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Simpsons 'safe'

Posted April 27th, 2009 by debritz

“The Simpsons is not cancelled. The reaction to the unfortunate rumour circulating this morning underpins the popularity of this great show, which is a Ten fixture.”

So said a Channel Ten spokesperson in response to rumours published in this morning's Courier-Mail which said the network couldn't afford the $25,000 price of reruns of the cartoon and would instead extend its nightly news to 90 minutes. Apparently it was all a mnisunderstanding derived from a media release announcing the appointment of former CNN star Hugh Riminton as political reporter and mentioning the amount of news Ten broadcasts across the day.

Mamma Mia's return

Posted April 27th, 2009 by debritz

I think we mentioned the return of the stage version of Mamma Mia! during my spot with Spencer Howson last Friday, but we didn't provide the dates. It will open in Sydney on October 24 this year and play the Lyric Theatre in Brisbane from August 10 to September 19 next year. The cast will include Anne Wood, Jennifer Vuletic, Lara Mulcahy, Michael Cormick, Robert Grubb and Peter Hardy. To register your interest in tickets, go to mamma-mia.com and click on the Australian page.

Farewell, Bea Arthur

Posted April 26th, 2009 by debritz

Bea Arthur, the Maude and Golden Girls star who has died at the age of 86, had a stellar career with few missteps. Perhaps the biggest one was agreeing to star in Amanda's, a very short-lived US sitcom based on the British hit Fawlty Towers, but without the Basil character. She also featured in the Star Wars Holiday Special, a song-and-dance TV show which has proved an embarrassment to George Lucas and the cast of the original Star Wars trilogy.

Crowd pleaser

Posted April 24th, 2009 by debritz

Thanks to Scott Spark from 612ABC for this idea: why don't theatre companies offer free return tickets to people who enjoyed a show, so they can bring their friends? Obviously some conditions would have to be attached but this initiative could:
* fill otherwise partly empty auditoriums;
* reward loyalty;
* put at least one person in the audience you know will enjoy the show, and will encourage others to as well;
* introduce new people to the wonders of the theatre.

Where's there's a Will ...

Posted April 23rd, 2009 by debritz

Today could be the 445th birthday of William Shakespeare, assuming he was baptised (on April 26, 1564) just a few days after being born. He left behind the most incredible body of work and yet we still know so little about him - giving rise, of course, to many theories that he was not the true author of the plays and sonnets attributed to him. As I've said before, I tend to think there's a strong element of elitism in the claims that someone better educated, better connected at court and more worldly must have been responsible for the greatest body of work in English literature. So, until compelling evidence to the contrary emerges, I'm going to give Old Will the benefit of the doubt.

He died ... laughing

Posted April 19th, 2009 by debritz

He Died With A Felafel In His Hand
Director: Natalie Bochenski
By John Birmingham; adapted for the stage by Simon Bedak, Steve Le Marquand and Michael Neaylon.
Venue: Brisbane Arts Theatre until May 2

A shade too boring

Posted April 14th, 2009 by debritz

Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale has been named the song most played in public places over the past 75 years. Yes, but that probably includes the six times some friends of mine programmed it to play on the juke box at the old Rec Club at the University of Queensland in the early 1980s - before they left the premises and let everybody else suffer.

Very soft sell

Posted April 8th, 2009 by debritz

A friend living in China writes:

Bought a copy of My Zinc Bed starring Uma Thurman, Paddy Considine and Jonathan Pryce in a David Hare play.
For the blurb on the cover they went to the IMDB reviews.
Did they choose "This marvellous production", "A quiet but tense piece", "Uma Thurman's best acting ever" or even "One of the most brilliantly written, acted, and directed films I've seen all year"?
Of course not, why any of those when you can tempt dvd buyers with: "I watched My Zinc Bed last night on BBC2. I had high hopes for this one-off drama but quite frankly it was a truly awful piece of Television. It was clearly made for American TV. Everything about it felt fake: the over the top acting, the shots and the music. It was a adapted from a play, but why? It was boring."

