Carols in the Domain Post-Mortem 2013

Hasn’t it been a long time between drinks?

A couple of bits of business before we get down to the carolling.

1) I’m watching this on PVR, and–Welcome to Australian television–the opening didn’t record.
2) Hi Australia, I’m back in blue.

Hopes for this year’s edition: Natalie Doyle’s death glare, Gnat actually getting his props for being a decent singer, another round of Seven & the Seventy-Sevens, and please, no rap breaks in songs that don’t need them. Either rap the carol or sing the carol!

Whatever preamble there was, I don’t know. What I am greeted with however, is actress Justine Clarke (very nicely attired) energetically telling a group of children “Do you know who it is?”

Since it’s not captioned, I have no idea what the children’s response is, but apparently it was a music cue for Justine to sing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

Not being terribly familiar with Justine Clarke’s career outside of prime-time, it’s pleasant to discover that she’s a very good singer. (Playschool grad?)

The ode to the oddball reindeer ends abruptly and quickly transitions to a very cabaret-style “Santa Claus is coming to town.”

The kids backing Justine are great, and two are dressed as the Mario Brothers of Nintendo fame, which is rather idiosyncratic.

As Justine really belts out the last few bars, Santa does indeed come to the Domain…on a motorcycle.

It’s Bikie Claus!

Bikie Claus then leads everybody on stage in what can only be described as “Jingle Bells” performed as a revival.

Gnat tells us that Samantha Jade is next.

Adverts: My Kitchen Rules promises twins who will be playing dumb and mean, and another pair who proceed to call them as such…Jamie Oliver salivates over WOOLWORTHS prawns…This year’s Carols in the Domain movie tie-in? Disney’s “Frozen.” Which makes a lot more sense than last year’s “Parental Guidance.”

And we’re back.

Michael Buble’ does his standard recorded “Happy Holidays” message for his very passionate fanbase down here. (I know he means it, but Seven really ought to stump up the cash to get him here for one of these things.)

No Nat this year, it’s Melissa Doyle, the old female foil to Lord Kochie on Sunrise. (A bit of background for Americans reading this: Remember the PR fiasco that happened when Ann Curry got booted from Today? Well, Melissa Doyle is essentially the Australian equivalent of Ann Curry in that situation, and let’s just leave it at that.)

No death glares or snark from Mel, which I must admit, I rather miss. These reviews are always a lot more fun when the presenters do everything with an arched eyebrow. Instead Mel & Gnat introduce Samantha Jade singing “O Holy Night.”

Unlike the risqué attire last year, Jade looks like a Disney princess. (Subtle plug?) Now, I don’t mind Jade, but she does give what is supposed to be a solemn hymn a few too many glory notes (no pun intended).

Mel remarks that Jade does look like a princess. (PLUG) Meanwhile, Gnat–wearing a parka–complains that it’s cold. Now this can go one of two ways: either with a Chaser-style bit of political humour about global warming or a plug for Disney’s Frozen. Let’s see which one wins.

Gnat says he feels frost in the air and that “it could snow at any time” followed by a joke about his surname [White].

And it turns out that the sole purpose of that whole blizzard of jokes was to intro Johnny Ruffo singing “White Christmas.”

Last year, this poor lad was running around like a mad man onstage, this year he’s taking it easy, it’s Johnny “Vegas Swing” Ruffo.

Unfortunately, the orchestration calls for him to hit a really absurdly high note. Given the fact that Ruffo looks quite baby-faced, it gives the impression that his voice is about to crack.

Out of seemingly nowhere, a flurry of tap dancers appear…in tuxedos. I admit I tend to overthink a lot of these things, but the first thought that pops into my head is that we have gone from the Domain to dinner theatre. Johnny Vegas Ruffo gamely taps along, but not too much, because he has to sing again and hit those notes. And they are HIGH.

There’s another tap break and Ruffo’s portable mic battery (or box, or whatever those things that allow a singer to hear themselves) falls out.

He soldiers on, and actually improves, in my opinion. Though of all songs to get a James Brown style “breakdown” “White Christmas” would be the last one I’d expect. Nonetheless, there Ruffo was doing the splits.

I tell you, this man is the workhorse of Seven.

Gnat chides Mel about snow, and I hope that is the end of that gag.

The glimmer of hope I had for climate change humour is dashed as Mel says “you could say it’s FROZEN.”

Gnat gives the spiel about [Disney’s new film] “Frozen,” making it sound like it’s “Gone With The Wind” for the 21st Century.

The clip we’re given is entertaining, but could not possibly live up to that hype.

Mel & Gnat–I’m just going to be calling them the MGs from here on in–promise us an “exclusive” performance of a song from the film from one of Australia’s biggest musical theatre stars, Amanda Harrison.

Not being up on my Australian musical theatre knowledge, I’m going to take the MGs word that she is.

The song “Let it go,” sounds like something you’d hear Miss Georgia sing at a Miss America pageant circa 1985. Harrison certainly gives it her all, with the fireworks dramatically punctuating every glory note.

“Exclusive” clearly is TV speak for brief, as the song is over after one chorus.

The MGs must be wearing sneakers as they reappear in a booth some distance away right after Harrison sings the last “GOOOOOOOO!”

Before we go to adverts they promise Jessica Mauboy, Human Nature (Australian boyband turned neo-Rat Pack after a Vegas residency), Stan Walker (AGAIN?), and Jimmy Barnes.

