Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Rachmaninov on rails.

There seems to be nothing on television except food shows and filth. Free-to-air TV is practically dead in the water, confirmed by the fact that the federal government has just handed the three commercial channels $250 million to ‘bolster local content’. Great: the taxpayer just paid for another ten years of Neighbours.

It’s only out of a years-old habit that I occasionally scan the green guide to see if anyone is broadcasting anything worth watching; something, for example, that has humour and plot and uses an actual script written by a writer. Series such as Minder and Callan come to mind, but I haven’t seen them in the listings for years. Perhaps the writer died. Perhaps he starved to death in a garret.

The descriptions in today’s program guides are all the same:
Jasmine sets Alice up on a blind date but things go awry when he turns out to be a vampire, so she flees to the wild and lives on spider’s eyes cooked by Ian Hewitson (who just happened to be there filming a new series of Huey’s Cooking Adventures), before being discovered by a Lost producer who makes her the star of a new reality series hosted by Eddie McGuire in which she marries Prince William in front of a live audience, before Jeremy Clarkson drives them away to a eco-resort honeymoon in a 1954 Aston Martin DB4, which crashes, and (warning: plot disclosure) they are all killed.
(Rated PG: low level violence, language, bad taste, sleazy commercials, adult themes, drug references, medical procedures and nudity. Note: no actual spiders or Aston Martin DB4s were harmed in the making of this program.)
It’s the same night after night.

But then I noticed something called Monster Moves on SBS. The series documents the moving of very large objects such as houses, vintage trains, churches and aircraft across land and sea. The director of this series had obviously decided that production values should make a long-awaited return to the screen, while superlative soundtracks give each episode a kind of ethereal atmosphere evoking something of the triumph of nineteenth century engineering feats. The episode in which a vintage steam train is moved ‘back home’ to Glasgow from its rusty graveyard in South Africa is accompanied by a moody, atmospheric music track performed by a male choir. Its motif mimics the beat of a slow-moving steam engine.

The series wasn't made for children, but the boys watched the steam train episode with me and were transported into an hour-long wide-eyed silence, before going off to bed like zombies. Next morning they were chanting the song's chorus, which had echoed through the episode like Rachmaninov through an old Russian church:

This is the train from Bloemfontein
Mighty workhorse of the African plain
This is the train from Bloemfontein
Off to Scotland ... home again.


Tracy B said...

The sound track was amazing! Just like a soviet era choir. It was the first episode I'd seen. Is it always like that????

kitchen hand said...

Tracy, it was the first episode I'd seen as well - the second (last Saturday) had a different kind of soundtrack but equally brilliant.

Dr. Alice said...

I'm going to have to keep an eye out for this, it sounds wonderful.