My friend adds that the chosen review turned out to be fairly accurate.

Botox or not

Posted April 7th, 2009 by debritz

For the record: I have never used Botox. Who do you think I am? Sonia Kruger?

Mistaken identity

Posted March 31st, 2009 by debritz

I don't share or particularly understand New Idea's obsession with Bec Hewitt, but I'm sure the staff and management at the glossy are feeling pain over their latest "scoop". It turns out that the "other man" the magazine uncovered in the former soap startlet's life is, in fact, her brother. Hewitt and her tennis-playing hubby, Lleyton, are apparently suing. The couple told the Herald Sun:

"For some time now we've had to endure fictional, rubbish stories by New Idea and Woman's Day targeted at our marriage, private lives and even work with charities.
"This brazen fabrication by New Idea will hopefully highlight to the Australian public the untruths and lies some magazines will resort to to achieve increased sales."

It must be said that the Hewitts have taken money from glossy mags in the past for exclusive access to significant moments in their lives, but that doesn't excuse this non-story.
The big question is: Why do people buy these magazines when they run fabricated stories? And what's happened to the notion of journalistic ethics? Doubtless there are some people who will say that celebrity gossip sells; but has it occurred to them that one of the reasons for the overall decline in sales is that people simply no longer believe what they are reading?

Ice comes clean

Posted March 13th, 2009 by debritz

"Even though Ice Ice Baby sold over 40 million copies worldwide I have no excuses ... I'm sorry for the hair-dos, baggy pants, the scandals, the lies, the gangs ... and I'm sorry about the music."

That´s Vanilla Ice apologising for ... well, his entire shortlived musical career. I´m glad he mentioned the lies because, apart from the absurd level of security he had at the Brisbane Hilton way back when I interviewed him, he told me that he held the world speedboat record. Now that was in the dim, dark pre-Google era and it was a very hard fact to dissprove. From memory, my colleagues and I took it with a bucketload of salt.

Not so fab

Posted March 11th, 2009 by debritz

The Americans are remaking Absolutely Fabulous. My hunch: it´ll disappear quicker than you can say Kath & Kim.

Going down like a BoM

Posted March 6th, 2009 by debritz

Brotherhood of Man, the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest winners who are still touring with the original line-up, are playing in Glasgow tonight. I hope they have changed the inappropriate final verse to their big hit Save Your Kisses for Me.
PS: Peter Tork, of The Monkees, has revealed he has a rare form of head and neck cancer, but the prognosis is good. I wish him well.

Holmes away from home

Posted March 5th, 2009 by debritz

"I don’t really cook that much - eventually I will. I do make cupcakes. And [Tom] makes his pasta carbonara for me. He knows exactly how to do it: a pinch of this, a pinch of that. He has a recipe, but he also kind of [improvises] by himself. You have to do the egg at a certain time. He did it once when we were camping."

So says Katie Holmes, who strangely doesn't look like she's ever eaten a cupcake or spag carbonara - or roughed it by going camping - in her life.

Hair today ...

Posted March 4th, 2009 by debritz

In Brisbane, Jillian Whiting was recently complaining about having to pay $425 for a haircut. In London, it's been revealed that Jennifer Aniston paid £40,000 (A$88,000) on her hairstyle. Mind you, a lot of that was on first class airfares and accommodation for her hairdresser, Chris McMillan, but he apparently does charge £1,500 a day to pick up the scissors and do what he does. Who said we're in a recession?

Soft sell

Posted March 3rd, 2009 by debritz

I thought it made sense to use only positive quotes from critics to plug movies. Not in the strange world of DVD sales in China apparently ...

