Re-creating the excess of the 80s

PATTIE PEGLER
Last updated 06:00 12/08/2014
luke arnold
PLENTY OF EXCESS: Luke Arnold says playing Michael Hutchence was a dream role.

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It's Wembley. The crowd are going wild. There's anticipation, there's lights, there's music.

It's exciting stuff and a good opening for two-part drama INXS - Never Tear Us Apart (Thursday, 8.30pm, TV3) that follows the fortunes of the Aussie band.

The Wembley scene is a reminder of just how big they were back in the day. But all too soon we're back in the early days. When hair was very curly and the preferred style was the ubiquitous "mullet". It's Perth, 1979, and a band called the Farriss Brothers are playing pub gigs. A swarthy band promoter tells them the key to success:

"You have to play covers, covers from the radio . . . do I make myself clear?" Of course, he's wrong. We know that right away. And of course, with the benefit of hindsight we know it's a pivotal moment. Even before one of the band hammers home the idea by saying "So this is the moment . . ."

And that kind of sets the tone for what's to come. Because what's to come is a bit cliched. There are tough times. There are crazy times. There's parental disapproval. There are women and drugs. There are one-dimensional characters. Hutchence is an irresponsible but charming womaniser, a man almost constantly framed by female flesh. Songwriter Andrew Farriss is all serious and career orientated.

The 80s "names" that appear don't fare much better. Look, that must be Adam Ant because he's got a Cockney accent and weird make up. And here's Kylie Minogue with big teeth and big hair. It's like someone raided a really bad waxwork museum.

At times the dialogue descends into the downright cheesy. "I can't do this . . . I can't just sit around and wait for you . . ." wails one of Hutchence's romantic interests. "But it's the band, Michelle . . ." he replies. For a moment I thought I'd fallen through a rabbit hole into trite soap land.

Oh look, it's all watchable enough in a sort of lightweight, made-for-television movie way. And perhaps things will pick up in the second part. But it left me in mind of that school report cliche: "Must try harder."

By contrast, Consent: The Louise Nicholas Story (Sunday, 8.30pm, TV One) is extremely heavyweight.

It's based on the ordeals of rape victim Louise Nicholas and her fight for justice.

From the opening scenes on a bleak, grey-green coastline it's relentlessly grim. But it's skilfully done with an ominous undercurrent of violence that comes not from graphic rape scenes or obvious physical abuse. Credit instead skilful story-telling, a powerful and understated performance from Michelle Blundell as Nicholas and a tight script that never resorts to melodrama.

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It also reveals a dark side to small communities. When a young Louise asks one of the cops in her small town to have a word with her abuser, she's told, "I can't. He's senior to me. Just try and keep out of his way."

It's uncomfortable viewing. But it's also an excellent drama that leaves you thinking. One to watch.

- Stuff

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