling them that Pete and Manu have decided they need time to find themselves, and wishing them all the happiness in the world.

No, actually it’s a letter telling them to drive to Sydney Markets, where they will open stalls and sell their food to the public. The team that makes the most money wins.

This is a great challenge, as there is no more discerning audience for fine cuisine than the patrons of Sydney Markets. It also tests the number one criterion for any aspiring chef: the ability to yell loudly enough at as many people as possible until they give you their money.

The first snag is struck when it is discovered that nobody can reverse a car without putting themselves in mortal danger. Horns honk, Melina screams, the police are called, and we’re off to the markets.

“The first team there gets to start shopping and start cooking before anyone else,” says Luke, his years of study on the linear nature of time having paid off in spades here.

Sophia demands that Craig not let anyone in, playing the Ethel Merman to his Milton Berle in this culinary-themed reboot of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World. “Craig’s as competitive as we are, so it’s a good match,” Sophie informs us, although to be honest it seems more like the prelude to a violent in-car murder.

“Such a smooth car,” says Ali, aware of how much Honda has paid for its products to appear in this episode. “Such a good driver!” retorts Sam waggishly, ruining the moment.

Samuel interjects in a cutaway to explain how Sydney is very big, compared to other places that are smaller. Here the markets are far away but in Tassie it takes five minutes to get to the markets. Nobody points out to him that it takes five minutes to get to the markets in Sydney too if you live five minutes away from the markets, because nobody who works on MKR has any interest in exposing the deeper truths of the universe. “From anywhere,” adds Ali, the filthy liar.

In Josh and Andi’s car, tension is rising, and by “car” I mean “relationship”. “Where do I go?” demands Andi. “Just settle down,” says Josh, refusing to answer the question. Andi puts her hands to her head, thereby rendering herself unable to either steer or see.

Everyone else is just stunned by the size of the markets, especially Ali and Samuel, since in Tassie every building is only a metre high.

Pete and Manu are looked for in the throng, and after a quick edit cutting out the four days of searching, they are located. “This is where you’re shopping, this is where you’re cooking!” Manu bellows. Or maybe he said, “Tease it, wear your chopping, tizzle we’re yo cocking.” Or “Underwear’s a-hopping, just beware your booking”. I honestly have no idea any more. Manu explains the teams have 90 minutes to shop (“shoop”?), cook and start selling, a look of abject terror on his face. This cutaway was filmed after the challenge, and you can tell that Manu has seen things this day that he knows he can never un-see.

Pete tells Dan, Steph, Luke and Scott that they were the last to arrive and they had better hurry up. They stand there gazing at him, unable to move, transfixed by his diamond-cutter cheekbones.

In the markets, Mick and Matt are bewildered – the Sydney Markets are actually three times the size of Tasmania itself. “I feel like I’ve just flown into Bangkok,” says Mick, bewildered by the amount of transgender sex being offered to him. A quick series of cuts establish that the market is a) big; b) full of people waving bananas; and c) being destroyed by MKR idiots crashing their trolleys into stuff.

Joanna is insistent she win the people’s choice today, but Jenna is already on her fifth drink of the morning and it looks doubtful. “I just want to make the most money,” says Joanna, as Jenna nods along, blissfully ignorant of her surroundings. Joanna commandeers the PA system to announce she will be providing hotcakes for all. She is besieged by anxious shoppers wondering where their lost child is.

Kerrie and Craig are making gozleme, which is a thing apparently. Kerrie worries that Craig doesn’t know what he’s doing: Craig assures her he has changed. Mick and Matt are making cinnamon chicken, but their shopping is being put at risk by Mick’s intense misanthropy.

Meanwhile, Jake is hitting people with his trolley and harassing an innocent AC/DC fan to bring him some pork. Josh is pushing his way through the throng. He feels like Moses parting the sea, and dreams of drowning thousands. “I think people are going to like our dish, Josh!” Andi shrieks in his ear for no particular reason.

Elsewhere, Manu is ordering Ashlee and Sophia to run, for his own dark motives. Ashlee and Sophia quickly move into top gear, saying “Babe” more than times within a minute.

Ali and Samuel are making spiced chicken with a pumpkin rosti. Samuel explains to Ali that it is a South American dish, delighting in her ignorance. He then explains that it’s actually a multicultural dish, containing “flavours of the world”. He then explains that a rosti is a “Swedish pancake”, as Ali begins to think very seriously about having him committed. “Definitely food fit for this market,” Samuel declares. Apparently the market is full of people who also don’t know what a rosti is.

The teams begin pricing their dishes, and Sophia begins calling Kerrie “Babe”, which is an act of uncalled-for aggression against a foreign power. Elsewhere, peeling these prawns will take Dan an eternity, mainly because he thinks he’s still in bed. Dan and Steph think their dish is multicultural too, unaware of how racist prawns can be. What Dan loves about the dish is that it’s easy to eat: Dan has been burnt by difficult foods before.

Activity is furious, but curiosity begins to grow as to why Jake and Elle have yet to return to their stall. Have they been involved in a fatal trolley pile-up? No it’s just that they need limes and their metalhead pork boy has played them for suckers.