Adverts: Medibank is now speaking in hashtags.

We return with Sir Cliff Richard (or Nosferatu) reminding us to donate to the Salvos.

The MGs point out that the candle bags have sold out. (The profits go to the Salvos.) They give a donate to the Salvos spiel which conveniently segues into an intro for Stan Walker (AGAIN?) singing “The First Noel.”

Walker is accompanied by the Australian Girls Choir, and he does not try to sing over them…mostly.

After Christmas in the Park, I have reached Stan Walker saturation point.

Gnat reappears looking oddly stunned. Ah, must be time to do the awkward interview with an overseas celebrity who “wishes they could be there,” but Seven or Woolworth’s doesn’t pay enough.

This year it’s Kelly Clarkson, who is pregnant and in Los Angeles.

Personally, I don’t care, except Gnat refers to it constantly. Perhaps, it’s just me, but mentioning pregnancy during any Christmas themed show automatically makes me think of the Virgin Mary, particularly since this is Clarkson’s first pregnancy.

The Virgin Kelly will be giving an “exclusive” (read: probably recorded several days ago) performance “later on.”

I wouldn’t be so cynical about it, except last year’s Rod Stewart debacle gave that distinct impression.

Mel glides in and the MGs go into mega-hype mode, this time over the pairing of Jessica Mauboy & Human Nature.

I remember where I was when I found out that the Soviet Union was no more.

I remember where I was when Michael Jackson performed the Moonwalk for the first time.

Clearly I can add another thing to that list: when Jessica Mauboy & Human Nature performed “Sleighride.” At least that’s what the MGs want us to believe.

The reality is that this is not so much Jessica Mauboy & Human Nature, but Jessica Mauboy VS. Human Nature.

Much like Georgie Parker vs. Jay Laga’ia last year, they start out in unison and then kind of fall apart. Mauboy goes into Beyonce’ mode and Human Nature are the Osmond Brothers.

Kind of awkward, particularly when the members of Human Nature start doing one-on-one “diva vs. divo” duets with Mauboy.

Gnat tells us Jimmy Barnes and the cast of Grease are next (and if they’re performing together then that really will be Jimmy Barnes vs. the cast of Grease, because whenever Jimmy Barnes performs with somebody, it’s really Jimmy Barnes versus them), along with Kelly Clarkson’s “exclusive” performance.

Slight rant here: Somebody needs to start charging television networks every time they say the word “exclusive,” because it’s beginning to lose its meaning. Frankly, we all know that we can only see Kelly Clarkson’s performance on Seven. It’s pretty unlikely that someone from Nine or Ten is going to hijack the satellite feed and put it to air as well. (Though in the world of Australian commercial television, anything cut throat is possible.)

Adverts: The “bomb” is just the start on Home & Away. (It’s time to shore up our UK viewers with a sudden trip to London. Take that, Shortland Street.)…Holden tells us “we’re here to stay,” no matter what news of Holden winding down operations and closing plants might say (Poor Holden marketing execs are really between a rock and a hard place, honestly)

As we return, Mel intros Kelly Clarkson’s “exclusive” performance of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

Clarkson is supported by a pretty decent orchestra, which makes really wonder if “exclusive” also means “well, I was doing this anyway for US television so I might as well flick it your way too, Seven.”

The fact that she’s in a theatre with a sizable audience and pretty slick camera work supports this even more.

Gnat returns with the ironic (at least to me, given the previous rant) statement that “the word ‘legend’ gets bandied about these days.” (Not as much as the word “exclusive.”) It is the appropriate terminology to describe Jimmy Barnes, however.

There is no need to go through the man’s whole entire bio, Gnat.

Jimmy Barnes comes in and in true Barnesy style attacks the stage singing “Run Run Rudolph.” That may read as odd, but Barnes makes it work.

Unfortunately, the camera goes to a shot of the crowd and shows the enormous Tele-prompTer with the lyrics scrolling merrily along.

The MGs return saying in the most square way possible “No one rocks it out like Jimmy Barnes.”

Gnat, I like you, but please don’t say “groovy” again.

Speaking of Tele-prompTers, Gnat clearly looks at one (or a clock) when complimenting Mel’s dress.

Mel gives the details very briefly in order to intro the cast of Grease.

They sing “Greased Lightning” to a sleigh.

Not being a fan of this song, nor the musical Grease itself, this is a bit of a hard slog for me.

This segues into “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” after Todd McKinney comes onstage.

Now were this Nine, we’d be having Bert Newton, I reckon. (Bert is actually in the cast, but it wouldn’t look right for him to be on Seven, such are the politics of commercial television. You just don’t channel hop in Australia as Mel B. has discovered, although I guess Rob Mills’s deal with Ten must’ve come to an end.)

Adverts: The next edition of My Kitchen Rules will apparently include a couple who are very big on cheese. Being that they are from NSW, you can pretty much guess which part of the state they’re from…


The Woolworth’s Carols in the Domain 2012 Post-Mortem

This will be an interesting experiment.

The televised Christmas carols are the closest thing I could find in Australia to the collision between news, light entertainment, and commerce.

Nine has their version on Christmas Eve.

Seven’s was on Saturday night, which, of course, I couldn’t watch live, because I’m having fun on the radio.

