Last night was the first part of the ABC teleseries, Paper Giants: the birth of Cleo. You will find the web site here. If you click in now you can watch last night's episode.
I thought that the first episode was one of the most enjoyable pieces of TV I have watched. Asher Keddie's portrayal of Ita Buttrose is remarkable.
Now before going on, a warning to some of my international viewers. If you visit and watch the show, there are sexual elements that may be unacceptable to some. I should also note that while the story is based on facts, some elements have been changed for dramatic purposes, while this is just one interpretation of events. I am not saying that the totality of the picture is wrong, simply that the story should be treated as drama.
The story begins in 1972. Australia's social and political climate is changing as the cultural and social changes that began a decade earlier work their way through society. Here the film uses a mix of real past and staged shots plus music to capture feel.
Ita Buttrose is an ambitious thirty year old, married with one child and a second on the way. She works for the Packers, one of Australia's real media dynasties. Frank Packer, known as God, overshadows the empire including his son Kerry. Buttrose and Kerry Packer combine to launch a new women's magazine Cleo that reflects (among other things) the changes taking place in society attitudes including sex and the role of women.
All this is factual, I don't want to say too much more about the film - you have to watch it and make your own judgements, beyond adding a little more factual background:
- Frank Packer had built a business empire based on the daily Sydney Telegraph. He loved that paper, and used it to promote the political causes he supported.
- 1972 was the year that the Labor Party under Gough Whitlam finally defeated the Liberal-Country Party coalition that had ruled Australia since 1949. In many ways, the Labor campaign was the first professional campaign of what would become the modern political era.
- This was also the time that I was a Country Party machine official and ran for pre-selection, so I have very particular memories. I have written on some of this.
I hope that you enjoy. I did.