Scott tells us that today’s challenge is all about serving great dishes to the public, even though it’s actually all about sweating heavily and yelling. Pete is explaining the rules of the challenge to Manu, who had no idea because he wasn’t listening to the voice-over before. Manu explains the rules back to Pete. Everyone seems pretty happy.

And Jake and Elle have their pork! Jake begins harassing people forthwith. They’ll need to, because Angela and Melina are making popcorn chicken with hot chips – they’ve been to markets before. Melina shouts “Eat me!” and a popular new ring-tone is born.

The batter is proving difficult, however. “It’s like a five-spice batter party!” Melina yells. “I’ve got batter in my hair!” Angela screeches. It’s all incredibly arousing. But the last thing Melina is thinking is that she’s making a mess – she’s actually thinking about the family of otters hidden inside her hairdo.

Manu yells at Jake and Elle. Jake yells at Elle. The cycle of violence continues. Elle, admirably, does not kick Jake in the crotch.

Over at Sam and Chris’ stall, Sam and Chris are still on the show.

Meanwhile, Joanna is pouring out an industrial bag of flour while Jenna tries to remember how to spell “hotcakes”. Over at Luke and Scott’s stall, Luke makes a pun about corn and therefore is automatically eliminated.

Kerrie is screaming at Craig as yet another mince-related divorce begins to loom. Manu explains to Pete how they couldn’t find any mince, and Pete’s eyeballs leap out of his head and go for a walk around the city.

Andi wants to prove she can handle couscous. Her life goals have really shrunk since she was a little girl.

Pete and Manu continue to talk about things they already know. Pete tells Manu the problem with Mick and Matt is that Mick is really slow, conveniently glossing over all the other problems. Mick is cutting up some vegetables in the rapid-fire, quicksilver manner of a man undergoing a major stroke. Meanwhile, Samuel has spilt peppercorns all over his chicken and become even less likely to get Ali into bed.

At Ashlee and Sophia’s stall they are calling each other “Babe”, but suddenly drama, as the “Babes” subside and begin to be replaced by words too rude for Channel Seven to air. The pressure is getting to them and suddenly Ashlee and Sophia are sniping viciously at each other in the same way everyone else in the world wants to. It’s possible that within a few minutes someone will be disembowelled with tongs.

Sophia tries to mend bridges by calling Ashlee “Babe” a few more times, but Ashlee is having none of it, hurling bleeps back like R2-D2. It’s all very amusing to Jake and Elle, who like nothing more than watching friendships disintegrate.

Speaking of disintegration, Kerrie and Craig now loathe each other. When they were married, Craig never revealed that he was terrible at mincing, and this deception has hit Kerrie hard. But if there’s anything slower than Craig’s mincing, it’s Mick’s chopping, and Matt experiences explicit patricidal fantasies.

Joanna and Chris are making sexual innuendoes at each other and it’s disgusting. Much like Dan’s prawns. Everything Dan and Steph have made, in fact, look like what’s left on the market floor at the end of the day.

Elle is stressed by how many elements are in a Vietnamese baguette: four, apparently. Conversely, Mick is just stressed by the existence of vegetables. He begins making skewers, and at the current rate should be ready to serve by the next series of Celebrity Masterchef.

“Are you having problems?” Kerrie asks Sophia. “Not any more,” says Sophia, strongly suggesting she has murdered Ashlee. But no, happily the Babes are back.

It’s almost time to start selling, as Luke descends into insanity and starts frying up some dog vomit. What’s worse, he’s burnt it! At least he’s not Melina, who is being driven nuts by the tongs situation. Luke’s had to throw his vomit fritters into the bin. “We needed these fritters on plates, not in the bin,” says Luke, savvy businessman.

At the gates, a horde of hungry patrons wait, eager to barge down the aisle and engage in the foodie freak show that awaits. They enter, and it is time for Chris to explain the rules again. Which means it’s time for Ashlee to explain the rules again.

Money is changing hands everywhere but Angela and Melina’s stall, where there is nothing to serve except chips. Which, to be fair, still look better than most of what’s being served. Over at Jake and Elle’s stall, Jake begins shouting about his food, which seems like a major miscalculation of just how annoying Jake’s voice is. Meanwhile, Ashlee and Sophia have upped their “Babe” rate and are five minutes from degenerating into an incomprehensible Smurf-style Babe-language.

Pete and Manu are disgusted with Angela and Melina’s effort. The popcorn isn’t crispy. Manu looks around for a table to flip.

In the battle of the pancakes, Sam and Chris are winning, their ability to quickly crank out large numbers of well-made pancakes proving more effective than Jenna and Joanna’s ability to go a bit cross-eyed from time to time. Manu would have preferred fresh fruit to cooked fruit on J and J’s hotcakes, but you know, Manu, it’s not all about YOU.

Elsewhere, Andi’s couscous is lovely and fluffy and she can die happy. Which she might do soon if the look on her face is any guide.

