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Most Significant Moments in Australian Television

Great though it may have been to see Australia's longest running soap tackle issues beyond who's at the pub, the whole lesbian thing turned ridiculous with Skye's conflicts and Lana's perving on every woman in the Coffee Shop.


1. Anthony sings "The Prayer" on Australian Idol 2 (Ten)
He doubted himself, but Idol contestant Anthony Callea's rendition of the Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion track was, in the words of judge Ian Dickson, "the finest performance I've seen on that stage in two years." Damn right. Poised and positive, Callea demonstrated in a few short minutes the value of competitions like Idol: some contenders do deserve a break. Even though Anthony lost the final to 16-year-old Goth girl Casey Donovan, his "Prayer" made such an impact that BMG overlooked the whole one winner, one record contract thing, and rushed his single to stores in time for Christmas.

2. Summer TV
You just can't trust Aussie commercial TV. New episodes of The Simpsons one minute, six weeks of reruns the next. In Oz, as in the U.S., if a show isn't called Law & Order or CSI, it's on thin ice. All three major networks change airtimes seemingly at random, or abruptly cancel shows that fail to rate after just a few episodes. Thank God, then, for summer, when ratings don't matter and networks air shows they've pulled or shelved during the year. Sure, summer brings us Hope & Faith and Summerland, but we also finally see new episodes of The Shield, Arrested Development, Scrubs, NYPD Blue, and The West Wing.

3. k.d. lang on Enough Rope (ABC)
In Australia to promote Hymns from the 49th Parallel, lang kicked off her candid and cool interview on Andrew Denton's talk show with a mesmerising performance of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," prompting the host to admit, "In my dreams, I sing like k.d. lang." Same.

4. Merlin's Big Brother protest
No one was surprised when Merlin Luck was evicted from the Big Brother house, especially after his teary fight with bully Paul Dyer days before over "what it means to be Australian." German Merlin said patriotism was in the heart; Paul said that without an Aussie passport, "Ya not Ahstrayan, mate." The argument continued long into the night, with Luck confessing to years of taunts at school, while Paul berated him until "Big Brother" stepped in and removed Paul. On eviction night, Merlin taped his mouth and held up a sign reading "Free the Refugees" (referring to Australia's refugee camps and detention centers), refusing to speak to host Gretel Killeen for the remainder of the show.

5. A lesbian on Ramsay Street
Lana (Bridget Neval) flees to Erinsborough. Here she meets Skye (Stephanie McIntosh), who initially hates her, but eventually invites her to watch Jake Gyllenhaal flicks at her house. Before conservative Neighbours watchers knew it, the giggly high schoolers wrestled for the remote and accidentally kissed. Great though it may have been to see Australia's longest running soap tackle issues beyond who's at the pub, the whole lesbian thing turned ridiculous with Skye's conflicts and Lana's perving on every woman in the Coffee Shop. But, it was fun for a while, to see just how far they'd go with it -- not very far at all, turns out.

6. Daryl's return
Who knew? Five years after Nine axed the awesome Hey, Hey, It's Saturday two years shy of its 30th birthday, host Daryl Somers is holding his head up high. Back on a new network with a new show -- Dancing with the Stars -- he's easily proved the critics wrong with one of the most successful shows of the year. Even with a horrendously lame (and embarrassingly familiar) concept -- real dancers tutor Seven celebs in the cha-cha and the meringue, "expert" judges makes snide comments, public votes for hottest couple -- the show has sealed Daryl's prime time spot at least for a few more years. Maybe Seven will give us what we really want and ask Daryl if he's doing anything with his Saturdays?

7. Molly wins half a million
The most recent celebrity Who Wants to Be a Millionaire delivered the goods when last year's Australian Idol Guy Sebastian was forced to confess he didn't know the meaning of the word "epilogue." Australia music guru Ian "Molly" Meldrum, who famously spent the 12 years he hosted Countdown pretty much stoned, managed to snag $500,000 for charity. Shaking so much he spilled a glass of water all over himself, Molly fumbled, stumbled, and guessed his way into the history books, being the first contestant to reach the quarter million mark with a lifeline intact.

8. Nine's Friends hold-out
Why did we get the bulk of the final Friends season earlier in the year and the final six only last month? Because you can't trust Australian television networks. Especially Nine. It held out on Sex and the City, too, and still refuses to air Frasier in rural areas. What do we have to do, Nine?

9. Through My Eyes (Di Drew)
Seven went so far as to use the lines "A dingo took my baby!" and "You're taking about my baby daughter" to advertise its veritable remake of Fred Schepisi's Evil Angels (1988), about the Azaria Chamberlain disappearance. Starring every Aussie actor ever, Through My Eyes favoured Azaria's mother, Lindy, who spent time in prison for Azaria's murder only to be acquitted. Making a bad idea even worse was Miranda Otto's horrific ocker Aussie accent. At least Meryl Streep had an excuse.

10. Rachel Griffiths and Toni Collette on Enough Rope
They're worried the Free Trade Agreement means the loss of Australian identity in the arts. And that children are growing up without hearing Aussie accents on television. Said Collette: "I don't understand how the Government can even think of trading away the Australian voice, the Australian identity." And not a word from Andrew about how both women make their livings using non-Australian accents.

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