Number 96

I’ve spent most of the day watching television: a combination of Fox News, CNN and Number 96. I’m totally addicted to coverage of the US election. It’s almost as gripping as an episode of the classic Australian soap opera.

I was only 6 years old when Number 96 appeared on Australian television. When it premiered, it promised something completely new on Australian television. There was homosexuality. There was full-frontal nudity. There was a mixed-race relationship, which included the first kiss between a white man and an Aboriginal woman on Australian television. And there was a lot of ethnic diversity. Put simply, Number 96 was showing Australia as it was. But not in an Eastenders “drab” kinda way. Number 96 was highly entertaining.

Rightly or wrongly, my parents allowed me to watch the show from a young age. While I know some people would find this appalling, I’m glad they did. As from an early age, I’ve grown up quite open-minded and open to diversity. As “older parents”, they’d been around the block a few times (with adult daughters), and I guess they made the decision it was all okay. I think the only time mum told me to go to my room was when Deborah Gray appeared full-frontal. But it didn’t matter, because the local television station, RTN-8 blacked out the screen completely anyway.

For me, though, I think it was all about the great sense of humour in the program. It was also quite camp. But mostly, it was just authentic. As I’ve been watching back some of the episodes contained on the newly released DVD, I’m surprised at how well it’s maintained its relevance. Sure, there are some funny, odd looking 70’s characters. And sure there are some anachronisms which we would all laugh about now. But the characters are good, and strong, and played with genuine authenticity.

Even the comic characters of Dorrie Evans and Flo Patterson are entirely believable. I know people just like them. Sure, they’re few and far between these days, but they’re still around.

The actors and writers obviously took the show seriously and that’s why it’s still around and watchable today.

This is not the case with Fox News at the moment. They’ve been running a pro-McCain/pro-Palin agenda for the last few months, and you can now see from the look on the faces of the presenters, a lot of them no longer see it as viable.

I quite like Fox News, as they have a genuine entertainment value to everything they do. It’s not “news” with a capital “n”, of course. It’s the kind of “news” you find on commercial talkback radio. But once you accept that reality, you quickly overcome some of the associated baggage.

Unfortunately though, they’ve been so partisan in this election campaign, presumably a management directive, the lack of authenticity is now starting to show. You can see from the look on the face of the presenters they no longer believe what they’re saying. They’re clasping at straws, while the candidates are realising, as Bill Clinton once observed, “It’s the economy, stupid”.

If all the polls are correct, Obama is gonna win which leaves Fox News with a dilemma. It either puts them completely out of step with mainstream America, or it gives them a particular and committed niche which they can further develop.

Their editorial emphasis has changed in the last few days from “why you shouldn’t vote for Obama” to “how bad the country will be because people will vote for Obama”. I hope I’ve articulated that distinction clearly…

I’ll be interested to see how they deal with the election result.

There again, they might have it right…? Who knows, this could be “the event” that “makes” Fox News.

3 comments

  1. In my humble, the only things that can stop Obama winning are electoral fraud or a bullet. Sadly, given US history, neither is completely out of the question…

    but I’m confident neither will happen. Go-Bama!

  2. Gosh your parents were very avant-garde letting you watch! I remember living with my grandparents in East Maitland in 1975 while my parents were north rebuilding Darwin and watching it through a crack in my bedroom door. I’m fairly sure my nanna knew I was there! A really bizarre memory.
    I remember the “shock” when Arnie came home to find his wife murdered! Wow! And there was a bomb wasn’t there?? With Aldo involved??
    I rememebr seeing Elaine Lee in something about 10 years ago where she played a very believable chronic alcoholic. Good to hear she is still around and fighting fit!

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