Dan and Steph’s rice paper rolls are a success. Less successful is Samuel’s tactic of attracting customers by screaming incoherently at them. It seems less likely to earn him money than it is to have him arrested, but maybe it’s a Tasmanian thing.

Ashlee and Sophia have sold out, and so write on their board “SOLD OUT SUCKERS”, because they are just as ungracious and rude in moments of triumph as they are in moments of disappointment. They take the opportunity to wander about the market and say nasty things about everyone else, sticking with their strengths.

On seeing Angela and Melina’s dish, Sophia opines, “It looks like a mess, just like them”, just in case there was anyone left in Australia who didn’t hate her. Jake and Elle have also sold out, but Ashlee and Sophia still find ways to be bitchy about them: they are nothing if not resourceful. “Just because you put coriander in a dish doesn’t make it Vietnamese,” says Ashlee, speaking some bizarre alien tongue I am unfamiliar with.

Manu enjoys Kerrie and Craig’s gozleme, though it could be the cognac talking. He is less impressed with Mick and Matt’s cinnamon skewers lightly dusted with chicken. Mick, though, is “feeling pumped”: he’s so full of energy he’s managing to make up to three skewers an hour.

Closing time, and judgment awaits. One team will gain immunity: one team will go to sudden death. The other teams will just sort of stand there, uninterestingly. Jake expresses the hope that he has not failed: that’s what makes him such a fierce competitor.

Manu tells them they did well: he makes special comment on something or other that I can’t understand. Bad news for Luke and Scott though: Manu hated their mushy fritters. But Pete loved the mushy fritters! Pete and Manu wrestle to decide it.

Dan and Steph’s rice paper rolls are a hit: after all, a rice paper roll is just like a see-through sausage. Mick and Matt, though, were stunningly bad. As for Josh and Andi, Pete says, “what can I say except, yum!”

He then proceeds to say a lot of other things. Ali and Samuel’s chicken was delectable, though Manu found their salsa not wet enough … IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Pete and Manu explain to Ashlee and Sophia that their dish was wonderful apart from the bits that were terrible, and also that they should have been nicer to each other: none of your business, Pete and Manu.

And of course Angela and Melina failed miserably: Manu thinks it was good for the kids, but his childlike sense of wonder was long ago beaten out of him by the misery of the world. And Kerrie and Craig did very well and do not have to split up yet.

Manu tells Joanna and Jenna that he’s been waiting for a great dessert from them … and is still waiting. Jenna begins crying, either because of the harsh judgment, or because a slight breeze just ruffled her hair.

And finally, Sam and Chris: they have nothing to worry about, says Pete. This is an exaggeration, but their pancakes were good. Pete tells them their dish looked “feminine”: everyone immediately starts worrying about Pete.

But who wins people’s choice? Who has exploited the principles of supply and demand most successfully? It is … AD BREAK.

We’re back, and Samuel explains that it’s now time to find out who made the most money, for those who tuned in during the ad break, or those with short-term memory loss. Ashlee and Sophia hope they’ve won, just to upset Angela and Melina, but they can suck it, because Jake and Elle have won. “I’m on the moon right now!” says Elle, so happy she’s forgotten how figures of speech work.

Ashlee is gutted that another Vietnamese dish won, because she has a pathological need to reduce everything to race. Sophia notes that if they had done Jake and Elle’s dish, it would have been “authentic” – several thousand TV screens are at this point kicked in.

Jake and Elle now gain immunity from elimination, and also the chance to choose another team to gain immunity. They pick Kerrie and Craig. Whatever, I guess. Everyone gets unnecessarily emotional.

But what of the most important question: who are the losers? I mean, Ashlee and Sophia obviously, but who lost the challenge? It’s Jenna and Joanna!

Manu thinks of petite and pretty when he thinks of them, and he didn’t believe their desserts were coming from them. Does he suspect them of stealing hotcakes from somebody else? Jenna is devastated, tearful and kind of sleepy. Pete would look at it as another chance to shine, but Jenna and Joanna look at it more as another chance to stab themselves with toasting forks.

And so till next week, when we will return to Kitchen Headquarters to find out who will face Jenna and Joanna in a sudden-death cook-off, and whether they’ll finally have the guts to make “sudden-death” literal … adieu!

Ben Pobjie will be appearing in Let’s Put on a Show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from April 9-14.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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Tillegra Dam land put back on block

HUNTER Water Corporation is putting up for sale one of the properties acquired for the former Tillegra Dam project.
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The corporation’s board approved the sale of 182Salisbury Road, Munni, last week.

The property’s former owners chose not to take up their right of first refusal to buy back the property.

It was one of 46 properties acquired for the project over three decades that were intended to be inundated by the dam.

Eleven former Tillegra owners have been offered the opportunity to buy back their properties while others have opted to wait for the release of the Lower Hunter Water Plan this year before deciding.

The sale of the Salisbury Road property coincides with the launch of the land use and management plan for Hunter Water’s land holdings in the area.

Stakeholders including the Dungog Shire Council, government authorities and the community will be consulted as part of the process, which is being overseen by consultants Architecture, Engineering, Consulting, Operations and Maintenance.