So I’m watching this via PVR.

Seven’s “Macy’s” is another name which will be known to some Americans: Woolworth’s.

Yes, Virginia, Woolworth’s is still around. It’s a bit like Braniff or Pan Am. It will exist somewhere on Earth for generations to come.

Happy announcer says that this is the 30th anniversary of Carols in the Domain.

Yes, this is Australia, 30 years is considered long-running for a televised event.

Our singing Carolers include;

Jessica Mauboy (R&B singer)
Johnny Ruffo (2011 X-Factor runner up, he got beat by gapped wunderkind, Reece Mastin)
Georgie Parker (actress from Home & Away)
Jay Laga’aia (actor who controversially left Home & Away under a cloud of alleged racism)
Mark Vincent (popera winner of Australia’s Got Talent)
The “legendary” Doug Parkinson (I find that legendary is often used to hide the fact that someone is beginning to slide from relevant to irrelevance)
Justice Crew (breakdancers who won Australia’s Got Talent, but apparently sing now.)
The Cast of Legally Blonde: The Musical
John Waters (actor from All Saints and Offspring, the latter which airs on another network)
Troy Cassar-Daly (Country Singer)
Some CGI characters from Ice Age.
The Collective (Boyband who placed 3rd on 2012 X-Factor)
Rod Stewart (“legendary” like Doug Parkinson)
Samantha Jade (2012 X-Factor winner)
Santa Claus
and–Welcome to Australia, because they were billed after Santa Claus–The Wiggles

Understandable, because it is the final television appearance of the original line-up.

The Wiggles are like Menudo or Morning Musume. The name matters not the membership.

A warning: This post-Mortem is rated 15+, because I probably will make leery comments about Anthony Field.

And the helicopter shot shows that it’s a hot Sydney night at the Domain in Hyde Park.

Now who will be doing Matt & Samantha duties, and will there be an Al Roker equivalent? Is there a Willard Scott hidden at Seven?

Seven does have a very close relationship with NBC.

OH MY GOD. The hosts are Matt White & Natalie Barr.

Matt White just recently stepped down as presenter of Today Tonight, Seven’s Current Affairs show (in the way that Hard Copy was current affairs. If you remember that period in the 90s when there were muckraking tabloid shows all over US television, this is the nation that spawned that.)

I like Matt White though. Somehow, the presenters of these shows manage to have their images separate from the content.

Natalie Barr is the newsreader for Sunrise, Seven’s slightly misogynist Breakfast show on weekdays which does a 180 on weekends and becomes refreshingly controlled chaotic and smart. Seriously, it is amazing how radically different the two are.

I don’t mind Natalie Barr, she comes across as mildly subversive to the Kochie Kingdom.

Disclaimer: I normally watch weekday Today (AU) which airs on Nine, which has the Howard Beale-esque Karl Stefanovic and the HBIC Lisa Wilkinson. More about them when I tackle Nine’s carols.

Seven has a reputation as being the middle Australian network. So if there’s any wink-wink, nudge-nudge, I reckon Nat is going to go for it big time.

And yes, I am going to call them Matt & Nat, or maybe Gnat & Nat, since as likable as Matt White is, he’s also a bit of cipher. You don’t mind him, but you don’t really notice him either.

Gnat looks like he just left Ocean’s Eleven. Nat looks like she’s just left the National Costume section of Miss Western Australia.

Gnat gives an opening spiel and then his eyes bulge out as if:
A) He seriously can’t believe he got this gig.
B) He realised that white powder backstage wasn’t makeup.

Nat laughs…because she probably put that white powder there. Oh, Nat, if you’re going to be the HBIC a la Katie Couric, we are going to get along just fine.

Gnat says it’s his first time hosting the Carols. It isn’t Nat’s.

Gnat goes on to talk about the view from the stage. Nat smiles (I wonder if she’s humming “White Rabbit.”)

Australians, this may very well be the closest you get to see what the Thanksgiving Day parade was like when Bryant Gumbel & Deborah Norville were doing Today. Bryant didn’t suffer fools nor foolishness, but liked his paycheck. And he hated perky out-of-her-league upstart Deborah.

Nat is Bryant.

She also doesn’t say a damn thing until Gnat compliments her outfit.

G&N make the dubious claim that the biggest stars from television, music, and theatre have gathered together for us.

Nine will make the same claim tomorrow night.

Apparently the trades description act doesn’t apply to Australian television.

Nat does the name checking of the choirs and bands onstage who will probably be doing the real work musically than anyone front and centre.

First up the Ten Tenors singing “O Come All Ye Faithful”

They all look like they escaped from a Best & Less Formalwear campaign.

One thing that I find interesting is that in stark contrast to American Christmas televised caroling, where the Christian liturgy is subtle except when performed by a gospel choir. They are going balls out with it here.

This is a nation with one of the highest atheist/agnostic populations in the world,sometimes almost zealously so.

I find this somewhat funny.

For what it is worth, I describe my religious upbringing as Commercialist Christian and I am philosophical Taoist now. So I don’t really have a horse in this race.

Anyway, the Ten Tenors sing and hit those glory notes.

Nat says that this is the most wonderful time of year. Given that I’m writing this on a day when the temperature is 39C (really bloody hot in Fahrenheit), I really dispute that statement.

