Miriam Margolyes – Almost Australian, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Director Liz Allen.

child immigrant from Afghanistan to Australia, temporary visa (prospects dim).

Miriam Margolyes has done England, she’s done Trump’s United States and now she’s been sent on another two month road trip to see how Australia works (or doesn’t). Honeyed days indeed for an 82-year-old ‘fat, Jewish, lesbian’ (her words). Same old faces, popping up everywhere. I like the idea of Miriam Margolyes being unshakeable and having shock value, but this just seems like more jobs for the boys, although of course she’s not and it’s some time since she’s been a girl. The three-part series hangs on the idea that she has acquired Australian citizenship.

A line-up of citizens carefully chosen to offer some kind of insight meets Miriam, briefly. Have their say and she moves on to the next staging post.

In Bondi, Miriam meets Monika Tu. Monika Tu sells real-estate to the booming Chinese market. China today is set to overtake America as the richest and most dynamic nation on earth. China is now, where America was after the First World War. That means tens of millions of prosperous middle-class customers hoping to get on and, whisper it, perhaps, get out. Monika Tu is a millionaire; she sells them the gated communities and properties you’d expect the rich to live in. Does Miriam discover anything here? No.

Miriam heads west and meets a middle-aged woman living in a camper van. Here we’re juxtaposing the rich incomers with the poor, over-fifties women who make up the fastest growing group of homeless. But the lady Miriam meets loves her way of live. But it might have been more interesting if the producers had found the woman living in a car that was mentioned that perhaps doesn’t love her live so much. Does Miriam discover anything here? Yeh, she doesn’t want to live in home with a compost toilet and shower, which is a tap with a hose. Freedom without a mortgage has a cost and the grey ghosts are those without retirement money to put down roots. 155 000 and counting.

In some parts of Eastern Australia it hasn’t rained for three years. The worst drought since 1931, which lasted three years, like now—and counting. A hard land, made of swirling dust. In Trundle, businesses are closing. The farms surrounding it bear the weight of the drought. Four-generation farmers forced to shoot livestock because they can’t afford the feed. She asks Ron and Dolly’s eldest son, aged 9 and a bit, if he’s heard of global warming.  He shakes his head, kinda has, but remains optimistic. That’s the saddest part, his optimism. It won’t get worse before it gets better, as it did in the thirties. It’ll just get worse and worse. Does Miriam discover anything here? No. Smoke and mirrors.   Drive on. Get out, fast.

Miriam returns to Melbourne, where she has happy memories of having lived and loved. She meets Lidia Thorpe and her daugher, an indigenous activist (second of third-generation) that has been elected to Parliament. She tells Miriam, the Australian dream is based on genocide. True, but nobody really listens.

Miriam moves on to rural Victorian town of Nhill, whose major industry is based on slaughtering ducks (and chickens). Locals weren’t keen to work in the abattoir, so the owners imported immigrants that were happy to work for them. Miriam meets Tha-Blay Sher at his luxurious home, with his family and boss looking on as they share a meal that’s not duck stolen from the factory floor, but indigenous food of the Karen. Tha-Blay Sher is serving. They came to Australia from Burma and the refugee camps bordering Thailand.  Miriam is told by Tha-Blay’s daughter, Tha-Blay is one of many Karen refugees who now work and live in Nhill after being stateless in their country of origin. Obviously, they are delighted to have Australian citizenship. Obviously, they are delighted not to be in a refugee camp. When they stop being so delighted, maybe we’ll learn something new.

In her last stop, Miriam goes into Vinnies department store, ostensibly, searching for a Pyrex dish, with a film crew following her. She accidentally, on purpose, bumps into Moj that works in the store. He explains as a kid he arrived in Australia in a boat and he couldn’t speak English, he was around fifteen, but didn’t know for sure, because he didn’t have a birth certificate. He’s been here ten years and he’s twenty-five; his mum and dad were killed in Afghanistan. He has no family. He may be deported. The Australian dream is only for some. Miriam wishes him well. I do too. Does it help? No. Miriam will plug on, regardless. The Australian Dream has a sell-by date and is only for some.

I wonder where the BBC mandarins will send her next? Mars isn’t very far. Maybe the earth will have cooled down by then.

Miriam’s Dead Good Adventure, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, editor Gwyn Jones, episode 1 of 2.

miriams dead.jpg


There’s a simple rule in life, don’t get old and don’t get fat, which becomes a commandment on television. Presenter Miriam Margolyes is the exception to the rule. She looks a bit like Grotbags, the witch, but without the green hair. Margolyes has become something of the flavour of the month on BBC, a kind of low-rent-a-gob, fat and Jewish and a lesbian version of Louis Theroux that is sent to comment on the crazy American trends that perplex and amuse us.  Miriam’s Dead Good Adventure, for those not in the know is a play on words, mimicking Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and the rewriting of history into something groovy. Groan you might.

Miriam starts episode one and ends it in Wren Hall, a place where men and women with dementia spend their last days. As you’d expect with television cameras there’s plenty of activities and the staff all smile. Nobody beats the patients or steals from them. And they even feed them regularly. They get involved in old-fashioned sing-songs. It would break my heart, if I had one. This more than anything else scares the shit out of me. My partner argues it wouldn’t matter that much because you wouldn’t know what’s happening to you. Geoff who visits his wife June most days is a case in point. Miriam went away to America and came back about a month later and they were still repeating the same conversation. You is no longer you, but somebody else. We get the usual stuff from Miriam about how in love they are. Past tense?

In California they take the dictum never get old and never get fat very seriously and test them to breaking point.  The Revolution Against Ageing and Death (RAAD). Miriam usually begins the conversation by asking what age the plastic man or women is and what beach did they wash up from. Then she says they don’t look that age. Plastic people and Domestos bottle never do. Miriam aged 77 looks her age. She has always looked 77, even when she was 57. Plastic people’s pouts give them away. No they haven’t had surgery they were born with a heavenly, fish pout. They all seem to be that certain age where they plan to live forever.

Miriam jumped from California to Arizona. This is the place to go if you want to freeze your body, or if you can’t afford that, your brain for future generations to marvel about how stupid you were.  Pioneers of the super longevity movement plan to live long enough to outstrip our current body’s capabilities by freezing the balls off themselves and achieve escape velocity. Science will have the cure for death and dying and they’ve just got to wait until they can pick up the keys at the nearest showroom.  82-year-old Bernadene, who seems more plastic mannequin than person and cryotherapy enthusiast Jim, her youth partner, who discovered the secrets of eternal youth in his freezer and you’ve only to look at his hair to know it’s true. Bernadene is honest, for those schmucks or poor folk that can’t afford to pay for treatment and live an eternal kind of life, well, the world would be a better place. The secret of eternal life is only for some rich, white folk. Here is Trump’s America in a freezer bag. There’s more, but I won’t bore you with it. Nothing I’ve not seen before.