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Join The Mallrats as Channel Five's The Tribe brings antipodean apocalyptic angst to the small screen


When I think back to the programmes I remember fondly from my childhood, they all have one thing in common; a strong visual presence.† The same thing could be said of The Tribe, recently screened on†Channel†5 .

Made in New Zealand, The Tribe is set in a futuristic world where all adults have been wiped out by a mysterious man-made virus, leaving only teenagers and children to cope in a rapidly crumbling society.†The young people are left to struggle in a world where electricity no longer works, where health care is non-existent and where there are no adults to turn to in times of crisis.

The tribe that we follow are the Mall Rats, a motley band of misfits and outsiders who gradually emerge as one of the stronger Tribes in existence. Unsurprisingly the Mall Rats live in a deserted shopping mall.† They are the heroes of the piece, constantly struggling to keep order in a society where “Chaos and Power” are fighting for control.

In this setting, the characters have to deal with potentially life-threatening issues head-on. They have previously tackled teenage pregnancy, bulimia, alcoholism and bereavement and† an all-consuming cult religion as well as their everyday survival issues.

The plot moves quickly, with charactersí opinions and love lives changing rapidly.† It is difficult to keep up with the story line after missing only one episode and the plot† is further complicated by characters drifting in and out as the main story arc is completed.† It is refreshing to see a childrens' or 'youth' programme actually expecting its audience to follow the intricate plot, especially in these days of dumbed down programming.

Visually, the programme strikes you right between the eyes.† We are back in Mad Max territory with the over-the-top makeup and customised clothing.† The hair and make-up changes from week to week with various strange symbols and hair colours adorning the characters, and yet the markings and symbols are never really explained or spoken about.

†The cast are all extremely young and surprisingly they all are playing characters in their own age group.†The oldest cast members are only 17 years old, and yet despite the castsí young age they already have an impressive acting resume behind them.† Caleb Ross, who plays Lex, has already notched up a performance as Temecula in an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess and Sarah Major (Patsy), at only 10 years old, previously appeared as Herculesí daughter Galea in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

The Tribe isnít perfect television by any means. Several important questions remain unanswered. If these children are struggling to find food, how do they have time to put so much make up on? If the virus only attacks adults, at what point does it recognise someone as an adult? These faults aside,†it is stylish and charming enough to ride most of these out.†It might not be good enough to hook an older cult audience, but Iíd be willing to wager money that some of the future cult television fans will have been reared on it.

Karon Hollis

Page Last Updated Sunday, February 13, 2005 at 12:27:16