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The American Embassy bombs at home but flies the flag Down Under

By Natasha Cica - posted Wednesday, 2 April 2003

"People heal better than china cups. It's the cracks that make us stronger."
- Emma Brody, diplobabe

Gotta love that total sense-of-irony failure. Those seeking distraction from the deadly serious news of Blix, Blair and Bush - not to mention those home-grown firestorms that just turned the western flank of our national capital into something resembling Vukovar - were well advised to avoid The American Embassy, screening fleetingly this week on late-night commercial TV.

It was the story of a girl named Brody. Emma, that is. Newly appointed Vice Consul to the US Embassy in London. Twenty-something, naturally blonde. Utterly WASP. Totally ditz. Haircut, business suits and astounding levels of self-absorption - very Calista Flockhart in Ally McBeal. Fleeing truncated engagement after finding handsome corporate fiancé in bed with another woman. Alluring - but sexually unattainable - bloke magnet to a chunky CIA agent, a foppy English aristocrat or two, a geeky college boy with a penchant for stripping butt naked in her lobby, and even a transvestite Britboy neighbour. Survivor of terrorist bombing of embassy (fade to black and white, cut to Stars and Stripes fluttering in the aftermath). Sufferer of recurring champagne cocktail-induced flashbacks to dead bodies and quivering limbs and spilled blood, along the lines of the bomb massacre scene in The Quiet American.


But quiet this American wasn't. Most unfortunately. Viewers suffered her endless voiceover narrative-by-email to sister Jules back home, violating all security protocols, and composed sitting in bed - very Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex in the City, but without cigarettes of course - on a mom-and-blueberry-pie-coloured iMac laptop.

Reality TV it wasn't. For starters, Stanford graduate and former paralegal Arija Bareikis (aka Emma Brody) is thirty-something. Thirty-six actually, and you can tell because she has some dead cute smiley wrinkles happening around her mouth and eyes. But maybe that's too harsh, because something felt really authentic about that bit where Ms Brody came to the rescue (not) of an Algerian national applying for a visa to study in New York. She just knew there was something suspicious about him. He was, after all, a shifty and excitable A-rab and, as we were told in case we didn't know already, terrorists regularly sneak into the Land of the Free by posing as engineers, doctors and so forth. Peter Reith and Phillip Ruddock would have been proud of that smug, efficient pounding of her reject stamp onto his filthy underclass passport.

The FOX Network's press release for this series boasts: "The American Embassy provides a contemporary and sometimes geopolitical look at a young single woman abroad in pursuit of personal and professional happiness as well as a unique blend of American patriotism." Sure. Whatever. But at least FOX had the sense to pull this rubbish off American small screens after four episodes.

We'll never know for sure if that was because the US viewing public exercised their democratic right to vote with their ratings feet, the sponsors (reputedly including Ortho Tri-Cyclen birth control pills, Cheer laundry detergent and Maybelline) saw they were backing a loser, or someone sober and powerful was overcome by good taste and judgement. We'll never know for sure, either, why Seven decided to show it Down Under after it bombed so spectacularly in the homeland. Let's not go there, girlfriend.

I'm told it's important to end on a positive note. I offer two.

First - in a fit of pique in the middle of Episode Two, after the Algerian got bureaucratically zapped, I flicked the remote to SBS. And caught a snatch of something subtitled with a very black African asylum seeker in borrowed shoes dancing with a small white girl and her mother in a tiny German flat to something glorious that sounded like Youssou N'Dour. The world of television truly is an amazing place. I don't think that story had a very happy ending, but it was like diving headfirst into a tub of bioactive yoghurt after a diet of sick-making vanilla goo.


Second - there's a website where you can sign an online petition to FOX imploring them to bring back The American Embassy. That particular petition doesn't rate anywhere near the top ten by volume of supporters. One that does, bigtime, is the CND and STOP THE WAR COALITION petition to Tony Blair against bombing Iraq.

Let's go there, girlfriend.

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This article was first published in The Canberra Times on 3 February 2003.

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About the Author

Dr Natasha Cica is the director of Periwinkle Projects, a Hobart-based management, strategy and communications consultancy.

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