I feel a little silly reviewing a Review show, but pairing Margaret Pomeranz and Graeme Blundell together to discuss all things Screen warrants attention.
Nabbing the esteemed Ms. Pomeranz to launch a new Arts channel is an inspired idea. Normally given to discussing the body of work of others, her own needs no introduction.
For Foxtel Arts she pairs with The Australian’s television critic Graeme Blundell, also no stranger to Aussie audiences. In this multi-platform era, the show cleverly puts cinema, television and ‘online’ content on the table.
Seated behind a large desk -those chairs have now been exiled- they begin with a review of Cinderella. Before you can say pumpkin, Margaret is detailing a film synopsis over showreel footage and launching into a discussion with her newest sidekick.
Pomeranz’s descriptive reviews are back, interjected with that distinctive laugh, and passion thrown behind every sentence. It’s as if she never left the screen, and that’s just the way we like it.
Blundell is more reserved -but nowhere near as purist as a certain predecessor- with erudite commenary and devotion when it comes to local stories (although it may necessitate a declaration of interest when reviewing Foxtel shows in print from here on).
Two television shows are reviewed: Redfern Now: The Telemovie and the season return of Wentworth. The latter becomes their first five star review. It leaves Orange is the New Black for dead says Margaret. Redfern Now gets 4 and 4.5.
Screen allows room for discussion with two of the stars, Deborah Mailman and Danielle Cormack, at the desk. It’s a more inclusive touch then the traditional hotel room interviews so associated with film junkets. I’m encouraged that a Foxtel show is also embracing of a Free to Air television title in Redfern Now, such favours are rarely returned when the show is on the other foot…
Screen will also feature a guest each week with someone who has their “finger on the pulse of what’s happening out there in cyberspace.” First up is Chas Licciardello, adding some nice trivia and video finds. But for a show that critiques production design and visuals within its charter, whose idea was it to seat him about three football fields away? I thought Margaret would need a megaphone just to talk to him. I appreciate a desire to distance the show from the format of 2 critics, but this feels extraneous. Nevertheless, please move guest to desk for a single segment.
The final review was for the film Samba, in which Margaret decided Blundell was a much tougher critic than she. I kept waiting for the exasperated “Oh, Graeme!” but it never came. Yet.
No doubt viewers will also be longing for disagreement, absent on this most universal of premieres.
It will be interesting to see whether Screen reviews content on Netflix and Stan (it needs to if it wants to remain credible) and whether YouTube and assorted web TV debuts are also up for grabs. I have faith Margaret moves with the times.
While Screen is unlikely to notch up 28 years on air, we can be grateful it is in good hands with two passionate storytellers, helping us to wade through a plethora of content on the big screen and small. Not 5 stars yet, but perhaps I’m just a tougher critic too.
Screen airs 8pm Thursdays on Foxtel Arts.