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Tube Talk: Corngate Revisited

TUBE TALK With John T. Forde

Corngate Revisited

Fields of Gold (Sundays, TV1, 8.30pm) isn’t the best drama currently on television – just the best-timed, and sure to be the most talked-about series of the year.

An Orwellian thriller about a young photojournalist who stumbles on a big-business cover-up of infected corn crops, it’s a satisfyingly sordid tale of big-business conspiracy, Government corruption and some of the most stomach-churning pig-farming shots you’ll ever see. Oh, and it also bears a passing similarity to Nicky Hager’s recent claims that the Government covered-up evidence of GE contamination in locally-grown corncobs.

Cutting deftly through the minefield of GE politics, Fields of Gold takes a somewhat simplified, David vs. Goliath tale. Lucia, a pretty young photojournalist and Roy, a crusty old alcoholic reporter, head to the country to investigate a dodgy doctor. Along the way, Lucia eyes up a handsome young farmer, and takes some pics of him administering an unknown antibiotic to some piglets.

Meanwhile, back at Parliament, the new Minister for the Environment gets ambushed by a pharmaceutical magnate, who insists he endorse a new growth hormone and provide extra security for industry-owned experimental farms.

Before long, Lucia gets bundled into the back of a van by mask-wearing kidnappers, but, plucky Nancy Drew type that she is, escapes, and uncovers – you guessed it – a huge conspiracy. As we discover, field trials of an antibiotic-enriched form of wheat go terribly wrong, creating a new killer super-virus.

But it’s not all bad. Lucia tells Farmboy to leave his pitchfork at the door and climb into bed for some serious sack action. Unfortunately, he gets into a fight with an evil corporate outside Lucia’s flat, kills and ends up dumping the dead body in her rubbish dumpster. One-night stands can be so tiresome when they leave behind baggage.

Despite solid production credentials (its screenwriters were journalists at the Guardian), Fields of Gold raised hell when it was screened in the UK. Unsurprisingly, scientists, business groups and most of the English broadsheets denounced it as sensationalist rubbish with a spurious grip on the realities of environmental science. Also unsurprisingly, environmental activists breathed a sigh of relief, acclaiming the show’s portrayal of an economy driven by profits at the expense of safety.

Strangely, no one seemed to mind the portrayal of journalists, who are all hard-bitten, chain-smoking nymphomaniacs with bad skin and nicotine-stained teeth who spit out acidic one-liners like martini olives. Well, no arguments there.

As to its accuracy? Who knows. Unlike documentary, drama doesn’t have to conform to standards of truth or accuracy.

Sure, the plot lays it on a bit thick – the bad guys are all smooth, super-evil Brits with impeccably-tailored suits and greying temples, or big-haired harpies with American accents. But the basics of good potboiling drama are all there – sex, lies, conspiracy and evil flesh-eating viruses.

And yeah, I’m sure even this fictional corncob has a kernel of truth. I have no doubt that multi-national drug companies would happily pimp their own grandmothers for higher profit margins.

But then again, I’m also excited by the thought of genetically modified tomatoes singing “Good morning!” to me when I open my fridge door. A killer virus could also be just what England needs to get rid of its ugly people, so maybe Fields of Gold’s evil corporates are onto something.

Will the evil corporates win out? Will the plucky girl journalist and her spunky farmboy uncover the plot before the virus wipes out Manchester? Will Jeanette Fitzsimons make a guest appearance as a mutant corn cob? Tune in next week – but make sure your garden vegies are under lock and key first.

tubetalk@nzoomail.com

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