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29 May 1997 Edition

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Television: Stop the lights, Savannah

Older readers will remember Quicksilver, possibly the worst quiz show ever screened in any language, which RTE made in the late 70s.

The questions were so idiotic, the contestants so retarded, the prizes so pathetic and the catchphrase (``Stop the Lights!'') so contrived, that anyone who watched it cannot ever fully erase it from memory.

Bunny Carr was the quizmaster. Each player started with a full board of lights: seven rows of seven. The top line of lights was marked £10, the next £5, then £1, then 50p, 10p, 5p and finally 2p.

As the lights flicked off from the top down, contestants had to answer three questions correctly. They could pass on one by shouting ``Stop the Lights!''

Even though, allowing for a one-second response time, the maximum anyone could ever win was £86.75, RTE was taking no chances.

One contestant, asked who or what was the Ayatollah, replied: ``Is it a ceilí band?''

Another, asked what was Hitler's first name, said: ``Heil.''

But a strange thing happened to Quicksilver. Viewers who stumbled across it found it compelling; like a terrible car crash they tried to look away but could not.

They told their friends who told their friends, and before long RTE had a cult on its hands, with tens of thousands of people tuning in each week to laugh at the show. So RTE took it off the air.

Now, the station seems to have done it again, buying in a programme from the United States that is so appalling it is compulsive viewing.

Savannah (RTE, Mondays, 9.30pm) is set in Savannah, Georgia, and revolves around the lives of three young women, firm friends going back to school. All are tall and thin and pretty; one a blonde, one a brunette, one a redhead.

The blonde woman, Reece, is a rich man's daughter, spoilt and deeply stupid. The brunette, Payton, is poor, the daughter of Reece's father's housekeeper and quite possibly the illegitimate half-sister to Reece, and devious the way a three-year-old child is devious, with it written all over her face. The redhead, Lane, is a failed star, returned to Georgia to work as a reporter.

The whole show is filmed with a heavy hand. The camera lingers on faces for two or three seconds at the end of each scene to allow the actors to grimace like the hams they are. There is `baddie' music for the evil characters, `happy' melodies for the good ones.

This week, Payton set out to seduce Mr Alexander, to get back at Mrs Alexander who disapproved and sabotaged Payton's relationship with Mr and Mrs Alexander's son in a previous episode. Payton puts Mr Alexander off his tennis game by posing in a bikini beside the court, then seduces him in his office but calls his home so that their lovemaking is recorded on his answering machine for his wife to hear.

Reece's father is running for the State Senate, but there's a spy in his election team, a pretty black woman called Grave, who hates Reece's father because his company fired her father two weeks before he was due to retire, thereby depriving him of his pension and causing him to die of pneumonia becuase he couldn't pay for hospital treatment.

Terry, a gorgeous, hot-shot journalist from New York, and Lane's former lover, arrives out of the blue to try to win her back from Lane's new fiancé, Dean, a hunky detective, who becomes jealous and sulks.

Reece's father is receiving death threats which the police are taking seriously but which ie is actually sending to himself to make up for some of the ground lost because of the spy in his camp, and get sympathy votes.

Dean, the jealous detective, is assigned as security to Reece's father because of the death threats, and when Reece's father is shot he is unable to see who did it (it was also a set-up for sympathy) but it's alright because Reece's father is wearing a bulletproof vest and is able to say to the cameras, just as he's carted off to hospital: ``It'll be a cold day in hell before some gun-toting coward shuts me up.''

This is all filmed in the cheapest way possible. In one beach scene, the same group of bikini-clad girls ran through the background four times - from right to left. The crowd scenes rarely have more than ten people in them, all milling about trying to look like a multitude.

But the best thing about Savannah is the dialogue. From this week's episode in reverse order, here are the choicest cuts.

``Well, as long as you're happy - I guess a lot of people have to give up their dreams.''

``Nothing good ever comes out of doing something impulsive - and I mean that.''

``There are dang few men who have the effect on me that you do.''

By Michael Kennedy

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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