The Guardian 14 December, 2005

TV programs worth watching:
Sun December 18 — Sat January 14

HMS Pinafore was Gilbert and Sullivan's first full-length satirical work and first major international success. For most of the 20th century, the D'Oyly Carte organisation performed it with a companion piece, the team's first collaboration, Trial By Jury.

And, also for most of the 20th century, these two pieces were an excellent way for audiences to be introduced to the musical and lyrical delights of "G&S". Then they passed out of Richard D'Oyly Carte's copyright control.

Producers rushed to "improve" the works, not least Opera Australia: hammy "high-camp" acting, sub-television wisecracking, all manner of distracting stage "business" was introduced.

This month HMS Pinafore and Trial By Jury are re-united (ABC 8.30pm Sunday, 18 December), but the ABC publicity notes contain this ominous statement: "Opera Australia reunites these two long-standing stage mates with fresh Gilbert and Sullivan products and an inspired cast."

What on Earth could they mean by "fresh Gilbert and Sullivan products"? I fear the worst.

Given the succession of natural disasters that have befallen the world this year, it was only to be expected that end of year documentary line-ups would include plenty on this subject.

New Orleans: Anatomy of a Disaster screening in the Science timeslot (SBS 8.30pm Sunday 18 December) is a product of the well-regarded US Public Broadcasting station WGBH.

It's a minute-by-minute account of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Don't expect any revelations, though, as this program's emphasis is on the scientific not the social forces involved.

Nevertheless, you can draw your own conclusions about arrogance, preparedness, timely responses, racism and class.

On Boxing Day, 2004, a massive earthquake off the coast of Indonesia created tidal waves so powerful they wreaked death and destruction on an unimaginable scale. Hundreds of thousands of people died and millions were left homeless as tracts of coastline were inundated across a region including Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, Sri Lanka and India.

To mark the first anniversary of the Boxing Day tsunami, the SBS Dateline team presents the SBS Dateline Tsunami Special (to distinguish it from other Tsunami specials, I suppose) (SBS 8.30pm Tuesday December 20).

Hosted by George Negus, the program's focus is on Australia's aid, and consequently the emphasis is on the two countries which receive the majority of Australia's tsunami aid — Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

It is an often disjointed collection of stories about how the region is coping a year later. However, they do have certain recurring themes: the amazing work of local groups with almost no resources, and the high-handed efforts of authorities to move people away from their traditional homes to new locations that are allegedly "safer".

I suspect that in at least some areas, this wholesale "slum clearance" will make future resort and golf-course development easier while those who are moved will lose their livelihoods.

The ABC's contribution to the Tsunami theme is After The Waves: Asia's Tsunamis — One Year On (ABC 7.30pm Monday 26 December).

The ABC was able to respond quickly to the tragedy because it had correspondents and camera operators stationed in the region. One year on, ABC correspondents return to the areas of greatest devastation to examine the efforts underway at recovery and renewal.

Indonesia correspondent Tim Palmer retraces his memorable journey across the most devastated areas of Aceh.

South-East Asia correspondent, Peter Lloyd looks at how the Australian Federal Police have assisted in the forensic identification of victims in Thailand.

In Sri Lanka, Geoff Thompson reveals the people receiving international aid and those missing out.

From India, Anne Maria Nicholson tracks one of the most extraordinary stories that have emerged after the tsunami — the massive waves revealed a hitherto unknown ancient temple.

And finally, we have Tsunami Forensics screening in SBS Television on Tuesday December 27, in the Cutting Edge timeslot (SBS 8.30pm Tuesday December 27).

This program looks at how the biggest international forensic operation in history identified the victims of the most devastating natural disaster of recent times.

Many immediately think of DNA as the most useful tool today in forensic science. But with the tsunami victims, decomposition had already affected most samples to such a degree that they were useless.

Instead, the forensic experts had to use other evidence to identify the victims. The most effective proved to be the old stand-by, dental records.

The feature-length documentary The Corporation ran in cinemas about 12 months ago. Made by the people who made The Take, it is an exposé of the morality and practices of the giant corporations that rule our lives today.

Re-cut, into three episodes for TV (SBS 8.30pm Wednesdays from 21 December), the program features interviews with numerous top-level CEOs, a corporate spy, an undercover marketer, academics, pundits, historians and activists including Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and filmmaker Michael Moore.

Also featured is a deft blend of newsreel footage, early TV advertisements, B movies and corporate propaganda films.

In law, a corporation is deemed a "person". Episode 1, The Pathology Of Commerce, examines what kind of person it is.

With a "personality" of pure self-interest, four case studies, drawn from a universe of corporate activity, demonstrate harm to workers (sweatshops), harm to human health (the cancer epidemic), harm to animals (synthetic hormone rBGH) and harm to the biosphere.

The Corporation concludes that the institutional embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism fully meets the diagnostic criteria of a psychopath.

Dynasties: The Aarons Family (ABC 8.00pm Monday 2 January), a clever piece of anti-Communist propaganda masquerading as an "unbiased" look at a Communist family, is dealt with elsewhere in this issue.

Just before the US-led invasion of Iraq, Australian filmmaker, Wayne Coles-Janess, was in Baghdad capturing the mood and emotion of a city living on the brink of war.

He interviewed a number of people from diverse positions in society and then filmed first hand the devastating effects of the extensive bombing campaign on the lives of civilians — say the ABC: "it will leave you shocked and amazed".

Months later, with Iraqis living under a new government, Wayne returns to Baghdad to capture life under the US supplied "Liberation".

His film, In the Shadow of the Palms — Iraq (ABC 9.30pm Monday 2 January), is the only documentary shot during the last weeks of Saddam's government and provides an exclusive insight into the people and situation in Iraq, both before, during and after the war.

Hardware (ABC 8.00pm Saturdays from 7 January) is a funny, well written and well acted comedy series about four blokes of differing ages who work in a hardware store.

It is written by Simon Nye, whose previous credits include the smash-hit series Men Behaving Badly. I have only seen the first episode, but on the strength of that I am definitely looking forward to seeing the rest.

The BBC production Dune (ABC 7.30pm Sunday 8 January) is the story of a travelling sand dune in the Namib desert and how it influences the lives of plants and animals over the course of its 150,000-year journey across the bleak interior of southwest Africa.

State-of-the-art graphics and satellite imagery chart the progress of the dune, and amazing thermal and infrared imagery show behaviour never seen before.

Illicit trafficking, whether in drugs, arms or women for enforced prostitution is a very lucrative aspect of capitalism. That women are treated as a just another commodity, and subjected to the most inhuman brutality to render them "market ready" is yet another indictment of the evil capitalist system.

The sheer horror of what happens to the young women who are enticed, tricked, kidnapped, terrified or otherwise brutalised into sexual slavery is almost unimaginable.

The new multi-award winning drama Sex Traffic (ABC 8.30pm Friday 13) weaves experiences from around the world into an epic two-part thriller about this massive multi-billion dollar global business.

A British and Canadian co-production for London Weekend Television and Channel 4, Sex Traffic was written by Abi Morgan. It is the story of two Moldovan sisters who are sold into prostitution and trafficked through Romania, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Italy to the dark side of London. Their story leads from defence contractors in America to corruption among the international peace keepers in Europe.

Sex Traffic won the 2005 BAFTA award for Best Drama Serial and Best Actress (Anamaria Marince) as well as the 2005 Prix Italia for Best TV Movie and Mini-Series.

It also won the Best Actress award at the 2005 Monte Carlo Television Festival, the Best Drama Serial and Best Actress awards at the 2005 RTS Programme Awards and the award for Best Series at this year's Reims Television and Film Festival.

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