Anyway, she intros someone from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang singing “The Most Wonderful Time of Year”

Said singer is channeling Kathie Lee Gifford and apparently accompanied by dancers from Dancing with the Stars.

Kathie Lee Gifford she ain’t.

And the pyros nearly take someone else.

Next up: some opera singer and Troy Cassar Daly.

And I continue to wonder if climatologically inappropriate carols will be done with or without any irony.

Adverts: Seven: We’ve got Giaan Rooney now. Suck it, Nine // Melbourne public: We don’t care.

Advertising in Australia is pretty much companies heckling other companies with the public in the middle being largely ignored.

Other adverts: Yes you can do many things with prawns (shrimps) at Woolworth’s/Samantha Jade’s debut album/The Collective’s debut album/A PSA about swimming

In other words, this is mostly Seven talking up Seven identities that we’re going to see later in the programme.

It’s Showtime, Synergy…in more ways than one.

Michael Buble tells us to donate to the Salvos in a recorded message. Can’t be bothered to say your message in person, eh?

Gnat thanks Buble, then mentions that this show is not only airing on Seven, but also throughout Asia on the Australia Network (which is run by the ABC, and features a hodge-podge of ABC, Seven, Ten, and TV3 NZ programming). In other words, because this isn’t going on air purely on Seven is the reason why there isn’t a huge 7 dangling over everyone’s heads.

Nat asks Gnat how they are going to beat having Michael Buble sing last year.

Gnat says with Rod Stewart (he omits to say via satellite or video link or even live).

Nat chides Gnat about his singing, which actually isn’t that bad.

Gnat, you’ve been reading that Scottish play haven’t you?

G&N intro Troy Cassar-Daly with “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

For a Country singer, he certainly is singing it like a lounge act.

He duly acknowledges the orchestra which is doing most of the heavy lifting.

Decent performance, but he can’t hit those high notes with that arrangement.

G&N harp on about 100,000 people wishing everyone around the world “Merry Christmas.”

Since this is pretty much going on air in the Eastern Hemisphere and largely ignored everywhere else, I think they’re overstating the reach and influence of the Australia Network.

Nat clarifies, apparently this is all about getting the crowd to yell out Merry Christmas.

The crowd does their dutiful, but it doesn’t have the same enthusiasm as “Happy New Year.”

Gnat looks like a deer caught in the headlights afterwards. Why? I do not know.

Perhaps he was as unimpressed as I was.

It’s a free show, so I reckon the crowd ought to be a little more energetic.

Gnat encourages the crowd to “keep up that energy” (Nat’s stern smile says it all) as an opera/cabaret singer performs “Angels we have heard on high.”

And I think I’m beginning to figure out the Christian liturgy rule. As Australia isn’t exactly chock-a-block with gospel singers, the religious songs are sung by opera singers.

It’s very odd to my ears, because operatic singing strangles any sort of pronunciation in a different way than gospel does.

Still, it’s a good way of addressing the elephant in the room (i.e. religion) without being blatant about it.

And may I make a personal statement here: I say believe whatever you want to believe, and respect that others may have different beliefs than yours. There is much more fun to be had out of life than spending it with a persecution complex.

Adverts: Woolworth’s plays dangerously close with ethnic stereotyping. Really effing close. Let me just say this, some of these Woolworth’s adverts would not get on the air in most US markets. This is not to say that is a good thing, but if Australian media is serious about being multicultural, it’s going to use a smidgen more brain power to find new ways to be funny.

Taking the piss can be done with wit.

I can’t look at that Susan Boyle album without thinking “#susanalbumparty”

Youi: car insurance for people who like to think they’re an iconoclast…like everyone else.

Before the ad break: G&N were promising the big stars were up next (aka Jessica Mauboy, Justice Crew, plus everybody from X-Factor and Home & Away). The length and content of this particular ad break seems to suggest they aren’t kidding, because it is long and low on Woolworth’s & Seven content.

G&N are now off the stage, which allows for a brief weak gag with one of The Wiggles.

However they weren’t kidding about the big ticket talent as Nat intros Johnny Ruffo.

Gnat animatedly adds that the Ruffo from WA will be joined by Justice Crew.

It’s Showtime, Synergy.

Ruffo & Justice Crew–I feel like I need to nickname this collaboration: Seven & The Seventy Sevens? 7 x 7? 7 to the 7th Power? 777?–perform “Santa Claus is Coming to town”

It starts out with the Ruffo doing his best Osmond Brothers doing Bob Fosse choreography.

I’m liking this.

Did you know that I ate part of Johnny Ruffo’s muffin when he visited the Tuesday Cheek with Wes Snelling on JOY 94.9? Adam Richard of Talking Poofy dared me to, but I would’ve done without hesitation.

That’s right Seven, I got three non-Seven plugs during one of the most Seven-ish segments of this show. Balance has been restored.

Ruffo has now changed from Donny Osmond doing Bob Fosse choreography to Justin Bieber doing Bob Fosse choreography and he’s all about the choreography because he’s practically whispering the lyrics.

Let me say this: I like Johnny Ruffo. I even voted for him, and I think he’s got longevity in the music business (way more than the Gapped Wunderkind), but right now, he is the Jean Seberg.

Why do I say that? Because that was one blink and you’ll miss it performance as he quickly intros Justice Crew, who do various leaps and spins and still sing louder than Ruffo.