A draft plan will be publicly exhibited in August with a community information session to follow its release.

There will then be further opportunities for submissions before a final report is released in October.

The plan’s development runs parallel to the development of the Lower Hunter Water Plan.

The Herald reported yesterday that a major focus of the plan would be the region’s vulnerability to drought.

The Metropolitan Water Directorate is considering all options as part of the water plan.

It is consulting the community as part of the plan’s development and residents are encouraged to take part.

Be heard

OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND: Land near Dungog was earmarked for the Tillegra Dam.

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Rawiller to miss Randwick Guineas after suspension

Nash Rawiller will miss Randwick Guineas day after he was suspended for five meetings for careless riding at Newcastle on Wednesday.
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The champion hoop pleaded guilty to shifting in at the 1000-metre mark on Ivanhoe, checking Entirely Platinum ridden by Jay Ford. He made an application to be reprimanded but stewards suspended him.

This leaves the Gai Waterhouse stable without its No.1 rider for the first leg of the three-year-old triple crown, which could be Pierro and Proisir’s next appearance.

Meanwhile, Racing NSW will move towards the model used by Victoria in charging more for premium meetings under the racefields fees, starting from Saturday’s Chipping Norton Stakes meeting at Warwick Farm.

The standard fee of 1.5 per cent of turnover will jump to 2 per cent for premium meetings that carry a race worth more than $150,000. It is the same impost Racing Victoria put on all meetings in October and November.

”This is not unique,” Racing NSW chief Peter V’landys said. “It is only fair that a premium product attracts a premium fee as it does in any other business.”

The first harness meeting to charge 2 per cent was Sunday’s Inter Dominion final at Menangle, which had nationwide turnover of more than $7 million.

“It means an extra $30,000 to $40,000 for the meeting,” Harness Racing NSW chief executive Sam Nati said. “We have set our premium meetings as ones with a race more than $30,000, and it is around 10 per cent of all our meetings.”

The racefields fee earns Harness Racing more than $7 million a year. V’landys puts racing’s product fee at $40 million to $50 million a year.

The increase has angered bookmakers. “Bookmakers will adjust their odds because of the extra costs, and it will hurt punters,” Rob Waterhouse said.

V’landys countered: “This does not affect punters, it only cuts into the profit made by the corporate bookmakers. The argument that it slugs punters is ridiculous.”

Betstar boss Alan Eskander warned that racing might be pricing itself out of the market.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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Suspensions loom for Cronulla stars

Up to 14 Cronulla players left a meeting at Sharkies Leagues Club on Tuesday night fearing their careers may be in tatters after being told that they should accept a six-month suspension – or risk further sanctions over the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
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A lawyer, hired by Cronulla to negotiate with ASADA in the wake of the drugs body’s investigations into peptide use, had come to the meeting with documents already prepared for the players to sign, admitting to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The players were told that if they signed the documents, they would face no further sanctions beyond the six-month ban and would remain employed by the club, but that if they did not sign, they would open themselves to the possibility of longer suspensions. But the players, who attended the meeting with their agents, refused.

It is understood the players were set a deadline to sign the papers. It is believed the same lawyer had previously told players at the club that they had little to worry about, before dramatically changing tack this week following further talks with ASADA.

The investigation into Cronulla has focused on the 2011 season, and the involvement of controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank. The players believe that a former employee has blown the whistle on the use of supplements at the club. That employee refused to comment on Wednesday night when contacted by Fairfax Media.

The ACC and ASADA had come under significant pressure since the release of an unclassified document to name names. But the events of the past few days have brought the focus clearly onto Cronulla, leaving Sharks officials devastated. It is understood that eight players at other NRL clubs have been implicated in the latest ASADA investigations.

Fairfax Media was told that the meeting on Tuesday night was the sixth attended by the Sharks players since the dramatic news conference in Canberra a month earlier to announce the findings of an ACC report into doping and match fixing.

However, it was the first to which player agents had also been invited and rumours quickly began swirling on Wednesday morning of a story that would knock Ben Barba and Sonny Bill Williams off the front and back pages of newspapers. No player is thought to have failed a drugs test.  It is understood that if players do admit to taking a banned substance they would claim to have done so unknowingly.

Fairfax Media has been told that Sharks players were given beta thymosin and CJC 1295 during 2011.  It has been suggested that the substances were not on the World Anti-Doping Agency banned list at the time. Sharks coach Shane Flanagan and football manager Darren Mooney did not return calls.  A club spokesman denied reports that the players had been interviewed by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority on Wednesday.

Instead the players trained as normal to prepare for Sunday night’s match against Gold Coast, but their futures are uncertain amid speculation that either ASADA or the club will stand them down on Friday.

A shopping centre appearance by players on Thursday night was scrapped and an announcement of a new sleeve sponsor has been delayed. The Sharks say they have already lost a deal of up to $2million for the naming rights of their stadium after they were one of six NRL clubs named in the ACC report.

All six clubs – Cronulla, Penrith, Manly, Canberra, Newcastle and North Queensland – have links with sports scientist Stephen Dank, who is at the centre of an investigation into an AFL club, Essendon.

