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The Damnation of Harvey McHugh.

Written by John Misto, Graeme Koetsveld & Ray Kolle.

Minister


The Damnation of Harvey McHugh is an extraordinary mini-series, one that could probably only have been produced in Oz.

An irreverent and often biting black comedy, 'Harvey McHugh' chronicles the misadventures of a young man of the same name as he traverses the halls of Australian govenment in pursuit of his dream: to become a 'permanent' in the government service. Naive and insecure, Harvey is ill-equipped to cope with the backstabbing and machinations of his ambitious co-workers, and even less prepared for the treachery of the Minister...

The Minister, Michael Muldoon, is indisputably one of Philip Quast's most extraordinary characters. Part villain, part dedicated public servant, Michael Muldoon swaggers his ammoral way through the AFI award-winning series like a Javert gone 'bad', dispatching political and private foes with equal equanimity.

Suffering from a rare, degenerative brain disease, Muldoon thinks nothing of siphoning off funds from pensions and civil service salaries to finance the research that may find a cure for his ailment. It is young Harvey McHugh who indavertently discovers the misappropriation - and reports it to the Minister. A mistake, we soon discover, as Muldoon is behind the misappropriation and arranges for an 'accident' to befall McHugh. Plumeting earthward in the 'defective' elevator, the last thing Harvey sees is Muldoon's picture on the wall, now appearing almost sinister in the half-light.

Told in 12 episodes, The Damnation of Harvey McHugh runs the gamut from black humor to poignancy, its unique cast of characters unfailingly human in their moments of insecurity, courage, foolishness and ambition.

And, this is surely one of Philip's finest hours as an actor. Michael Muldoon is no villain, though many of his actions are villainous; this is a man who has come to his current level of cynicism and ruthlessness after years of observing the weaknesses of his fellow humans, and being disallusioned by them.

Yet, one likewise senses - despite his best efforts - Muldoon hasn't entirely succeeded in extinquishing the idealism one suspects he began with. In good part, it is Quast's doing that Muldoon is such a complex - and frequently contradictory - character, one you can't help but feel a grudging admiration for despite his many failings.

Philip as the Minister

This is a superb series. It contains some wonderful acting, writing and directing, which make for brilliant viewing. The excellent cast lead by Philip Quast who is at his devastating best, keeps your attention for the whole series.

The series intertwines the surreal with satire. It is set around two men who are thrown together under unusual circumstances, the first a lowly but ambitious clerk called Harvey McHugh who is struggling to survive in the insecure public service of Australia. He is naive, sincere, optimistic and also a virgin. His only aim is to gain a permanent job in the service.

The second is 'The Minister' Michael Muldoon played by Philip Quast who's aim is much higher, he wants to be first president of Australia and also to be cured. The Minister is merciless, pragmatic, resolute and ruthlessly charming. The Australian people worship him, and Harvey trusts him. He epitomises the best and worst of today's politicians, although Philip Quast does portray a vulnerable and humane side to the character.

The Cast:

Philip Quast (The Minister), Ronald Faulk (Dr. Voysner), Richard Piper (Gordon Robertson), Aaron Blabey (Harvey McHugh), Monica Maughan (Monica McHugh), Roger Oakley (Bernard), Daniel Rigney (Frank), Jane Borghesi (Georgina), Bruce Myles (Father Healy), Emma Strand (Diane) and Michael Burkett (Morris).


Synopsis:

Spay Misty for Me.

Directed by Geoffrey Nottage

Harvey McHugh works as a lowly clerk in the Government's Trust Department. The building is in very bad shape and the elevator often shuts down. When Mrs Dewhurst a pensioner tells him of a 17 cent shortage in her fortnightly benefits, Harvey decides to demonstrate his efficiency by finding the money hoping this will help him get a permanent position. Instead he discovers that all pensioners and employees are deliberately being short-changed by the Government's new computer G.O.D. (the Gatherer of Data). Harvey soon finds himself moved out of the Trust Department because of his enquiries and moved to Fisheries.

Harvey, unsatisfied at being moved out, accesses G.O.D. and is caught by the Minister. Harvey tells him everything about the 17 cents, not knowing it is The Minister who is responsible for the deduction. Muldoon will let nothing stand in his way of docking money from patients' pensions and government funds as he requires the money to finance Dr Voysner's research into finding a cure for Engelbaum's Syndrome, which The Minister is suffering from.

Harvey's boss, the Minister, decides to remove Harvey. He has had the elevator rigged so that it will crash upon its next trip and he has arranged that Harvey should be on it. But things go terribly wrong when the public service choir, the young Matildans, join Harvey in the lift. Harvey survives and a good job for The Minister as Harvey is his only chance of a cure for his illness. The Minister has Harvey moved to another job.


My Brilliant Chorea.

Directed by Amanda Smith

The Minister, states that he's the one who does the trade is infuriated with the Prime Minister who has made very good trade deal with Japan behind his back. He decides to use Harvey to destroy the deal and get back at the PM. The Minister has Harvey is transferred to the Film Office and influences the woman in charge Kathryn that Harvey be allowed to classify films even though it's against the rules.