And there’s a rap break.

In “Santa Claus is coming to town” with a live orchestra

Marinate on that thought.

Unlike when unexpectedly campy/weird stuff happens on US television, I truly think on Australian television, everyone is stone cold sober and totally unaware of the campiness going on.

Again, a rap and a breakdancing break during a performance of Santa Claus is Coming to Town” accompanied by a live orchestra.

I cannot wrap my mind around this, but it is indeed happening in front of me.

It’s not the rap + orchestra combo (see the UK’s 1995 Eurovision entry which was pretty impressive) , but the rap + orchestra + song.

And then Justice Crew do what all performers do when they need a break, they extoll everyone to clap their hands.

Were this a paying audience, they’d respond “Clap your own damn hands.” However it isn’t, so they do.

By the way, the orchestration has long left the town Santa Claus was coming to, much like John Coltrane’s version of “My Favourite Things” sounds nothing like anything Julie Andrews sang towards the end.

Ruffo comes back and his whispered vocals are the signal that sanity has returned.

Well, partial sanity, as Justice Crew dancing manically in the background to an increasingly frenetic orchestra makes them look like some large clam or plant that is about to devour Ruffo.

To quote Gwen Stefani: “This shit is bananas.”

The gauntlet has been thrown, and I don’t think anything ahead will beat 777 on this programme.

Nat is all alone. (This is why she’s the HBIC) She thanks 777 (although her face indicates that she really wasn’t watching).

Seven doesn’t really do irony. Nine does. Ten does it, in fact almost too much. So my expectations for Nine’s carols are really raised now.

I’m thinking drunk Karl Stefanovic in a speedo barely holding onto a XXXX with Lisa Wilkinson being carried in by the Kangaroos dressed as Santa Claus with David Campbell singing “How would you like Christmas on Christmas Island?”

Only that would beat what I just saw.

Now we have the slightly uncomfortable moment: Georgie Parker & Jay Laga’aia singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Here comes Santa Claus.”

Uncomfortable not because they can’t sing (well, I don’t know about Parker, but Laga’aia has a niche career doing children’s music), but because Laga’aia didn’t leave Home & Away in the most friendly way.

They’re accompanied by kids from some showgroup, so this is going to be a serious perform-off: Parker v. Laga’aia v. Moppets.

Parker is dressed like she just left the set of the remake of All About Eve. She’s smiling but if one of those tykes gets close…you get the feeling that she’d be more Joan Crawford than Bette Davis backstage.

There’s a lot of distance between Parker & Laga’aia, probably because she is very petite and he’s very much the opposite, and the Moppets form a sort of Red & White Berlin Wall between the two.

And you can really hear Parker and barely hear Laga’aia.

Conspiracy theorists, I leave that to you, but I did say he didn’t leave Seven under the best circumstances.

Dance break: Parker & Laga’aia do a very awkward waltz and the camera wisely focuses in on the Moppets throwing themselves about.

It’s not quite a car crash, but far from a smooth ride.

And it ain’t over yet!

A poor soul in a Rudolph costume–remember this is Sydney in December on a brightly lit stage–prances around with several somewhat risqué dressed female dancers.

And again, Parker is coming in loud and clear, Laga’aia could be mouthing the words for all I can tell.

Hold on, Laga’aia actually gets a solo line…and he makes the most of it.

Then it’s back to more awkward dancing as everyone does a two-step.

Laga’aia holds his own. Parker, not so much.

Why they don’t send Kathie Lee Gifford down here, I don’t know.

(A plug–which I’m not receiving any compensation–for the 4th Hour of Today. Hoda Kotb (reporter) & Kathie Lee Gifford (the American Kerri-Ann Kennerley who manages to be pious and raunchy simultaneously) basically get progressively smashed on champagne and kvetch about the news for a half-hour and then try to do a hour’s worth of late morning television interviews and stories in the last half-hour.)

They eventually finish, but that was one of the most passive-aggressive performances of caroling I’ve ever seen.

Those poor traumatized kids.

Gnat’s back, and they’re back with that Gnat can’t sing joke, but as he seemingly really can (probably Hugh Jackman calibre), it really is getting tired.

They address the eternal climatological question: How do you make it snow in the Australian summer?

Answer: with CGI animated characters from Ice Age.

It’s Showtime, Synergy.

Except they aren’t CGI, but poor souls in costumes accompanied by pirate singer/dancers.

They do a synergised knock off of “Jingle Bells.”

Adverts: Woolworth’s claims those are real people in those adverts. I stand by my previous comments.

And we’re back. G&N tell us that the first Wiggles performance at the Carols was in 1991.

3 of the Wiggles are calling it a day, so technically this is a “where were you when…” moment.

And for the first time in the entire programme, there is a legitimate cheer from the bludgers–I mean, crowd.

Not knowing any of The Wiggles back catalogue, it’s a bunch of songs that mean nothing. (I’m 33 and childless, but I work in media, so I know they exist.)

Nonetheless, I ponder the possibility of Anthony Field having a long lost identical gay brother.

I can see why 3 of them are retiring: you must reach a breaking point performing children’s music where singing upbeat silly songs would bring on dementia and arthritis.

And we don’t want one of the Wiggles winding up like Natalie Wood at the end of Inside Daisy Clover

This segment is particularly arduous for those indifferent to The Wiggles, but it’s their last televised performance with the original lineup.