Dank was sacked by Essendon at the end of last season and more than 20 of the club’s players have been interviewed.

The Sharks issued a statement on Wednesday night, announcing they were working with ASADA.

‘‘Sharks fans and all rugby league supporters can be assured the club has been very proactive in fully co-operating with ASADA and taking other measures that prioritise the integrity of our club and the welfare of our playing group,’’ it said. ‘‘While there are strict boundaries around what we can say while the ASADA investigation is ongoing, fans should be assured that as soon as there is an opportunity to provide further information we will do so.’’

NRL officials said they had not been contacted by the Sharks or ASADA over the fate of any Cronulla players.

There were high hopes Cronulla would break their title duck this year but the latest developments have cast a pall over the club.

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The 50 most influential people

Three’s company: Nick Murray, Andrew Denton and Michael Cordell of Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder. Photo: Nic WalkerThe Oxford dictionary defines ”influence” as the capacity to have an affect on the character, development or behaviour of someone or something. In television, that translates into only one thing: having a hand in the most successful programs.
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Yet influence is more complex than mere power. Chief executives have power by virtue of their office. Programmers have it by virtue of their control over the schedule.

The Guide canvassed a panel of experts – critics, executives and industry insiders – to compile the list of the 50 Most Influential People in Television.

This draws together the power partnerships, the deal-makers behind the deals and the new generation of rising stars.

The bosses

Richard Freudenstein, chief executive, Foxtel

The head of Australian television’s most innovative multichannel business, Freudenstein has worked at News Digital Media and BSkyB, where he launched Sky+ (the UK’s iQ-equivalent service) and BSkyB’s HD service.

David Gyngell, chief executive, Channel Nine

The son of television pioneer Bruce Gyngell and the boss of Australia’s oldest, and once top-rating, commercial TV network, who took it to the financial brink in 2012 and – extraordinarily – brought about its rebirth.

Mark Scott, managing director, ABC

The boss of the national broadcaster has steered it into the digital age, launching new channels and the market-leading online TV catchup service iview.

Lachlan Murdoch, chairman, Channel Ten

The scion of one of Australia’s foremost media dynasties has emerged as the man with his hand on the tiller.

Bruce Gordon, chairman, WIN Television

One of Australian TV’s old school, a former heavyweight in the global TV market, now a regional TV mogul and a major shareholder in Ten.

The artisans

Peter Andrikidis, director

Considered one of Australia’s best television directors, Andrikidis’ credits include the critically acclaimed East West 101, G.P., the police drama Wildside and Ten’s Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms.

Kevin Carlin, director

One of Australia’s most respected television directors, Carlin’s resume is broad, and includes Newstopia, The Wedge, All Saints, Stingers and Packed to the Rafters.

Bevan Lee, network script executive, Seven

Lee is one of Australian screenwriting’s true artisans. He worked on Sons and Daughters and Home and Away, and created Always Greener, Packed to the Rafters and Winners & Losers for Seven.

The players

Julie Ward, executive producer, The Voice

The woman behind the biggest show on TV since MasterChef, the ratings-topping Channel Nine flagship The Voice. Ward’s credits include So You Think You Can Dance and Australian Idol.

Brian Walsh, director of television, Foxtel

Australia’s one and only ”Mr Television”, whose peerless resume includes launching Neighbours, major campaigns for the NRL and the Olympics, BSkyB and now a suite of Foxtel’s leading channels.

John Edwards … and Imogen Banks, Jacquelin Perske and Mimi Butler, Southern Star

The master of brilliant collaborations and the women – just three of many – with whom he has created the best TV in years, including Tangle, Offspring, Rush, Paper Giants, Puberty Blues and Howzat!

Mark and Carl Fennessy, Shine Australia

Mark and Carl have an impeccable record for delivering TV hits: Australian Idol, Australia’s Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance, MasterChef, The Biggest Loser and now The Voice.

Rikkie Proost, executive producer, My Kitchen Rules

Proost is the puppet master of Seven mega-hit My Kitchen Rules, which has shored up the network’s commanding lead in the ratings and is ready to take on Nine’s The Voice.

Adrian Swift, director of development, Nine Network

Swift worked in the multichannel and multi-platform space in Britain before returning to Australia and Nine. With Shine’s Fennessy brothers and Julie Ward, he oversees TV’s reigning ratings titan, The Voice.

Bob Campbell and Des Monaghan, Screentime Australia

One of television’s most respected and enduring partnerships set the agenda in the talent genre with the trailblazing Popstars and set a new benchmark for Australian drama with Nine franchise Underbelly.

Ian Hogg, Jason Stephens and Jo Porter, FremantleMedia

Hogg runs the production company that wrote the rule book on shiny-floor shows, has expanded its drama slate with Stephens (The King) and Porter (the Prisoner remake, Wentworth) at the helm, and launched a branded content business, Spring.

Leonie Lowe, CEO, ITV Studios

A rising star in the executive ranks who has overseen a range of unscripted formats, from Dancing with the Stars to Mad As Hell and Ten’s Talkin’ ’bout My Generation.

