If you were one of those Gen X-ers whose parents forced you to watch Peter Luck’s This Fabulous Century, you’ll know nostalgia television can be alarmingly addictive.
In shows like this, women in big hats walk across lawns at jerky double-speed. Biplanes flop onto airstrips beside seas of waving hankies. And those black and white bloopers from In Melbourne Tonight? In 1979, I thought they were hilarious.
All of which explains why this reviewer approached the latest take on the genre with a certain favourable bias. But bugger me, The Way We Were was fun even beyond the film clips.
Much of this success is due to the show’s host Mark Trevorrow (a.k.a. Bob Downe).
Trevorrow is a snappy interviewer and is perfectly cast, bringing his own experiences (and gayness) to the show without being overbearing or egotistical. He’s also very funny in a way that Bob Downe is not: with a delivery that is both knowing and warm.
In the first episode Kids’ TV, Trevorrow interviews Mr Squiggle’s Miss Pat, Nancy Cato from Adventure Island and even Agro the puppet.
The clips are terrific, and include scenes from The Magic Boomerang, an adventure series about an Aboriginal weapon that stopped time when tossed. There are also priceless talking heads of TV-addicted children from the 70s scandalously confessing their love of the box on Four Corners, and a montage of experiments by Professor Julius Sumner Miller that prove that he really was completely insane.
The following week’s episode Flying proves even more camp than Kids’ TV.
Trevorrow’s question -“ is flying still glamorous? -“ provokes some twisted responses. Nowadays you can’t get into a cockpit without a Stanley knife, bemoans actor Rhys Muldoon.
Ex-1950s flight attendant Nan Witcomb disagrees, and points out that a flight from Perth to Adelaide once took 16 hours. (She also describes her first sighting of a mile-high club event, bless her.)
Somehow Trevorrow also finds time to sing a few songs, including Up, Up And Away (with TAA jingle lyrics) and Mah Na Mah Na, accompanied by Agro and Dylan Lewis on clarinet.
Part chat show, documentary and variety special, The Way We Were could be terrible, but Trevorrow holds it all together beautifully.
I didn’t miss Bob Downe for a minute.
The Way We Were screens on Saturday nights at 9:30pm on ABC TV. Future episodes will feature Tobin Saunders (Dancing), Sue-Ann Post (Sunshine) and Paul van Reyk (Making Babies).