The Wiggles sing some song about reindeer and Santa Claus, and at the end of it they bring out the 3 new Wiggles. (Apparently Anthony is staying, so I need never bother learning any other names.)

The new Wiggles are very photogenic. Wiggles Co. are no fools. Sex sells even in children’s entertainment.

Oh dear sweet lord, make. this. end.

The Wiggles form a human pyramid. Yep, the retiring ones are thinking “we are too old for this shite.”

They start singing a song about “Go Santa Go.” First you say he’s coming and now you’re talking about him going.

Now at some point, Santa Claus would come out and were this the Thanksgiving Parade, it’d be time for credits and the Westminster Dog Show (yes, I’m serious, and would you believe that it gets decent ratings).

But we’re at the Domain, and Santa pops out of cake during “Happy Birthday”

Was it smuggled from Christmas Island?

(NB: I am really surprised at the relative lack of Christmas Island jokes in the Australian media
landscape. Tourism WA is certainly lightly emphasizing that Christmas Island isn’t all one big detention centre.)

And we’re reaching the hour mark. Santa Claus has appeared, The Wiggles have said their goodbyes. What more can be done?

Oh, the 7x7s, aka everyone from X-Factor this year, and Rod Stewart.

This last hour is going to be a hard slog.

After another absurdly long advert break, we return to find that Nat has changed into an outfit that matches what Georgie Parker had on earlier.

Hint, hint.

They plug WA like mad. (This is Seven, remember. It’s effectively the official broadcaster of Western Australia.)

Naturally this is way to promote Westralian Samantha Jade, this year’s X-Factor winner, who will sing “Away in a manger.”

This might go against my theory about religious-themed carols, but “Away in a manger” is more about Jesus as an infant, so it’s not so much about Jesus as a He Who Died For Us, but a notable birth.

Samantha Jade enters wearing A Very Skimpy Miniskirt, a train, and bustier! Controversial!

Not even Vanessa Williams would attempt that.

When I say that people really don’t think about the lyrics they are singing, this is what I mean.

She’s singing about a child while wearing hooker’s outfit.

Yes, she’s got a decent voice, but really!?

It’s also over in no time at all.

G&N promote Airwick’s new candles as Little Mary Magdalene from Perth is rushed off the stage for Troy Cassar-Daly to sing “Jingle Bell Rock.”

There’s an obvious climate-based disconnect here.

He does manage to hit the notes though.

Gnat asks us to show our candles. (Plug!)

He then begins the hard sell for Doug Parkinson who will sing “The First Noel.”

Not being familiar with Doug Parkinson, I am tempted to call him the Australian Hiro Tsunoda.

Hiro Tsunoda, has a good voice but his annunciation is well…interesting.

I recognise the tune, but I understand every 5th word.

The captioners pretty much give up by the 2nd verse.

Gnat promises The Ten Tenors and the other part of 7×7: The Collective.

Adverts: My Kitchen Rules is coming…when ratings season returns.

I find it hilarious how Australian networks just don’t care about maintaining market share outside of ratings.

Ska music to encourage Australia to use Freeview? Ok.

And we’re back.

Nat mentions that this whole do is being simulcast on Smooth FM.

She then mentions the next act needs no introduction.

It’s Showtime, Synergy.

Here comes The Collective singing “Last Christmas.”

The Collective are dressed like The Brat Pack circa 1987, and this is such a throwback that for a moment, I think George Michael is straight.

Actually of all the 7 x 7 performances this is the most impressive and cohesive until..,

There’s a rap break.

FFS, not every song needs one.

It’s not as weird as the one during “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” but if George & Andrew got through the original without rapping, this lot could as well.

The one most likely to go solo a la Robbie Williams restores some sanity. He also looks like a young Denham Hitchcock. Read into that what you will.

And for a group called The Collective, the song eventually disappears into a glory note battle, much like a certain show on another network.

I got two Nine plugs in! Balance has been restored.

Now I don’t know if the choreographer decided to play a little bit of a joke on the lads or vice versa, but during the lyric “a man undercover” two of The Collective lads hold each other very tightly.

Glory note battle over, they harmonise and stare steely-eyed over the Domain as if singing “Last Christmas” to a bunch of screaming teenage girls was the most butch thing ever.

By the way, they got more stage time than Samantha Jade, and were on par with 777’s slaughter of Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

G&N plug of Parental Guidance, the new Bette Midler & Billy Crystal movie.

Yes, a plug for a Bette Midler & Billy Crystal movie during a Christmas Carol show.

It opens on Boxing Day, however, on Boxing Day, there’s something else you can do beforehand.

They plug, I plug.

They do an extended plug about what Australian kids think of their grandparents.

It’s so milquetoast and poorly executed, that I think the movie studio should ask for their money back.

Gnat tells us to get out our “Sun Herald” songbooks.

For a second I think he says “Herald Sun,” and imagine what an Andrew Bolt Christmas Carol would be like:

“How’d you like Christmas on Christmas Island…you strange dark coloured boat people?”

“I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, except for all the Aboriginals that I have to pay restitution for since I racially vilified them.”

Balance restored. (Note for overseas readers: The Sun Herald is a Sydney based newspaper owned by Fairfax. The Herald Sun is a Melbourne based newspaper owned by Fairfax’s rival News Limited. No one in Australia seems to find that ironic or even an amusing coincidence .)

