With Omicron surging around Australia, there’s good reason to veg out at home in front of the TV this New Year’s Eve and observe the outside world through this medium we call television. One day in the future, plugged into the metaverse, we’ll be astral projecting between virtual fireworks displays while high-fiving our digitally recreated long-dead ancestors, but for now we are still absorbing entertainment via moving images displayed on flat screens.
The humble old teev offers various ways to count down the new year, including fireworks displays, recaps and movies.
Fireworks and New Year’s Eve concerts
The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has caused many fireworks displays to be cancelled around the world, including one in Melbourne that would’ve involved more than 350 drones – which may or may not have become sentient mid-performance and decided to rise up against their human overlords. You never know, maybe we dodged a bullet.
Many displays are still going ahead, continuing that great human tradition of creating colour and spectacle by making stuff explode in the sky. The ABC will be broadcasting several of them, including the Sydney fireworks at 9pm AEDT for those who can’t be bothered making it to midnight. ABC’s pre-fireworks shebang kicks off at 8.30pm with The Early Night Show, co-hosted by the charismatic actor Hunter Page-Lochard, who played the titular character in ABC TV’s Cleverman and most recently co-starred in Fires.
From 9.15pm, the ABC is broadcasting its NYE2021: Let’s Celebrate! concert at Sydney Opera House, hosted by Charlie Pickering, Zan Rowe and Jeremy Fernandez. Performers include Tina Arena, Missy Higgins, Casey Donovan and Genesis Owusu, taking you up to the countdown to midnight and more fireworks over Sydney harbour.
Alternatively, viewers in Victoria can tune into channel Nine to watch City Of Melbourne: New Year’s Eve 2021, which starts at 11pm and is hosted by Catriona Rowntree and Clint Stanaway.
I appreciate the “yearly recap” format – it reminds me of high school exam cheat sheets. My wife verbally summarised the appeal of the format when, while watching The Yearly with Charlie Pickering 2021, she said “oh yeah, that’s right!” at least three times.
Pickering’s special this year contains several laugh-out-loud moments but, obviously filmed pre-Omicron, already looks dated, with Pickering appearing near the beginning of the show sitting in a fairly crowded (albeit masked-up) studio. Funny moments include a segment called the Real Premiers of Australia, which recaps the argy-bargy exchanged between Australian premiers as if it were a reality TV program.
For a more international perspective, Netflix has its very funny Death to 2021 special, a sequel to Death to 2020. For snappier recaps, there’s Jimmy Fallon’s compilation of his “news smash” segments, this six-minute rewind of the year from Vox, and – shorter still – a two-and-a-half minute Reddit-produced video, which is set to an annoying upbeat ditty but, to its credit, begins with vision of geese wearing sombreros.
But, I hear you asking – nay, demanding – what about articles listing the very best Australian films and TV shows of the year? Here are a couple I prepared earlier: my lists of the best homegrown productions for both the big and small screen, featuring many hours of quality viewing.
New Year’s Eve movies
The perfect film to watch during NYE is something with a bit of a party vibe, or at least something that isn’t a total downer – so, no Lars von Trier films allowed. On ABC iView there’s Firestarter: The Story Of Bangarra, a terrific documentary (No 4 on my list of the best Australian films of the year) about the history of the amazing Bangarra Dance Theatre, which has been staging sumptuous visual and musical performances for decades.
Nine is screening Dirty Dancing at 8:30pm, fondly remembered as one of the pedigree dance-themed flicks of the 80s – the crop top-wearing, leg-flailing domain of Flashdance, Footloose, Fame and (my favourite of the bunch) Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.
For good family fun, NITV is screening Taika Waititi’s 2016 comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople from 7.30pm. Elsewhere, SBS is showing The Blues Brothers at 9:25pm, The Full Monty is airing on Seven from 11pm and 9Gem is screening Ben-Hur from 8.30pm – with a running time of three-and-a-half hours, it’ll take up a good chunk of the night and get you over the finish line into 2022.
Those hankering for a blockbuster spectacle can tee up the handsomely cinematic Godzilla vs Kong, which recently landed on Netflix. And if you haven’t seen the excellent Danish comedy/drama Another Round, check it out on SBS on Demand.
Adelaide Oval might be the most handsome sporting arena in the world and it showcases a sunset like nowhere else in Australia. So before the sky lights up with fireworks, why not check out the Adelaide Strikers against the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League and the many cutaways to the multicoloured gloaming? It’s screening at 7:15pm AEDT on channel Seven, Kayo and Foxtel. – Jonathan Howcroft