Oh no, Elmo's been shot

Posted March 2nd, 2009 by debritz

An instant classic from The Onion radio news:

007th heaven

Posted February 28th, 2009 by debritz

For the first time, I am reading some of Ian Fleming's James Bond stories and it's occurred to me that they present a great opportunity to the people who own the film rights to extend the franchise. As well as continuing with their successful update featuring Daniel Craig, they should look at making some smaller period pieces that are more faithful to Fleming's originals. How marvellous it would be for a Bond movie set in the late 50s or early 60s, where, for example, a noir version of the scene in From a View to a Kill where a beautiful female agent has to drive around our hero's favourite Paris haunts to find him, rather than just dial his mobile phone number as one would these days. Sure, there's the problematic sexism and smoking to contend with, but I think there would be a real market for this kind of nostalgia - especially in the current economic climate*.
* And what an awful phrase that is ...

Farewell, Wendy Richard

Posted February 27th, 2009 by debritz

The British actress Wendy Richard, best known for her roles in Are You Being Served? and EastEnders, has died of cancer at age 65. She also appeared in two Carry On films and was in a scene of the Beatles film Help! that didn't make the final cut. More here.

Goody and baddie

Posted February 24th, 2009 by debritz

Why, asks the Daily Mail's Harry Worth, is Britain celebrating Jade Goody and vilifying Gail Trimble? Goody, the former Big Brother housemate who is dying of cancer, has been the subject of thousands of fawning media reports and is apparently adored by the nation. Trimble, whose formidable intelligence catapulted her team, Corpus Christi College Oxford, to a win in television's University Challenge this week, has become the subject of a hate campaign. While we should all feel sorry for Goody in her predicament, her achievements pale in comparison to those of Trimble. The media here in the UK can't get enough of Goody's "fairytale wedding" to a man who was jailed for a violent attack on a teenager and is still the subject of a curfew, but the blogosphere is full of venom when it comes to Trimble. Goody, who famously thought Cambridge was in London and "East Angular" was a separate country, is adored; Trimble, whose range and depth of knowlegde is staggering, is the victim of widespread derision. And, as Worth points out, if Trimble continues to pursue the academic life and becomes a university professor, she is likely to earn less in her career than Goody netted from media deals for last weekend's wedding.

Doing a Woody

Posted February 24th, 2009 by debritz

"I'm going to do it because it's Woody Allen."

That's Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto (pictured, with co-star Dev Patel) announcing that she'll appear alongside Anthony Hopkins and Josh Brolin in the next Woody Allen film. Allen's name may be curiously absent from ads for Vicky Cristina Barcelona (for which Penelope Cruz won an Oscar), but the stars are still queuing up to be in his movies.

Hot dog

Posted February 23rd, 2009 by debritz

Yes, indeed, I do wish I'd put money on Slumdog Millionaire to clean up at the Oscars ...

57 channels and nothing on

Posted February 22nd, 2009 by debritz

While I was desperately flicking my television remote last night trying to find something I wanted to watch, I was reminded again of the limitations of broadcast TV. Although the Freeview system in the UK is brilliant compared to, for example, the meagre offerings on free-to-air TV in Australia, it's not enough. Neither are the 100+ extra channels available on cable/satellite. It's time for a genuine pay-for-view option that lets us watch what we want when we want. For example, if I wanted to watch every episode of my current favourite show, Scrubs, back-to-back, I should be able to do so, without having to wait for Channel 4 and E4 to screen them (and then suddenly, for no apparent reason, start getting them out of order). Similarly, I should be able to watch every episode of Have I Got News For You or Mock the Week, not just get angry when Dave repeats the same small number of them over and over and over. (Last week, the same MTW episode was on almost every night - twice!) It's often said that the reason record companies are now facing difficulty is that they were too slow to latch on to the possibilities of downloading. Well, lots of people are now downloading TV shows and movies, and the production companies and TV networks are equally slow in repsonding. The BBC iPlayer and its commercial equivalents are fine, but they only show the episodes they have recently broadcast. I know the producers have contractual obligations to broadcast networks around the world not to gazump them, but surely contracts could be drawn up that allow people who want to see shows as soon as they are screened in their country of origin to do so (at a price) rather than have to wait for their local broadcaster to get around to it. Similarly, there is no reason why television's entire back catalogue can't be made available for paid download.