Gnat then tells us to put the books away since the Ten Tenors will over sing us anyway with their version of Hark The [Sun] Herald [Sun] Angels Sing.”

So really that was just to get a mention for the [Sun] Herald [Sun] then, Gnat?

The Ten Tenors appear, but against my expectations there are no Angel costumed dancers holding a Sun Herald logo.

Nor is there an appearance by Joe Hildebrand.

Balance restored.

One of the Ten Tenors looks like Tim “Rosso” Ross. There is not a Merrick doppelgänger counterpart alas.

I tell you, trying to be balanced with these plugs is tricky.

There’s a cut to G&N where Gnat is mouthing the words and Nat is holding her ears in feigned pain.

Again, the joke would work if it was not already known that Gnat can sing. (He also can dance, as he placed 3rd on Dancing With The Stars, and possibly could’ve won it except for all of his talent, he really is Mr. Cellophane.)

I don’t think Seven did any tie-ins to Chicago: The Movie, so that counts as a counter-plug.

We’re approaching the 90 minute mark, so that means Rod Stewart and Mark Vincent are going to be somewhere in a half-hour segment.

I suspect said half-hour will include 10 minutes of Vincent, and 5 minutes of Stewart before the Satellite link becomes too costly.

One of the tenors looks like Stav from another network.

Damn, there’s not a Tom Ballard counterpart. Wait, I do see one that looks like him from Warrnambool.

I don’t remember any version of “Hark the [Sun] Herald [Sun] Angels” going on this long. Christ was born, declared persona non grata, crucified, risen, and returned by the time this mob finished.

G&N finally mention that this about this being an appeal for the Australian Heilsarmee. (That’s a Swiss Eurovision plug.)

Nat compliments Gnat on his singing, and we’re back to that joke again.

Why do I get the feeling that Lisa & Karl are going to beat that dead horse all the way through Nine’s?

G&N remind us that there’s still lots of songs left.

Now Troy Cassar-Daly had two goes, The Ten Tenors had two goes. It would be a violation of the Trade Descriptions Act to have The Wiggles again, so who’s going to be the padding between Mark Vincent & Rod Stewart?

Let’s have Georgie Parker drown out Jay Laga’aia again!

Nat gets the crowd involved with the Gnat can’t sing joke.

It. Makes. No. Sense.

The cast of Legally Blonde save us by performing “All I Want For Christmas”

Is Rob Mills still contracted to Ten? If so. Counterplug!

One of the cast members looks suspiciously like Justin Hemmes.

Apparently in Australia, this is the only hit Mariah Carey has ever had.

Speaking of other stars in the Ten constellation, isn’t John Waters supposed to be appearing?

Wait, he was on All Saints! I think it counts as both.

As for what is currently transpiring onstage, there are songs which should stay solos and this is one of them.

Everyone is trying to outdo each other and it sounds like a shouting match: “ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU [TO NOTICE ME CAMERAPEOPLE]”

That was mercifully short.

Gnat promises Rod Stewart & Jessica Mauboy.

There’s 20 minutes left, Mauboy better get the lion’s share.

We get a very blatant and monotone “I’m being paid to say this” Holiday message from Billy Crystal. I’d rather have Bette Midler, who could at least put a spin on the “you didn’t pay me enough to come down and say this in person.”

Adverts for mostly non-Seven/Woolworth’s things. Something big is coming up then.

And we’re back, G&N intro someone called Emma Booth who performs “Mary’s Boy Child.”

It is NOT the Boney M version.

I wonder if Nine execs pour over the Seven broadcast and try to counterprogram against it.

“Right, Callea, in case they have a crap version of Santa Claus is coming to town. So you’d better sing the day lights out of it.”

I do know that they’re both Pre-recorded, but I doubt at the same time.

Although that would be funny: imagine Seven PAs hidden in Melbourne sending frantic calls to Sydney and vice versa.

“They’ve got Deni & Marcia Hines!”

“No need to worry, Ruffo did not strip. Tell Manpower their services are NOT needed.”

Gnat finally gets to that satellite link with Rod Stewart.

Stewart is even less engaged than Billy Crystal.

Sore throat, Rod? Really?

Gnat asks Stewart about how he spends Christmas and we get all the logistical details of how jacked up his personal life is with all those divorces and marriages.

Should I ever interview Rod Stewart or Ronnie Wood (I think they’re the same person, frankly), I will NOT ask them about their personal life.

It’s just too boring, when we all know the answer is “I’m a dirty old man with money and access to Viagra.”

Now despite his sore throat, Rod Stewart is going to perform.

Because he’s still getting paid. (You think Viagra is free?)

Gnat throws to Nat who intros Jessica Mauboy.

FFS, what was the point of that Rod Stewart interview?

We already know he’s a dirty old root rat.

Jessica Mauboy performs a Motown classic for the troops (a link that conveniently reminds people that The Sapphires DVD is now available in stores).

Mauboy is appropriately dressed. (I’m sorry, but Samantha Jade really looked like a Trollope.)

She’s technically a Ten star, but she’s transcended network affiliation.

Why is “I Can’t Help Myself” considered an appropriate Holiday greeting to the troops?

Or is it that The Sapphires plot is based around Motown classics?

Mauboy is done as soon as she starts.