Janeen Faithfull, CEO, Southern Star

A television industry veteran of almost 30 years, 15 of them at the Seven Network, Faithfull joined Southern Star in 2012.

Angelos Frangopoulos, CEO, Sky News

Master of pay TV’s smart and sharp 24-hour news channel is one of television’s most connected players. His resume includes stints at BSkyB, Nine and Prime.

Nick Murray, Andrew Denton and Michael Cordell, Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder

The first of Australia’s proper super-indies; that is, small production companies with clout. CJZ’s titles include Go Back to Where You Came From, Bondi Rescue and Gruen Planet.

Chris Oliver-Taylor, Debbie Lee, Penny Chapman and Tony Ayres, Matchbox Pictures

An emerging force in the super-indie sector, Matchbox has the backing of NBC Universal and immense talent in its executive team. Its credits include The Slap.

Tony Iffland, director of content, SBS

One of television’s rare gentlemen, a shrewd channel manager and content commissioner, who is steering SBS into a smart, sexy digital era.

The triple threats

Brendan Cowell, Claudia Karvan, Chris Lilley and Shaun Micallef, actor-writer-producer-directors

Australian TV has delivered a diverse class of talent in recent years, but the gold standard is a new generation of actor-deal makers who conceive and produce their own projects, including Summer Heights High, Love My Way and The Outlaw Michael Howe.

The innovators

Tracey Robertson and Nathan Mayfield, Hoodlum

Hoodlum specialises in multi-platform projects and has produced digital content for the BBC series Spooks, the US series Lost, films including The Bourne Legacy and, most recently, the ABC2 comedy The Strange Calls.

The master programmers

Michael Healy, director of television, Nine Network

A master of fine-tuning the schedule to squeeze the smallest fractions of audience gain, Healy has overseen Nine’s recapture of much lost ground, notably in the key demographic of viewers aged 25 to 54.

Tim Worner, chief executive, Seven Network

Taught by the industry’s best – former chief executive David Leckie and former Nine programming genius John Stephens – Worner controls the most successful commercial program schedule in Australia, and has a commanding lead over his rivals.

The rising stars

Adam Zwar, High Wire Films

Zwar, with his real-life partner Amanda Brotchie, has created a suite of edgy, engaging shows, including Lowdown, Agony Uncles, Agony Aunts and The Agony of Life.

Asher Keddie and Lachy Hulme, actors

You can count on one hand the number of Australian actors who have the clout to walk into a room and get a project the green light. They’re smart and bankable and they balance critical praise with commercial appeal.

Rick Kalowski, creative director, Quail Television

One of Australia’s most prolific comedy writers, with credits including Comedy Inc. and Double Take. Kalowski co-created At Home with Julia for ABC1.

Hamish Macdonald, senior foreign correspondent, Ten

Began his career at Britain’s Channel Four and Al Jazeera. In 2012, he became host of the revived Ten Late News; now he gets his own show, The Truth Is.

Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope, Gristmill

A partnership in every sense of the word – Butler and Hope are married – this duo specialises in darker comedies, notably The Librarians, Very Small Business and the as-yet-unseen Upper Middle Bogan for ABC1.

The money man

Harold Mitchell, executive chairman, Aegis Media

In television, nothing is truer than the golden rule: he who controls the gold rules the roost. And Harold Mitchell is in charge of more gold than anyone else in the business. He controls the biggest media-buying agency in Australia and wields enormous personal influence through a vast array of connections.

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Little man has high hopes of making it

There was much mirth at Geelong last week when a consignment of new guernseys was opened to reveal outfits so shrunken that Jimmy Bartel ran out against Adelaide last Saturday having barely squeezed into the No.17 jumper that was meant for Hamish McIntosh.
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For Nathan Deans’ sake, hopefully this was a sign from the footy gods that small is back in vogue.

Deans reports his height as just under 167 centimetres, adding ”unfortunately”. At 18, he fears his growing days are done.

His lack of height in a game that has long been smitten with tall timber has made him an unusual eye-catcher in recent weeks, as he pushes for a berth in the final squad that will defend Geelong’s VFL premiership. He’ll find out next week if he makes the 21, and is well-versed in being told he’s not built for the game.

”People lean towards it without putting it straight out there,” Deans says of assessments that focus more on his physique than his football. ”They just say, ‘You probably haven’t got the build for the game at the moment’.”

Matthew Knights had a famous on-field run-in with the shortest player to make an AFL list in the recent times, 163-centimetre Western Bulldog Tony Liberatore, but Geelong’s VFL coach bears no sizeist scars. Deans has impressed him.

”As a coach you take them on face value – you respect everyone’s talents regardless of size, [height] is a little bit irrelevant from a coaching perspective,” Knights says. ”It hasn’t really fazed me too much, and Nathan doesn’t seem fazed by it himself.”

Knights cites Deans’ appetite for the contest as the standout feature of his game, his work at stoppages, his fierce tackling. Deans describes himself as an in-and-under type with a strong defensive game.