Harvey has developed sexual anxiety and other side effects from watching X-rated movies.

The Minister tells Kathryn he wants Harvey to censor a documentary called, "Devouring Passions" a film about Japanese cuisine. This is the means by which he is going to get revenge on the Prime Minister. He threatens that she'll lose her job if Harvey does not classify the film.


Philip as the Minister

Whatever Happened to Baby X.

Directed by Robert Klenner

The Minister is angry with Judge Brown because he turned the whole Board of Directors against him, which kept him from becoming president of the Australia Club. He also feels threatened by him because he wants to investigate the lift accident.

The Minister is also upset about the fact Australian industries are booming at a record high when he has been trying to clean up the city to stage the first United Nations World Pollution Conference in Australia. This could ruin the Minister internationally and locally if the conference is not a total success. He insists it would take a national strike to halt this boom.

Harvey has fallen in love with Mary, a judge's associate. Mary is smart, funny and beautiful, but is not all she seems.

Whilst Harvey who has been to work in the family court is looking after a frozen embryo, which is the centre of a custody dispute the power to the building gets cut off. Harvey takes the embryo home, which is a breach of demarcation even though Mary advises him against it.

The Minister again plans to use Harvey and the situation, to get the pollution levels down and make him look good over the PM in the press.


A Tree Grows in Botswana.

Directed by Amanda Smith

The Minister faces political ruin when journalists discover that he has been keeping dossiers on the private lives of rival politicians. He tries to rally support from Gordon his friend, associate and party secretary. Gordon is angry with him but says the Party needs Muldoon so he will do his best.

Harvey meets up with Brandon an old childhood friend at the public service office. Brandon lies to Harvey and tells him that he's on work release to fix computers. He says he has been assigned to iron out the glitch in the 17 cents affair, when he has actually been called in by The Minister.

The Minister is getting more and more stressed out concerning the State Security files issue, so much so Harvey, when reporting to clean the restrooms, finds the Minister vomiting. The Minister tells Brandon he must not fail. Brandon devises an explosive solution to solve The Minister's problem.


Paint Your Bandwagon.

Directed by Michael Carson

After Harvey helps a man in the toilets of the public service office rumours spread that he is gay. On advice Harvey uses his "minority status" to apply for a job at a government sports institute. The Minister is also involved at the sports institute as he is hoping Australia will win the bid for the right to stage the Little Olympic Games in the year 2000. Not only that the PM has promised him the portfolio.

The Minister hears the rumour Harvey is gay and checks with Dr Voysner if he could be affected.

Harvey's mother is worried about the way he is acting and his appearance.

At the institute Harvey becomes friends with Simon who is also a friend of The Minister. Simon teaches Harvey to do flips as somersaults, and offers to help him work out. Simon warns The Minister, that the PM was unlikely to give up the Jr. Sports Portfolio. This turns out to be true which enrages The Minister. When The Minister discovers some information on research that is happening on the children at the institute, which could be very damaging to the PM, he decides to he use Harvey to blow the whistle.


Little House on the Gold Coast.

Directed by Amanda Smith

Dr Voysner tells The Minister they have a problem with Harvey. It seems he has an iron deficiency and they need a way to give him supplements without him knowing. The Minister tells the Doctor he knows just the department. So Harvey gets a job with the Police Department's Art Union and starts licking envelopes.

Harvey's mother wins the Art Union prize, a dream home on the Gold Coast but the draw is rigged, she is expected to give back the prize, but she wont. Harvey tells Dr Voysner about the prize. Harvey's mother is arrested and jailed.

Harvey is distraught. He and Bernard have tried everything to get Monica out. Harvey has even written to The Minister not knowing he is the person behind it all. Dr Voysner warns The Minister that if he doesn't move Harvey out of his job and release his mother it could cause a serious medical problem.


Heaven Knows, Mr. McHugh.

Directed by Robert Klenner

The Minister has a problem, Tony Coloni a singer is arriving in Australia for a concert tour trailed by an unwelcome organisation.

Harvey also has a problem he has fallen in love with Georgina who doesn't approve of Tony Coloni. Georgina tells Harvey all about Tony and the American organised crime syndicate he is involved with. The D.J.B. (Democratic Justice Bureaux).

The Minister problems get worse when he finds out that Harvey has got mixed up with Georgina. He knows that the D.J.B. will get rid of anyone who stands in their way and he cannot let anything happen to Harvey or Georgina. He warns McHugh and asks him to get Georgina to leave before it's too late.


Hey, St. Jude.

Directed by Geoffrey Nottage

The D.J.B. are back and causing The Minister problems again. They want to destroy Harvey for opposing their encroachment into Australia. They plan to try to break him but The Minister tells them he tried and didn't succeed.

The D.J.B.'s man accuses The Minister of being weak and makes a deal. If he can break Harvey then they will know The Minister was weak and if Harvey cannot be broken then they will support him. The D.J.B. plan to use Harvey's faith and family to destroy him.


Philip as the Minister

Under the Rainbow.

