Posted by: jkirkby8712 | April 20, 2011

Monday, 18th April 2011 – enjoying a TV series for a change of pace!

One of those Mondays in a month when things get a little busy at the office – Committee meeting day, etc, although it was admittedly a little quieter than usual, thanks to a couple of absentees.

And meanwhile, the family weekend dramas continued – they say these things come in threes, so I suppose it should be no surprise to receive a phone call from eldest son James this morning – he was taking Shirley’s 90 year old mother to the Sunshine hospital [where Shirley was last weekend]. Over the weekend, she had fallen in the backyard, and in the process, had broken one of her arms [thank heavens it was not a hip!]. Apparently, in all of her 90 years, this was the first time Win have ever actually ‘broken’ anything on her body. What a pity to get this far, and then this happen!  Anyway, she was back home tonight, with her arm in plaster – and worrying about she was going to manage, cooking the Easter Sunday lunch for the family!!

As for myself, I managed three walks in a row this evening – commitments and weather have broken that pattern a little this year, but with the weight appearing to come down a little, that is encouragement to step up the program. Particularly when I learn that my cycling brother [just 2 years younger than myself] is working towards a cycle tour ‘across’ America next year!!! I hope he gets to do it, and survives the attempt!

Late yesterday, after my  Sunday afternoon radio show, I was home in time to see the closing stages of the Chinese Grand Prix [Formula One car racing]. Australia’s Mark Webber, because of poor qualifying times, etc on Friday and Saturday, had to begin the race from 18th position on the starting grid. I think that when I came into the picture, he had got up about 10th position. In fact, it was a sensational drive by Webber, who with less than a lap to go, powered his way into third position and a place up on the winner’s  podium, in a race won by another great drive by former World Champion Lewis Hamilton, and Webber’s ‘team mate’, Sebastian Vettel having to be satisfied with 2nd, after winning both the Australian and Malaysian Grand Prix.     Meanwhile, it was around 7.30pm, when Susie left to return to Bendigo, I think she was aware that I was a little worried about her driving up the highway after dark – said she would message me when she reached the end of her journey [which she did]. Talking to her mother later, it seems Susie tried to see Jimmy yesterday – a visit that was not successful, and probably left her quite upset again.  However, after a chat at Goonawarra last night, and another spell at her job today, she did appear to be in a more positive frame of mind when she left tonight.  This ‘break’ has been forced upon her, and unfortunately, like we all do from time to time, she is going to have to accept the changed over time, as painful as I know that is going to be, Anyway, I was sad to see her leave the house again last night, even if it will only be for a couple of days this week, due to school holidays, etc.

Both Sunday night, and tonight, I did something out of character – watched a two part TV series – haven’t done that for quite a while, usually because they appear on a commercial; channel,  and I simply can’t be bothered trying to enjoy a show that is constantly interrupted by commercials. This one was on the ABC, so was uninterrupted!  Joys!!

It was the story of  the magazine that made history for what wasn’t being worn – courtesy of that nude male centrefold [of Jack Thompson]  –  .a  telemovie about ‘Cleo’ and its pioneering editor, Ita Buttrose, and in particular her interaction with the Packers [father and son].  Now Cleo is not a magazine that I have any shown any interest in – it was afterall a magazine for women, but the intended storyline attracted my attention. As one previewer noted,   ‘In 1972, two ambitious, young upstarts, Ita Buttrose and Kerry Packer, created Cleo, a bold and naughty magazine that became one of the most dramatic sensations in Australian publishing history’.  Titled ‘Paper Giants’,  it chronicled the mishaps and stumbling blocks along the way, whilst also highlighting the importance of a young Kerry Packer (Rob Carlton) in getting the magazine off the ground, as well demonstrating the relationship between Kerry, and his father, Sir Frank Packer, whom the staff in the organisation refer to as ‘God’. Looking at some of the scenes betrayed involving either Sir Frank or Kerry, in respect to their attitude towards the staff, one can imagine today’s laws of harassment, and gender bias, creating a field day for the  legal people!! But we are talking about the 1970s, and things & attitudes  in that respect were not far advanced.

Some great acting, particularly by Asher Keddie as Ita Buttrose, and Rob Carlton as Kerry Packer, although some critics have suggested he didn’t come over as ‘hard nosed’ as the real man, as the following preview of the show, the source of which I have mislaid, explains.

“Carlton’s an enjoyable actor, and his performance as Packer is a lot of fun, but it lacks the intimidating presence you expect of the big man. Carlton’s work here is similar to Felix Williamson’s Paul Keating in Hawke, it hit a lot of the right notes and got the look down pat but both those characters have an X factor that neither actor nails. The rest of the cast aren’t nearly as memorable as these two, with most of Ita’s staff getting a single title card listing their name and position and then fading into the background.

