"Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo" TV mini-series Review

I'm sure I wasn't the only one anticipating the docodrama mini-series "Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo", which screened on ABC1 last night and tonight. As a mag addict and former publishing worker-bee it's always interesting to see other people's perspectives on what really goes on under the glossy covers.

So was the anticipation worth it? Hmmm, not really.

For one thing I don't think it was long enough! I would have loved to have seen a few more instalments, chronicling Cleo as it 'grew up' so to speak. I mean Ita worked at ACP a bloody long time, surely there would have been a bit more to report? Because really, they launched the mag, lots of people bought it and thought it was a bit rude, Ita had a baby and got upset a few times, a few people smoked some joints and had affairs and...well that was really it.

Maybe I'm being a little bit harsh, as I know magazines played a major role in helping to liberate women from socially prescribed roles in the seventies, and I do think this came across in this well made piece of Aussie TV, but I just thought there was a larger story to tell.

I have to say the second instalment was a lot better than the first, and the acting, particularly Asher Keddie (who I loved in Offspring) as the honourable Miss B herself, was stellar. Although seeing Belle from Home and Away as an "aspiring" journalist and wannabe feminist was a bit strange, Jessica Tovey is a quality Aussie actress too, but I kept expecting her to head back to the 'Bay' at any given moment. Instead (SPOILER!) she headed over to London to escape a married lover, and work on the underground(?!) mag TimeOut.

So are "true" stories about the mag industry just not as juicy as we want them to be? A quick squiz at the supposed reality show Park Street on foxtel would suggest so. I can't count how many reviews I've read about that one labelling it boring, underwhelming, and just plain dull. I still watch it, but more in the hope I'll see a few minutes of something interesting in the half hour program. As someone who has worked in the biz, I can tell you there are plenty of drama queens and giant egos walking the corridors of the major publishing houses that would make great characters in any soap (but it looks like they're hiding).

So why is the juicy stuff about publishing being disguised with portrayals of 'nice' people and 'typical' work days?

Maybe everyone is just being far too polite? I can't help but get the sneaking suspicion that the Aussie mag industry is trying to build an admirable image in order to sell more issues, because, let's face it, circulation is in the toilet! But maybe they should take a different approach, dish the juice! I mean come on, Kim Kardashian made a skanky sex tape and it promoted her career! The public loves drama, and are attracted to it like moths to a flame. I think that's the only way the mags can put a bit of fire back into their sales.

The lovely Mia Freedman (who could give Ita a run for her magazine queen tiara) has written an interesting post discussing Paper Giants and Park Street on her website here (the PaperGiants image above is courtesy of this article).

I commend her honesty about the current state of the industry. Maybe it will soon be lights out in the glossy offices? Are the mags dying?

As Sylvia Plath said (and Paper Giants quoted!):

Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real...

So Cosmo/Cleo etc, does it feel real?

xxx BeautyScholar


Miss Lexi said...

This is brilliant.
Definitely agree, would of liked to see more drama and goss

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