Less than a Thriller?

Posted February 21st, 2009 by debritz

Michael Jackson is reportedly planning a 30-date comedback tour to begin this (northern) summer at London's O2 Stadium. No doubt he'll sell a lot of tickets - but will he still be able to produce the goods? Or, if the many plastic-surgery-gone-wrong reports are to be believed, perhaps he'll melt or fall apart live on stage.

Faking it

Posted February 20th, 2009 by debritz

One week; two hoaxes. 1) The story of the Chinese mistress who drove off a cliff after taking place in a bizarre beauty contest to keep her job was made up by a reporter. 2) Now it emerges, via Popbitch, that the original Cheeta from the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies is not, as has been claimed, still alive and living in genteel retirement in his late 70s. That one's explained here.

Who'd have thought it?

Posted February 19th, 2009 by debritz

Les McKeown pictured in the Daily Mail
Seventies heartthrob Les McKeown, from Scottish superband the Bay City Rollers, has announced that he's gay. Bloody hell. Next they'll be telling us the Village People were less than hetero.

Reality bites again

Posted February 19th, 2009 by debritz

Another "reality TV" star has fallen on hard times. The mis-named J.D. Fortune, who won the Rock Star competition to become the lead singer of INXS, has been dumped by the band (at Hong Kong airport, no less) and is now living in his car somewhere in Canada. Fortune, also known as Jason Dean Bennison, says it might have something to do with his cocaine abuse. That in turn may have something to do with his being rocketed to fame from Nowheresville without first earning his stripes and having insufficient instruction in how to deal with it all.* I know a very small number of "reality" stars have made it big, but so many have fallen by the wayside that I think we should all start to think about the ethics behind these shows.
PS: At least Fortune's 15 minutes of fame lasted about two years; what's the average shelf life of a Big Brother contestant?
* As I've said many times before, the music industry ought to be held to account for the number of drug addicts it not only tolerates but actively encourages.

Woody who?

Posted February 18th, 2009 by debritz

Woody Allen's latest movie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, is going gangbusters. In the US, according to boxofficemojo.com, it's earned $23,213,577 and it has been his biggest grosser since Hannah and Her Sisters in 1986. Overall it's his No. 4 earner in America from about 40 films, following Hannah, Manhattan and Annie Hall. Internationally, VCB has earned some good reviews, already made a further $64,420,602 and is still screening in many markets. Here in the UK, it is being advertised widely in newspapers and on buses. The ads make big play of the stars - including A-listers Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz (pictured) and Javier Bardem - but there's no mention at all of Allen (except in very small, unreadably fuzzy type at the bottom of some of the press ads). Obviously somebody in marketingland thinks it will fare better without having the writer/director's name attached to it.

Funny business

Posted February 18th, 2009 by debritz

"British people don't find success funny. In America, [sitcom characters] are all good-looking and live high off the hog. There are very few silly arses in American comedy. But here, it's all upper-class berks or lower-class idiots. We're attracted to losers."

That, according to Alan Simpson - one half of the Galton and Simpson scriptwriting duo that created Hancock's Half Hour, Steptoe and Son and other Britcomes - is the difference between US and UK comedy. There's more here.

Animal cruelty

Posted February 17th, 2009 by debritz

A cautionary tale about trying to treat animals too much like humans: a chimpanzee who appeared in TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola had to be shot by police after it savagely attacked a woman. The owner had told police that the chimp, Travis, "was toilet trained, dressed himself, took his own baths, ate at the table, brushed his teeth and drank from a wineglass ... He also used a remote control to watch TV and could log onto a computer to look at pictures".
Questions: What was in the wineglass, and exactly what was he downloading from the computer?

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