At football’s elite levels, his ilk was once as common as today’s 200centimetre-plus giants. The evolution has been stark; none of the 10 shortest players in VFL/AFL history have played since the shortest of them all, 155-centimetre Jim ”Nipper” Bradford, played the last of his 16 games for Collingwood and North Melbourne in 1949.

None of which concerns Deans, who since grade 2 has been known as ”Speedy”, and recently picked up ”Nugget” as a nod to the effect of some serious gym work on his 75-kilogram frame. ”I haven’t really thought about it too much – when I was younger you got the hint [that size could hold him back], but now I just enjoy my footy.”

He won Grovedale’s best and fairest last season in the strong local league, and admits that the further his football has taken him the more pointed have been the reminders that modern football isn’t supposed to accommodate men who stand five-foot-five.

”Especially in senior footy you cop it, everybody sledging you, calling you short-arse, saying ‘You won’t be able to kick that far with legs that short’ when you’re having a shot at goal.” Deans lets it wash over him, content to show them he can roost a ball further than they think.

He impressed against Essendon’s VFL side in a practice game last weekend, and thinks it’s a bonus that he’s come this far. Knights won’t be looking him up and down in making the decision. ”It’s a hard list to make, but he’s certainly in there slugging.”

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Sharks up in arms with trainer

Closing ranks: Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan barred the media from his club’s training session on Wednesday. Flanagan
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Cronulla players and officials believe former head trainer Trent Elkin has informed the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency about the drug and supplements program which was in place during his time at the NRL club.

Sources have told Fairfax Media that Elkin, who finished his tenure at the club last year to take up a position at Parramatta, met with ASADA recently. It is understood players and officials are furious at Elkin.

When contacted by Fairfax Media, Elkin refused to comment about any matter regarding his involvement with the Sharks.

Cronulla players are believed to be considering legal action if they are suspended for inadvertently taking performance-enhancing substances.

Up to 14 Sharks players are understood to have been offered six-month bans if they plead guilty to using prohibited drugs. But it is understood they argued that if they had taken drugs, they did so unknowingly. It is unclear whether former Cronulla players now at other clubs have been offered the same deal, which would save them from the usual two-year bans handed down to athletes testing positive to performance-enhancing drugs.

Fairfax Media has been told Sharks players were given Thymosin Beta 4 and CJC-1295 peptides during the 2011 season.

It is understood the products were not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list at the time but both were included in the Australian Crime Commission report into doping and match fixing under the heading “Performance and Image Enhancing Substances”.

If the players were to be suspended, Fairfax Media was told the players might sue the club, claiming to have been told the substances were legal. A source told Fairfax Media the players could claim the Sharks had a duty of care for them while they were employed by the club.

If they were suspended for six months, the players would not only miss the majority of this season but there was a risk their long-term careers would be severely damaged. The players would also lose 50 per cent of their contract money for the year as Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority guidelines prevent the payment to athletes suspended for drugs use.

Cronulla officials will also come under scrutiny over the decision to hire controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank and the level of autonomy he was given at the club.

Dank is at the centre of the ASADA investigation into AFL club Essendon and similar allegations about the use of peptides by their players and has been interviewed twice by the ACC. He has denied any wrongdoing, and Fairfax Media has been told there are allegations against another member of the Sharks’ off-field staff over the use of performance-enhancing substances by players.

The ACC report described CJC-1295 as a growth hormone releasing peptide and “one of the principal peptides identified by the ACC and ASADA as being misused in both professional sports and the broader population”.

Thymosin Beta 4 is used to aid injury recovery and is described in the ACC report as “not regulated”. It is used extensively for performance enhancement in horses.

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan shut the media out of training on Wednesday and could not be contacted afterwards.

However, it is understood he does not anticipate any changes to the side he named on Tuesday to host Gold Coast in Sunday night’s opening round fixture.

A statement posted on the Cronulla website on Wednesday night said the club was fully assisting with the ASADA investigation.

“Sharks fans and all rugby league supporters can be assured the club has been very proactive in fully co-operating with ASADA and taking other measures that prioritise the integrity of our club and the welfare of our playing group,” the statement said. “While there are strict boundaries around what we can say while the ASADA investigation is ongoing, fans should be assured that as soon as there is an opportunity to provide further information we will do so.”

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Oz The Great And Powerful

James Franco and Mila Kunis in Oz the Great and Powerful.FILM(PG)General release (130 minutes)
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There’s no place like home, Judy Garland learnt when she clicked the heels of her ruby slippers together and headed back to Kansas. But there’s more than one story attached to the Land of Oz. Frank L. Baum wrote more than a dozen of them, and Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked was the basis for a hit Broadway musical of the same name that explored what happened before Dorothy set foot on the Yellow Brick Road.

Sami Raimi’s Oz The Great And Powerful is an origins story that goes even further back – a tale of how the Wizard came to hold sway in the Emerald City. Part of this background is already explained in the 1939 movie, but it’s filled out a little by screenwriters David Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell Kapner. James Franco plays Oscar Diggs, a shameless showman and travelling magician with an ingratiating smile, a trifler with the affections of various young women. Fleeing an awkward situation, he is transported to Oz, hailed as a mighty wizard and long-awaited saviour, and expected to pit himself against some powerful magic (embodied by witches Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis).

