Tag Archives: TV

End of year lists 2022

The Emerging Artist and I have drawn up for our traditional end-of-year lists.


Counting movies watched on TV and streaming, I saw about 80 this year, mostly in the company of the EA. We did a quick and ruthless thumbs-up/thumbs-down to reach a short list of 20, then a further short process to arrive at a list of favourite movies.

Three documentaries, all seen at the Sydney Film Festival:

Five feature films:


Out of so much excellent TV, both free to air and streamed, we limited ourselves to one documentary series, one comedy series and one more or less serious series. The Australian Wars merits an award of its own.


We went to the theatre an amazing 15 times. You’d think the pandemic was over!

Our unanimous award for best play of the year goes to The Jungle and the Sea, created by S. Shakthidharan & Eamon Flack. It’s an exhilarating, brilliantly staged epic about the civil war in Sri Lanka and the experience of refugees, with the magnificent Anandavalli as matriarch Gowrie at the centre, and wonderful music. It’s very long. We brought a picnic dinner and ate Lebanese take-away in the green room during one of the intervals.

Our runners-up were:

  • RBG: Of Many, One, a one-woman play written by Suzie Miller, directed by Priscilla Jackson and brilliantly performed by Heather Mitchell for the SydneyTheatre Company
  • Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, a two-hander by Canadian Hannah Moscovitch, performed at Belvoir in an MTC production directed by Petra Kalive.


The Emerging Artist read roughly 60 books. She has given me a list of her five best in non-fiction and fiction categories (art books were important but not for listing). Here they are, with comments dictated by her, with links to the LibraryThing pages or, at her request, to my blog post when I’ve blogged about her chosen book:


  • Mick Herron, the Slough House series. Very funny, fast-paced, delightful plot twists. The EA stayed ahead of the TV series, which she says is very faithful to the books. She didn’t seem to mind that she generally knew what was about to happen.
  • Ian McEwan, Lessons: Profoundly moving. She loved the integration of broad historical events with the stories of individual lives
  • Rajorshi Chakraborti, Shakti: Your Power, Our Rules: A surprising book, stumbled across in the local library. It’s a fast-paced fantasy that links contemporary, westernised India with ancient mystical belief systems.
  • Elizabeth Strout, Lucy by the Sea: Her usual close observation of intimate relationships. Like Lessons, it integrates these with wider world events, in this case the Covid pandemic.
  • Abdulrazak Gurnah, Afterlives: I really loved it, and individual moments are vividly in my mind months after reading it.


  • Kim Mahood, Wandering with Intent: I think she’s the best Australian writer about cross-cultural relationships. I imagine this is an essential read for any non-Indigenous person planning to work in remote First Nations communities.
  • Claudia Rankine, Just Us: I loved the writing, the humour, the format, the thought-provokingness.
  • Andrea Elliott, Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope on New York City: At times reading this I was filled with dread but was mostly wrong – underestimating how terrible the US welfare system is, but also underestimating people’s resilience and capacity to fight back.

As for me, I read 70 books (counting journals but not children’s books). I finished my slow read of the Iliad and began Middlemarch, both of which have been exhilarating when read a little each morning after Wordle and before the news. I’ve read 22 books of poetry, 21 novels and only two comics; books in translation from Homeric Greek, German, Hebrew, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese; seven books by First Nations writers, and 14 by other writers who don’t belong to the White global minority. The book that was most fun was Niall Williams’s History of the Rain. Most instructive was With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix. Most deeply and warmly challenging was Claudia Rankine, Just Us. Scariest was Hugh White’s Quarterly Essay Sleepwalk to War. Most delightful discovery of a writer from the past: Charmian Clift in Mermaid Singing.

Happy New Year, everyone. Please add your own treasured movies, TV, plays or books from 2022 in the comments.

Outnumbered vs Modern Family

In Monday’s Guide (liftout for the Sydney Morning Herald), Jim Schembri’s preview of award winning US family sitcom Modern Family began ‘Really, is there anything funnier on TV at the moment?’

‘Yes,’ we replied in my house, ‘resoundingly yes!’

Not that we don’t enjoy Modern Family, or appreciate the way it’s rejuvenated the US sitcom. But has Jim Schembri seen Outnumbered, which screens over in the corner on ABC 2 just after whatever deep-pocketed advertiser brings us  Modern Family on Ten? Perhaps not, as the Guide doesn’t even give it a synopsis – just ‘8.00 Outnumbered. (PG)’

Outnumbered is an English show about a family consisting of two parents and their three young children, plus occasionally the husband’s mother. There’s no diversity of culture or sexual identity, It’s a straight up the middle of the road nuclear family. What makes it shine is that the three young actors – aged 7, 9 and 13 or thereabouts – aren’t working form a memorised script. They’re told what’s going to happen in a scene and then let loose in front of the camera. The adult actors, who are working from a script, then have to deal with whatever lollybombs are thrown their way. And the young are brilliant improvisers, especially the two younger children, playing the characters Ben and Karen. (The older boy is more on his dignity, so doesn’t have quite the same scope.)

You probably need to see it, but favourite moments include an argument between Ben and Karen about who would win in a battle between a fairy and a boy armed with an increasingly alarming arsenal; a bizarre riff on what might be concealed in a big black beard, or Karen’s chat with her mother while she is having nits combed out of her hair: ‘Can I keep a nit as a pet?’ ‘No. Why would you want that?’ ‘I’d talk to it.’ ‘But nits can’t talk.’ ‘Yes they can. They talk nit language.’ ‘Well, you can’t have a nit for a pet.’ ‘Then can I have a giraffe?’ ‘A giraffe is too big.’ ‘What about a lion then?’ ‘Lions are too dangerous.’ ‘Could I have a nit town in my hair?’  and so on.

My single favourite exchange occurred after Karen had wrought havoc by authoritarian rulings at her father’s doubles tennis game after an unwary player suggested she might be the umpire as a way of keeping her entertained. Chatting with her mother that evening she says she wishes girls could grow beards because then they could be ferryboat captains. The mother says she can be one of those without a beard. ‘An ayatollah then,’ says Karen. ‘You’d make a good ayatollah,’ says the mother wearily. Score one for the adult team, or just possibly for the writers. In Modern Family it’s always the writers.