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Colin Hogg: The fireworks too long in coming

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The two-part tele-series on Australian rock band INXS is taking its sweet time in getting to the good stuff.

Luke Arnold plays lead singer Michael Hutchence perfectly, but his light has yet to really shine.
Luke Arnold plays lead singer Michael Hutchence perfectly, but his light has yet to really shine.

Why is it, in this jerky new world of sound bites and short attention spans, that television shows are getting longer and longer?

It's a question I had plenty of time to ponder wading through INXS: Never Tear Us Apart, which screened in primetime - for some reason - last Thursday on TV3.

At two TV hours long, last week's episode was only the first half of the dramatised story of the long-gone Australian pop band with the daft name that everyone at first - including the band's own lead singer, apparently - mispronounced as Inks.

Turns out INXS was inspired by the name of the Australian jam company IXL and the popular English new wave band of the time, XTC.

So far so fascinating, and really that was probably about the most fascinating single moment in the whole first half of this story of the Perth pub rock band that conquered the world back in the 80s when almost anything could happen and often did.

The five remaining living members of INXS were fully involved in the making of this Aussie tele-movie and, perhaps as a result, they got more individual screen attention than they deserved, though there were some nice moments.

One had the dad of the guitar player, or maybe it was the drummer, warning his boy off the rock-and-roll life, telling him: "You're trying to succeed in a luxury trade. You should do something people need, like making brooms."

But really, the only thing that makes INXS even faintly worthy of such an epic treatment was the singer, Michael Hutchence, who went on to make the story tragically perfect, dying in lurid and murky circumstances in a Sydney hotel room in 1997.

Watch: INXS: Never Tear Us Apart

Video

Without him, his looks, his voice, his moves - maybe not the crap lyrics so much - INXS would never have surfaced. Hutchence was a swan among mallards, the band five geeks and a rock god. Much is made in Never Tear Us Apart of the fact that one of the geeks, the chubby keyboards player, was the band's musical maestro, labouring over their tunes while everyone else larked about being pop stars.

But that, with much of the fodder served up in the story's first half, was dull and cliched. There was the moment when they first heard their song on the radio, the drug raid, the girlfriends and wives left at home and the road going on forever.

Plus a cloth-eared record company exec and a band manager who believed in them almost beyond belief. And there were groupies - no end of them, naked, bobbing about backstage or artfully arranged on king-size hotel beds. There was also Kylie Minogue, played by someone who didn't look much like her - and you do want people to look like who they're playing in these things.

Though they did just about have that with an actor called Luke Arnold, playing Hutchence pretty much to the hilt. But, in the first half at least, Hutchence's light is dimmed, so he's just one of the boys - albeit the one dating Kylie.

The fireworks will come in this week's second half, but the end of this tele-tale is just too far from the start. Even The Sound of Music was shorter.

- NZ Herald

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