Gnat promises Samantha Magdalene & Doug Tsunoda are coming back. (I knew they weren’t going to let The Collective have more time than Jade.)

Adverts: Look at what just happens to be conveniently available for Christmas? The Sapphires DVD.

There are 10 minutes left, but then again, this is Australian television where everything is allowed to run over EXCEPT sport.

It’s the most bizarre thing given the obsession this country has with sport.

Oh crap, I think there actually is a half-hour left.

We come back to hear Rod “Sore Throat Root Rat” Stewart perform The Christmas Song.

I have no concrete proof, but I think this was recorded way before his “interview.”

His voice shows no evidence of a sore throat. And yes, I know Rod Stewart normally has a raspy voice.

It’s a decent version by a “legendary” performer.

Bing Crosby nor David Bowie he is not.

Back in reality: Nat has changed outfits again. She intros Samantha Jade and “Jubilation” singing “Joy to the world”

Why is she getting religious songs?

And it’s back to hooker wear, because her left breast is nearly exposed.

There’s a subtle message being communicated here that I suspect I may be the only one getting: She doesn’t want to sing religious songs .

Otherwise, she does the gospel version of the song full of melissma and glory noting.

By the way, her outfit is in red.

They are going to hammer the Mary Magdalene point home, aren’t they?

The crowd is totally indifferent.

And on comes Doug Tsunoda to massacre “This Little Light of Mine”

And now we are into full on REVIVAL mode!

See, here this man’s mangled singing works. We just need several people having convulsions to really complete the stage picture.

The camera cuts to a kid in the audience totally taking the Mickey out of Doug.

Jubilation appears to be the gospel choir from Jetstar based on their orange & black outfits.

The Salvos choir in the back is so out of their depth.

Gnat says John Waters, Mark Vincent, and Jessica Mauboy are next.

And yet, I want Georgie Parker & Jay Laga’aia back. I don’t know what other songs are possibly left, but I could watch that fight to upstage each other again and again.

And we’re back after Taylor Swift wishes us a Happy Holiday with more emotion than Billy Crystal or Rod Stewart.

And I doubt she got paid.

G&N thank the choir, the orchestra, and the Musical Director.

I note that man’s name down as the man who assisted in the massacre of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Apparently he was Gnat’s old school music teacher.

And yet, you can sing, Gnat.

G&N intro Mark Vincent singing “The Holy City.”

I have never heard of this song.

Mark Vincent performs it as if he’s an overseer.

That is hectoring in the highest, Mr. Vincent.

And now G&N intro John Waters singing “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” which they also contrive a veiled link to the recent Newtown shootings.

Not cool, G&N, not cool at all.

I actually like John Waters, and I hope he didn’t suggest that link.

John Waters performs decently, but linking it to Newtown was a HORRIBLE ILL-CONSIDERED idea by people who just thought “John Lennon died by a gunman in the US,” and “there was a recent mass shooting by a gunman in the US” ergo…

(Disclaimer: I’m about to rant.)

One of these days, Australian news will endeavour to actually interview the myriad of opinions about mass shootings in the US, and why they occur, but I suspect that is quite far off.

My own personal opinion: It is about engagement and communication. Reaching out to people who are socially excluded and finding out WHY.

The tone that I have heard from the Australian news coverage has been: We got rid of our guns and gun deaths dropped, why don’t you do the same?

Well, we raised our legal age for alcohol consumption and there aren’t as many fights in US cities as there are in places where the age is 18.

I’m from a city and a state that celebrates alcohol (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), and there aren’t half as many alcohol related violence issues compared to those seen here in Australia.

I actually support gun control, but the sheer “We know better than you about how to run your own country” rhetoric coming from the Australian media makes me want to be silent on the issue, because it is insulting and ignorant.

I was horrified by Columbine. It scared me to the core. And I, like many other Americans of my generation did not see it as a gun issue, inasmuch as a “we have got to start talking to each other” issue and not AT each other.

Yes, it’s sad that it has not changed, but nothing in the US changes overnight. The country’s government is NOT DESIGNED THAT WAY. That change starts in the states, and if it works in one state, and possibly another, then it MIGHT become national law.

Regardless, we can go on playing this game of “holier than thou” or we can actually sit down and seriously try to understand that the problem with both issues of alcohol-fuelled violence and gun-related violence is a lack of engagement.

No one is better.

(End rant.)

Ad break.

There are less than 15 minutes left. And I suspect most of it will be taken up by this extremely long Woolworth’s advert featuring their new campaign song.

Gnat intros Jessica Mauboy performing “Silent Night.” The way he bills it makes me think that this is the end.

But you never know.

In a rather odd dress, Mauboy glory notes her way through “Silent Night.”

This is a slight misstep, but in lieu of what transpired earlier, I give her a MAJOR pass.

She does order the freeloaders in the Domain to sing along.

Nope, that is not the end. There’s fireworks!

And apparently, Mark Vincent, Ali McGregor, and the Salvos Choir ordering us to do something again with “Song of Joy.”

It’s oddly secular for a hymn.

And Vincent meekly orders us to sing along while he is drowned out by the fireworks.

But it’s not over yet.

Ad break.

Honestly, what’s left? Kochie on a Catherine Wheel? Grant Denyer flying?

I’ll never know because the PVR gave up.

See, Australian networks, it pays to run your shows on time.