Thursday, 8 September 2011

JUMPING THE SHARK (Spectator editorial)

A fictitious TV sit-com called At Home With Julia has begun on the ABC, starring veteran Gillard impersonator Amanda Bishop and cult comedian Phil Lloyd. No doubt it will generate a few chuckles. But it will struggle to be anywhere near as dramatic, as tragic or even as downright funny as the real thing. Thus far, highlights of the ‘Real Julia’ show have included the Brutus-like slaying of a first term PM, the hanging-on-by-your-fingertips 2010 election results, the suspense-ridden pact with the Independents and Greens, the bare-faced lie of the carbon tax, and the bumbling will-she or won’t-she confusion of banning live animal exports; all spiced up with titillating undercurrents of prostitution, embezzlement and union skullduggery.
But as with all great soap operas, there comes a point when the plotline becomes so ludicrous, the scenarios so unbelievable, and the dialogue so preposterous, that viewers start switching off in droves. In the classic 70’s series Happy Days, it was the moment the Fonz famously went water-skiing in his leather jacket and jumped over a shark that signaled the end was nigh. Viewers could no longer suspend their disbelief; the ratings plummeted and it wasn’t long before the series was axed. Clearly, the High Court’s rejection of the Malaysian solution and the government’s response is equally absurd. Indeed, is this the moment Julia “jumped the shark”? The farce has now gone on too long, and even for the most ardent fans, the whole show has become unbearable to watch.
Labor die-hard Phillip Adams took to the opinion pages of the Australian this week to urge the PM to make way for the very predecessor she knifed a little more than a year ago. (Who killed KR?) Mr Rudd has long been suspected of briefing against the current Prime Minister, and the first weeks of her government were marred by cabinet leaks widely thought to have come from her predecessor. Mr Adams’ column, which gave Kevin Rudd full credit for steering Australia through the first global financial crisis, also questioned Gillard’s ability to do the same when the next round of economic shockwaves hit. Was this article evidence that Rudd is now in full campaign mode to get his job back? After all, Kevin and Phillip are very close, with the former Prime Minister giving his first interview after last year’s party room coup to none other than Mr Adams on ABC’s Late Night Live.
Should Labor panic and decide to replace Ms Gillard, the fact remains that the party is in an untenable position. So long as it tries to straddle both its old, conservative working-class base and its socially progressive inner-city ‘elite’, the ALP will be unable to move forward whilst being eroded by the Greens on one side and the Coalition on the other.
No doubt, the anxious scriptwriters of the ‘Real Julia’ melodrama will hope to drag the ending out as long as they possibly can. As we speak, they are presumably arguing whether to spruce up the roles of some of the duller characters; like ‘Cleanskin’ Smith, ‘Dreary’ Combet or ‘Junior’ Shorten. They may even, in their desperation, attempt to emulate what the greatest soapie of them all, Dallas, so successfully did: resurrect Kevin and pretend that the last 12 months was all just a bad dream.

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