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INXSsive criticism

INXS: Never Tear Us Apart
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· Never tear us apart: Michael Hutchence and INXS

I’m going to say it: I thought INXS: Never Tear Us Apart was great.

Australian critics have become so used to mediocre television dramas that they don’t know real entertainment when they see it.

On the numbers side, the first part of the two episode INXS mini-series was locked into a ferocious ratings battle with Channel Nine’s Schapelle tele-movie. INXS blew Schapelle off the stage, with close to 2.8 million viewers across Australia, because it was good Australian commercial TV.

Schapelle only managed 1.3 million city and rural watchers, despite the show being moved forwards a day to capitalise on the publicity surrounding the release of Australia’s most famous prisoner.

But back to the band.

You may have elsewhere read that Never Tear Us Apart was a cliche of everything 1980s and rock ‘n’ roll, and depicted the band as hedonistic sex fiends and drug addicts, but what did the critics expect?

While there were a few too many bare-breasted women running around for my liking, and there were some wafer-thin side stories, the main storyline following Michael Hutchence’s rise to fame and the doubts of his co-writer Andrew Farris was nothing short of fascinating.

I don’t know what everyone else was expecting, but I certainly did not think this was going to be a highfalutin’ HBO-style masterpiece that somehow made what was once an Aussie pub band that got very, very famous into the Rolling Stones.

So there was really nowhere else for the writers to go but to follow Hutchence’s fall from grace and the excess that led to it.

From about 1987, when Hutchence was in a relationship with singer Kylie Minogue, his whole life was played out in the media. We all know that INXS was a legendary Australian band, but the most interesting thing about the players was the way Hutchence’s smouldered on stage and off. Sure, there was a stage persona, but it was too far removed from off-stage persona.

Like pretty much every Australian TV series in history, there was lots of schmaltz used to portray an iconic Australian performer, but watching Luke Arnold devastatingly play Michael Hutchence was a step back in time I was more than happy to take.

Anybody with any interest in the mini-series would have had a fair idea of every aspect of the band’s rise, but, as far as commercial Australian drama productions go, I thought this was one of the best.

The fact that there was a soft focus on Farris as the songwriter of the band’s biggest hits and a kindness to the camaraderie among the band members in general was simply padding for the star event.

I never cared about Ita or Kerry Packer in Paper Giants or Howzat, and despite loving Rachel Griffiths I have no interest in seeing her portray Julia Gillard on the small screen when the TV adaptation of Kerry-Anne Walsh’s book The Stalking of Julia Gillard comes to fruition.

But Hutchence was a captivating human being. He bought sex to Australian music. He was also the first truly international star to become tabloid fodder at home and in the UK, where his affair and partnership with Paula Yates became the stuff of legend.

So, why should you watch part two next Sunday? Not to re-witness the sad death of a music legend, but because TV is supposed to be entertaining, and this series offers it up in spades.

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