The two staff members we do spend time with are the long haired Andrew Cowell (Ian Meadows) whose persistence convinces Ita to bring him on board as Art Director, and Ita’s secretary Leslie Carpenter (Jessica Tovey) who may be based on a real person but felt more like a surrogate for Cleo’s readership at the time. Leslie’s relationship issues are the weakest part of the series, as she leaps from boring sex with bogan Muz to flirting with charismatic lawyer Mr. Ritchie (Matt Day). Leslie lacks much of a personality and the show grinds to a halt whenever we watch the effects of the magazine content wash over her (She just wants to know how to break up with her dud boyfriend! She sneaks a sex toy home from the office! She wants to nail the right man too!)

Paper Giants is a briskly paced romp for most of its run as it name checks historical events (The Beatles breaking up, Goth Whitlam, troops pulling out of Vietnam), pumps up the soundtrack and tells us amusing and interesting titbits about the formation of Cleo. It’s especially strong whenever Keddie and Carlton are on-screen together as Buttrose and Packer, who’s back and forth is amusing even if every scene seems to end with Packer saying ‘my dad won’t like it but I’ll convince him!’ Unlike the boring side adventures of Secretary Carpenter and her newly discovered womanhood, Ita’s home life is a necessary evil. Her husband who leaves her may be dull, and scenes where her daughter asks “can a girl really be a doctor?” and Ita replies “you can be anything you want” may be trite but it’s important to have the context for Ita’s work life.

Stories about historical events we know the gist of (there’s a magazine called Cleo, it will be created) can fall into the trap of trying to ring tension out of moments we already know the outcome of. If Ita has to tell her staff that their dream of making Australian Cosmo is out the window, we can’t be too worried for them because the series is called The Birth Of Cleo. Luckily Paper Giants instead uses most of its ‘moments from history’ as a showcase for fun writing and a truly wonderful performance from Asher Keddie. Keddie keeps everything rolling along even if it the show’s story gets a bit fuzzy around the edges. Paper Giants isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot of fun and one of the most entertaining Australian dramas to have come along in a while’.

I actually liked the role played by Jessica Tovey [of ‘Home & Away’ fame], although the description of  the part she plays above,  is  quite accurate.  A couple of notable instances I picked up on –  at one stage, Kerry Packer is involved in one of ‘heated’ discussions with brow-beaten associates, when a couple of cleaners come into his office [must be late in the day] to do their job –  they don’t stay around for long following the tirade of abuse that Packer screams at them.  Later in the film, after the death of his father, those same cleaners come in, whilst Packer is reminiscing about his father’s life  –  he never taught me anything but I learnt a lot from him  –  one of the cleaners ‘cautiously  offers his condolences to Kerry, saying he was a ‘great man’,  and is then  asked by Kerry, what he the cleaner really thought of his father –  ‘to be honest sir, I was a little scared of him’.  He and everyone else, I think!  There was also a very confronting and highly emotional scene, were Ita has to tell one of her longstanding and loyal employees that he no longer fits into the organisation’s profile, he has to go – not her choice, but Kerry told her to get rid of him, and the nature of that dismissal, man aged 47, big mortgage, difficult time to get another job, brings home the reality of the employment environment.

There’s lot’s more one could write about ‘Paper Giants’ – as a friend on Face book commented, she would have loved another 3 hours of the show. I sat down to watch it, knowing the basic outline of t6he story but not really knowing what to expect. I was suitably impressed, and particularly enjoyed the way events of the times were written into the production, with actual scenes from the 70s, and various brief interruptions as the ABC news headlines & newsreaders of the time suddenly came into a scene – I guess as a kind of  reference to the changing of society from a social, moral, fashion and political sense – with many famous and/or notorious quotations of the times inserted into the series, such as  ‘God may well save the Queen, but he’ll never save the Governor general’  or ‘Malcolm Fraser will undoubtedly go down in history as ‘Kerr’s Cur’  [November 11th 1975  – I was standing in a flat in Brunswick Road, West Brunswick when those words were uttered, following the sacking of Gough Whitlam and the Labor Government, and the appointment of Malcolm Fraser as acting PM by the Governor General, Sir John Kerr]

Enough enough of all that – let’s see if we can insert a couple of photos from Paper Giants [incidentally, veteran Australian actor Tony Barry played the role of ‘God’ or  Sir Frank Paker, inthe series]  – below, Ita Buttress and Kerry Packer, played by Asher Keddie and Rob Carlton.

Paper Giants: Part 2 

 Sir Frank PackerSir Frank Packer [Tony Barry]  and below, Leslie Carpenter [ Jessica Tovey, ex ‘Home & Away’ actress].

Leslie Carpenter


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