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Film: The Dish

The Dish is an Australian comedy from Working Dog Productions set in the rural town of Parkes in 1969. In the middle of a sheep farm sits its main claim to fame: A large radio telescope, over which Australia and the United States are joining forces so that the Moon landing can be relayed to eager viewers across the world.

The Dish explores 1960s culture, specifically the cultural differences between Americans and Australians, whilst casting a comical eye over the people of the rural town.

Not to be confused with the spin-off of The Soup that ran on the Style channel, or former The New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan's news aggregator/blog.


Tropes include:

  • Berserk Button: Cliff's wife, although the button invokes a touching portrayal of quiet grief rather than rage.
  • Call Back: Pieces of advice given earlier come back to give the boys the courage to go far beyond the call of duty (and the design tolerances of the dish) to make sure the signal goes through.
  • Can't Spit It Out: It's obvious to everyone that Glenn and Jeanine like each other, but he has trouble admitting it. Towards the end of the film, he finally summons up the courage to ask her out.
  • Cultural Cringe: Tensions between the natives and the visiting Americans.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mitch under pressure.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: "Cliff, that's bullshit. You just bullshitted NASA!"
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Cliff.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Janine.
  • Eagle Land: Interesting subversion. The main American character is a fairly quiet, unassuming, rather nerdy but obviously quite decent person. Mitch takes exception to him, however, purely because he's American and assumes he'll live up to the stereotypes he has of them, even though he doesn't in any way whatsoever.
    • The moody teenage daughter of the Mayor, Marie, calls America "cultural imperialists", keeps going on about Vietnam, calls the moon landing chauvinistic, and sneeringly asks if all the people in India will be watching it. She also thinks the mission is... well, her words:
      Marie: (defiantly) Is this mission being funded by the CIA?
      Al: Not entirely.
      Marie: (uncertainly) Really?
      Al: No.
    Al plays this so charmingly that when he says goodbye at the end of the meal, it's quite clear Marie has been won over.
  • Escalating War: Played subtly.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Prime Minister, odd given that a quick glance at the history books reveals the PM of the time to be John Gorton of the Liberal Party.
  • A Father to His Men: Cliff.
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Played in-story. "More tea, Prime Minister?"
  • Genius Ditz: Glenn.
  • Gilligan Cut
  • Hypocritical Humor: Mitch protesting "We're a professional unit!" while in the middle of a cricket match played in the bowl of the Dish.
    • The Prime Minister wondering why the eponymous Dish is in the middle of a sheep paddock whilst standing in (Old) Parliament House. Old Parliament House was built in the middle of a sheep paddock.
  • Insistent Terminology: A Running Gag with the mayor's wife.
  • Ironic Echo: Cliff's advice comes back to bite him twice. Also of note: Cliff relates some very pertinent advice to Glenn - discussing his wife's advice in the face of his own fear of accepting the responsibility of being part of the Apollo programme, but clearly trying to get Glenn to realise that it has a wider application: "Failure is never quite so frightening as regret." Glenn muses this for a moment and responds "That's good advice... I wish someone would tell me that."
    • Also: "It's on its way to the Moon."
  • Land Down Under: Mostly averted, though Al's lack of understanding of Australian slang is played for laughs in places.
    Mitch: You treat us like a pack of galahs!
    (Al looks confused)
    Glenn: (explaining) That's a type of parrot.
  • Mundane Solution: The team is panicking over just how the hell they're going to find Apollo 11—until Glen suggests pointing the dish at the Moon, which is where the spacecraft is going.
  • National Anthem: Subverted. Bob announces the US National Anthem, but the clueless band plays the 'Theme from Hawaii Five-O'.
  • Nerd Glasses: Glen has a pair of hornrimmed ones. Al sports the chunky black-framed type.
  • Precision F-Strike: Delivered by the Prime Minister.
    PM: Bob, we have a saying in the Party: you don't fuck up...
    Bob: Yes?
    PM: That's it.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Arguably, the aforementioned cricket match and bullshitting of NASA.
  • Schizo Tech: Despite being based on a true story, the juxtaposition of one of the most powerful telescopes in the world with rural Australian life qualifies. It is both Lampshaded ("What's it doing in the middle of a sheep paddock?") and Justified (Parkes' weather and radio noise, or lack thereof).
  • Separated by a Common Language: See Land Down Under above.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: the mayor. "What do I care if some big-wig Yank sees that I love my wife?"
  • The Sixties
  • The Space Race: Alluded to at the beginning with a montage showing President Kennedy's 'We choose to go to the moon!' speech.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: There is a radio telescope at Parkes, and it did transmit the broadcast of Armstrong walking on the moon, and high winds did pose a concern. Much of the rest of the movie, including the power failure, is made up for Rule of Drama and Rule of Funny. As noted in the closing text, Parkes continues to be part of NASA missions to this day... and it's still in the middle of a sheep paddock.
  • You Can't Miss It:
    Al: The prime receiving station has no idea where Apollo XI is?
    Glenn: Yeah, it's on its way to the Moon.
    • Later, they realise that this is actually a useful answer: since the spaceship is on its way to the Moon, with only a few thousand miles to go, it has to be within a few degrees of the Moon in the sky.
  • You Have 48 Hours: Used almost word-for-word by Mrs Spears when ordering the band to learn the American National Anthem.