Directed by Robert Klenner

Harvey has started work at Science and Development (SAD). It's here he meets Diane from personnel who is conducting a fitness survey. They soon take a mutual interest in one another. Harvey also notices that his boss Dr Sapersteen is very edgy. The Minister is also visiting the good doctor and Harvey soon learns why. A destructive comet called Nemesis is heading straight for the earth. The comet cannot be stopped and The Minister, fearing chaos, has decided to keep it a secret. Harvey is told he cannot tell anyone which causes him some stress and even The Minister shows some signs.

Harvey is not the only one in his family under some stress though. His mother has given up smoking and his brother is having a real tough time.


How Green Was My Ballot?

Directed by Michael Carson

The PM has called The Minister's bluff and called a snap election. He thinks winning back his seat will be a formality, but he will be fighting to keep hold of it against a popular Green Independent.

Mean while Harvey has been moved to the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriage's, were he comes across a mystery surrounding why dead people are still considered to be alive by G.O.D. He too is caught up in the election and talked into campaigning for the independent, but he still has mixed feeling concerning The Minister. Which way will he cast his vote and how influential can dead people be.


From Here to Maternity.

Directed by Amanda Smith

The re-holding of the election for The Minister's seat is taking place. Gordon tells The Minister it will be run honestly. The Minister is confident and starts to think about challenging the PM.

Dr Voysner warns The Minister he must operate again on him and Harvey, the Minister says not until after the election.

Harvey has been transferred to Printing and Proofing. He soon discovers that his elderly co-workers are selling confidential government records to insurance companies and debt collectors. An acupuncturist tells Harvey that he has had an operation on his head. Harvey consults with Dr Voysner who says that's nonsense. Harvey asks one of his elderly co-workers to get him an illicit copy of his medical record, and is shocked by what he learns from it.

The Minister is actually just as concerned for Harvey as he is for himself and wants him to no the truth and so tells him. Harvey is scared and runs. The Minister is soon in hot pursuit.


Lord of the Flies.

Directed by Robert Klenner

Harvey has returned to work, but is convinced he was the victim of a medical experiment. But no one will believe him. Soon Harvey starts to wonder whether or not it was a dream. He is also coming to the end of his contract in the service and doesn't expect to be made permanent.

The Minister learns that the Prime Minister has been investigating his past. He thinks the PM is trying to destroy him again so he takes some drastic steps to stop him, but all is not what it seems.



Fan Reviews and Thoughts on 'The Damnation of Harvey McHugh'

A Review by Donalea Little

'Harvey', written and created by John Misto, is a satirical look at the heart and soul of Australia, her politicians and public servants. Revolving around two characters who are thrown together under the oddest of circumstances, it is a riveting 12 hour mini-series that keeps you glued to the television set from the very first. The main characters, The Minister played by Philip Quast, and Harvey McHugh, played by Aaron Blabey, along with a very talented supporting cast, keep the film rolling smoothly.

The Minister, aka Michael Muldoon , is an ambitious and manipulative politician who believes himself to be on a par with God. Like many politicians, Muldoon is smooth enough to charm the skin off a rattle snake. His driving, and all-consuming ambition in life is to become Prime Minister of Australia, (and from what I have seen of the Minister, I would vote for him any day!) Philip Quast, best known for his role as Inspector Javert in Les Miserables, is outstanding in this role. Quast has an uncanny, and chameleonlike, ability to 'become' a character, and in the case of Michael Muldoon, it is as if the character was made to order for him.

His intimidating physique, good looks, and quiet sensuality are a definite factor in making the Minister so believable. (Not to mention Philip's dangerously hypnotic eyes that can be incredibly sexy one minute and murderous the next). The Minister was rakishly charming when he wanted to be, but could turn petulantly childish when he didn't get what he wanted. A man of the Minister's size is a sight to behold when he throws a temper tantrum rivaling a three year old! One moment cold and calculating, ordering a man's death without batting an eyelash, the next revealing seemingly genuine feelings for young Harvey, the Minister is a complex character that would challenge the best of actors. Philip Quast pulled it off with finesse.

Harvey McHugh on the other hand, is the complete opposite of The Minister. Played by Aaron Blabey, Harvey is a somewhat naive, happy-go-lucky young man whose goal in life is to become a 'permanent' in the public service. A perfect foil for the Minister, his naiveté is almost frustrating as you watch him stumble along unaware of the machinations going on around him, but as the series progresses, his character gradually metamorphoses into something else entirely. The series itself surrounds these two men with a rather strange plot twist about a degenerative brain disease that is slowly killing the Minister. Muldoon has become dependent upon Harvey due to this disease, a fact Harvey is blissfully unaware of. Aaron Blabey, in his first TV movie, did a brilliant job of holding his own against the formidable Philip Quast.

'The Damnation of Harvey McHugh' captures your attention and holds it to the end. The humor is subtle though, so you have to pay close attention. Which isn't a problem with this series! I give it two thumbs up:)


Minister Article that appeared in TV Weekly Magazine Australia byCaron James



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