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The Games – Series 1 Episode 8, Rural and Environment (1998)

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The Olympic rings

This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

Gina Riley and Brian Dawe are immersed in the logistics of the plan for the Opening Ceremony that has been put forward by Mrs Dundas (Linda Hagger) and her friend Joyce (Fahey Younger), apparently having completely forgotten that the contract has already been awarded. John Clarke returns to join the fray, still pumped after having solved the question of the hole in the ozone layer.

Curator’s notes

This scene is the last of several involving the ladies of the Federation for Rural Progress and might seem a tad over-the-top viewed out of context. It is a fitting end, however, to a very funny sequence during which the comedy duo of Linda Hagger and Fahey Younger tread a fine line between keen satire and just plain silliness. How the others managed to keep a straight face playing opposite them is anyone’s guess.

Hagger and Younger share writing credits in this episode with John Clarke, Ross Stevenson and Tim Harris for their contribution as Mrs Dundas and Joyce. They would not have been faces generally well known to the public although they already had a strong personal following, having won awards at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 1997 and 1998 for their dual act 'Miss Itchy’, which featured characters rather more outrageous than the respectable yet robust couple we see here.

It is interesting to observe in this clip how costume can denote hierarchy even among equals. Simone Albert and Kitty Stuckey, in charge of make-up, hair and wardrobe and no doubt amply advised by the two ladies themselves, have chosen pearls, beige polyester and evidence of a recent trip to the hairdresser to inform us that Mrs Dundas is at least a rung or two higher on the FRP ladder than her friend Joyce, whose inferior position is reflected in the more casual print dress and alice band. Joyce however, in true Australian fashion, is no 'handbag’ and pulls her own weight when it comes to spruiking the special qualities of their proposal for the Opening Ceremony.

Was Ric Birch, the actual Executive Producer and Director of Ceremonies for the Opening Ceremony and Closing Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, watching? No, that is not a made-up title. The hay bales, Victa mowers, Hills hoists and corrugated iron that formed part of the real Opening Ceremony, which so delighted Australians and baffled the rest of the world, certainly reflect the same culturally distinctive sense of humour.

As can be detected in this clip, the show sometimes trembles on the edge of hysteria, although to be fair this is the climax of a particularly wacky episode. Nevertheless, director Bruce Permezel manages somehow to keep it all under control. He also ensures that the hand-held camera plays its role as a character in the mockumentary when required but is otherwise not too intrusive. It is, after all, a sign of good documentary making that the camera should not be so obvious as to distract from the subject of the film, a discipline some drama directors could well learn.

Note: although the word 'mockumentary’ seems to have been coined in the 1980s, the style has been around at least since the days of radio. On 30 October 1938, for example, Orson Welles produced his infamous broadcast of HG Wells’s The War of the Worlds, without first informing the public that it was a work of fiction, inducing panic at an apparently imminent Martian invasion of Earth. Most mockumentaries however, like The Games, are comedic. They are most easily identified by the frequent acknowledgement of the presence of the camera and the absence of a laugh track implying the lack of a studio audience. Ricky Gervais’s The Office(2001-03), co-written with Stephen Merchant, is one phenomenally successful example; another is We Can Be Heroes(2005) from the extraordinarily proficient Chris Lilley.

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