There were three things I knew about Molly Meldrum before I watched Molly, he used to be on Countdown, he used to be on Hey Hey and the hat. Fast forward three hours and two episodes of a mini-series later and I feel like an expect on the subject. Well the Countdown side of things anyway, you can forget Hey Hey It’s Saturday. It was a little disappointing that the docu-drama didn’t cover that aspect of Molly’s life but when you think about it, it’s not really that disappointing that they didn’t cover that aspect of his career.
Someone high up at Channel 7 was very confident in Molly, it felt like we were seeing the trailers for this biopic for at least two months and if I was to be honest, I wasn’t really that interested. To be fair as a “millennial”, I don’t think I was really the target audience since my only memories of Ian “Molly” Meldrum were fleeting glimpses of his reviews from Hey Hey or that time he fell off the ladder. Turns out, Molly Meldrum was kind of a big deal (anyone older than me must be getting pretty pissed by now) and a major influence in the Australian music scene. Not only that but he has had a fascinating life and I cannot fault Channel 7’s decision to bring his life to the screen.
As you can probably gather from the title, Molly tells the story of a young Molly Meldrum. Set during the reign of Countdown (1973 – 1987), Molly shows the struggles, both professionally and personally of building Australia’s most popular music program. The story is presented a life flashback as Molly fights for his life in a hospital bed after his fall from the ladder. Sex, alcohol, drugs and Stetsons, all the stereotypes of Rock ‘N Roll crop up along the way.
Samuel Johnson wasn’t just chosen to star because he bares a slight resemblance to Ian, no he can act. Just as well as anyone in this cast, Rebecca Breeds, Ben Gerrard, Krew Boylan and everyone else on screen does a fantastic job. Even the fun little cameos by well know comedians along the way manage to pull of believability. Recreating the studio and live performances and fitting Samuel Johnson into the real interviews from the seventies add to this believability and never falter, even when I was waiting for a slip up. Who knew that even Prince Charles could act?
Docu-dramas are always in danger of falling into boring and useless storylines that while they may have been important to that particular person’s life, they never help the entertaining side of the story move forward. In Molly the writers have chosen well on the most dramatic and interesting aspects of Molly’s Countdown career and left the dregs by the wayside. Not only that but the famous incidents are wound up in between all of these as well. But if it’s the hat origin story you are interested in, than well you are going to have to prepare yourself for a long wait.
Even though Molly was aired as a two-part miniseries, when put back to back this is really a three hour movie. Each part is equally important, where it could be argued that episode one deals more with the stress of creating and running a television show while the second highlights how this stress can affect on one’s personal life once the show has become successful. To me, the most interesting scenes were the behind the scenes of the creation of Countdown and it felt very reminiscent of An Adventure In Space In Time, the docu-drama that showed the beginning of Doctor Who in the early sixties.
This is not to say that Molly was perfect, no it had its flaws just like every show. “Dream sequences”, that phrase alone should be enough to explain this little problem. It should be but this time it’s a little bit more complicated than “it was all a dream”. Instead “it was all a bit wacky and over the top” but the final dream sequence’s pay off did go a little way to redeem the first two scenes. There was also a tiny moment in which Molly’s Ethiopian taxi driver thanked him for what he did with Live Aid. Even explaining it now, I’m feeling a little cringy. Finally is the issue with the kissing. I lied before, I knew four facts about Molly Meldrum before I went into this, I also knew that he is gay. To refer to an outdated Seinfeld line, “not that there is anything wrong with that”, I got the feeling that maybe Channel 7 did think there was something wrong with that. Or at least they were worried the viewers would be of this opinion. The reason being is that he never actually kissed a man on screen, he kissed a lot of women but never a man. This isn’t a huge deal but I think they missed a couple of opportunities for feel-good moments in the similar vain of Pride.
So um, ah do yourself a favor and watch out for this one. Not only is Molly entertaining, well-written and wonderfully performed, it’s a beautiful educational tool. You will learn all about Australia’s greatest music guru and the impact he had on Australian music and the culture it surrounds. Which by the way is spot on by the way. I get the feeling that the production crew had a ball scoring this one, not one song is out of place and the majority is Australian music. The only time an international act gets played is when it is relevant to the scene on screen. So add music to the list of tasty ingredients that add up to create the “Molly Melodrama” of the year.