Geoffrey Blainey and the Multicultural Nirvana

Letter From Australia

One's kindest possible response to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's typical attempt at a sitcom is Mark Twain's quip about The Vicar of Wakefield: "Nothing could be funnier than its pathos, and nothing could be sadder than its humour." Hence the astonished pleasure inspired by the Corporation's dazzling new comedy Frontline. A merciless skewering of current-affairs talking heads moral pretensions, Frontline initially leaves viewers laughing hard enough to incur hernias, and afterward leaves them awestruck at its parodistic brilliance. Its second series contained the show's most horridly acute episode yet: a chilling tale about a harmless and mild-mannered professor who has had the impudence to publish a statistical survey of ethnic groups in Australia. His volume is of the driest, least controversial and—one would have hoped—most innocuous sort; but just because it touches, however soporifically, upon race, the Frontline motormouths are convinced that its author is a racist. (As Sam, the show's executive producer put it: "Can you find out whether he's got any rightwing affiliations—political, social. . . . Does he like Wagner. . . . Are his parents German?") The climax comes with Frontline's anchorman Mike Moore perfecting his Vyshinsky imitation, at the hapless academic's expense, on primetime TV:


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