There were legal constraints that didn’t allow the filmmakers to reference the original too closely. But that’s not really the problem: what’s disappointing about the movie is its failure to add anything significant to the Oz mythology – unlike Wicked, which developed relationships, themes and implications from the original, and created a strong story of its own. Oz the Great and Powerful really doesn’t have much to say for itself. There are visual echoes of the original, particularly in the lush colour of the production design, but the movie soon runs out of ideas and emotional impact, and becomes a large-scale special effects scramble.

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Bailout fund does the big banks plenty of favours

Anybody keen for a loan of $380 billion at, let’s say, an interest rate of 3.4 per cent? Sounds nice, eh? Well, you the taxpayer are in the process of making such a loan. Or at least you will soon extend, most kindly if as yet unwittingly, such a credit facility to the big banks, to be used at any time, at their discretion.
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Taxpayers already guarantee 60 per cent of bank funding via the deposits guarantee for zero compensation. Yes, it is exceptionally generous, the so-called Committed Liquidity Facility, which is in effect a permanent bailout facility that comes into play in 2015. Christopher Joye, the managing director of property research group Rismark, makes the point that this massive line of credit is unusual and generous by global banking standards and it has been established with ”no public debate”.

”Smaller building societies and credit unions are not subject to the liquidity tests and will not, therefore, have access to the bailout fund,” Joye writes in the Financial Review.

To put this in perspective, bank loans to small businesses now average 8.45 per cent. Secured by the business person’s residential property, they are priced at 7.6 per cent. The average mortgage holder is forking out 5.65 per cent fully discounted.

Yet the biggest businesses in Australia – Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, NAB and ANZ – will be able to trot down to the Reserve Bank, lodge a bunch of their own loans – car loans if they like – and march off with billions at the bargain-basement interest rate of 3.4 per cent for 12 months or more.

The wholesale funding guarantee – with its prejudicial pricing in favour of the big four – is still in play until 2015 and, now, we have the mother of all bailout funds.

If any other business in the country can’t meet its obligations it has to render itself insolvent. But the banks can just shimmy on down to the RBA, chuck a bit of collateral over the counter and romp off with a few lazy billion at the cash rate plus 25 basis points and another 15 basis points.

That is indeed nice work if you can get it. Nobody would disagree that Australia should have a strong banking system. Most agree, grudgingly, that the country has been well-served by its banks.

But where is the debate on this issue? Where is the debate about ”moral hazard”? Why should the banks pay any heed to the disciplines of risk whatsoever if they have no chance of going bust but are nonetheless hardly paying for the privilege of community support?

Does this country have the most generous support mechanisms for banks in the world? The answer would appear to be yes.

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Martyn slams batsmen

Damien Martyn has accused Australia of lacking fight in its second Test capitulation in India, and queries the methodology behind the selection of a ”bits and pieces” touring party.
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The former Test batsmen was the player of the series in Australia’s historic 2-1 win in India in 2004, scoring two centuries and topping the scoring tally with 444 runs at an average of 55.

Martyn said Australia’s batsmen had failed to heed the lessons about playing in the subcontinent.

”I was more disappointed probably by our second innings – the wicket was hard to bat on, yes, it’s doing a bit more and turning more,” said Martyn, speaking on an online panel, The Cricket Club.

”But to be bowled out in a session – it’s just disappointing in the sense that, where was the fight? I’m not saying we need to make 400 or whatever, but just in our shot selection and running between wickets.

“Batting in India, or batting on any wicket, the harder the wicket is, the longer you bat it becomes easier because you’re used to the conditions, you’re used to the ball coming on.”

Martyn also took aim at the make-up of the squad in India. He said the shortage of depth in Sheffield Shield cricket was a major problem but believes selectors are not picking the best side possible.

“What is Steve Smith there for anyway?” he said. “We have a squad here of players who do bits and pieces. Nothing personal against them. Yes, they might be great one-day players and Twenty20 players, but in that line-up the (Glenn) Maxwells and all these guys, what’s their main thing?

“That’s what I want to know. Is Maxwell going to be our main off-spinner in England? Because if he’s not, then don’t worry about him, get (Nathan) Lyon back in.”

The chances of that happening in Mohali are not high. Australia are likely to revert back to a line-up of three fast bowlers in India’s north on a wicket tipped to favour their seamers more than Chennai and Hyderabad.

Australia head coach Mickey Arthur said Maxwell had been too expensive in the second Test despite taking four wickets. But asked whether Lyon was in contention to be recalled by next week, Arthur was non-committal.

“To answer that truthfully, I’m not sure,” he said. “We will have to have a look and see where he is over the next couple of days. I’m not sure on that, time will tell I guess.

“I think Nathan still has a massive future and he probably he is up there as our best spinner at the moment, but you fluctuate in and out of form and he’s learning the game at international level, which is a really tough gig for him.”

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