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Siding Springs Observatory is in danger of closing and resident astronomer Helene McKenzie is the only thing standing in the way. Battling an inept local council and with a ragtag bunch of colleagues, her fight is set to be an uphill one.
Mike Moore is the well groomed host of Frontline, a current affairs show that presents "the stories behind the stories". Just like any other current affairs programme on commercial television, it has its share of sensationalism, controversy, and cynical manipulation of the truth. All in the pursuit of ratings.
There are good days and bad days for the Frontline team. On a good day there are hard-hitting stories like the gun siege, where Mike becomes an impromptu negotiator speaking to a gun-man's children over the phone. On other occasions, when the show needs to spice things up a bit, there are stories about tabletop dancers or the lesbian netball team.
In an industry without ethics, Mike is an idealist who really cares about the show. But every now and then he needs reassurance, whether it be from the unctuous E.P, the enthusiastic weatherman, the fawning secretary, or the fan mail. (Unknown to Mike the hate mail addressed to him ends up in the shredder before he gets to see it.)
Needless to say, Mike's presentation of the show is all mapped out with precision. Without even watching the stories he can react with a deeply concerned "Mmmm", or put on a fake chuckle at the Friday night funnyman. (Mike has tried to get the funnyman axed on more than one occasion.) Sometimes the production team slip up and let Mike do a studio interview live. On each occasion the result has been a fiasco.
Frontline is an astute look at the unscrupulous manipulation that goes on in the high-pressure world of T.V. journalism. Some of the episodes are based on events from "real" current affairs shows, such as the three unemployed teenagers who turned down jobs at a holiday resort, the feeding frenzy over a grieving widow, or the time when Mike Willisee was drunk on air. The "big villains" who come under the spotlight are usually shonky repairmen, dodgy mechanics, and illiterate kids who don't want to work. The team at Frontline know their stories have to appeal to a vapid blue collar audience, because that's where the ratings come from. As Sam Murphy once said: "Why would anyone with brains or money be sitting round a telly at 6.30 each night?"
There have been many guest celebrities on Frontline, such as Jon English, who was used in a Frontline charity special: the challenge to build a playground for needy kids within 24 hours.
I think Series 3 was the funniest of the lot. We see a lot more of Mike's extravagant lifestyle while the E.P. vainly tries to sell Mike as a man of the people. One of the funniest moments is when Mike goes on "This Is Your Life".
Frontline has got to be the most credible of Australia's current affairs shows. It's the only one I take seriously.
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