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Sir Tokyo Sexwale

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An "Ely", as Douglas Adams and John Lloyd's indispensable book The Meaning of Liff defines it, is "that first tiniest inkling you get that something, somewhere has gone terribly wrong". We used to have to use our memories or imaginations to appreciate the terrible precision of the phrase. Now, thanks to technology, we can watch it unspool before our very eyes, over and over again, courtesy of a new clip of the finale of this year's Australia's Next Top Model currently spreading across the internet like a waxing rash.


In it, host Sarah Murdoch (wife of Rupert's oldest son, Lachlan) announces to the two remaining contestants that: "It's you, Kelsey!" Kelsey duly embarks on an emotional speech of gratitude and appreciation; the loser, Amanda, smiles, claps and graciously thanks the programme-makers for the opportunity and then, off screen, you can hear Murdoch give a tiny gasp. By the time the camera cuts back, she looks stricken. "I'm so sorry," she keeps stammering. "I don't know what to say right now . . . No . . . Oh my God . . . It's Amanda . . . It was read to me wrong . . . I'm so sorry, this is insane . . ."


Even for a genre built on humiliation and embarrassment, this marks a new low. Normally the contestants do it to themselves. Rarely do other factors intrude and aggravate the situation. Inevitably, some are saying that it is a put-up job, a PR stunt, but if so, someone should turf Dame Judi off whatever movie she's working on and hire Sarah Murdoch immediately instead. It looks pretty gosh darn real to me.


The only thing that saves it from being the most godawful c**k-up in the history of television is the fact that Kelsey rallies almost immediately. She doesn't cry, she doesn't seek sympathy, she simply insists that everything's fine, that it's an honest mistake and that no one's to worry. Her genuine grace and sincerity is really quite moving. Still, you have to hope that Sarah stormed upstairs and tore a strip off whoever had the job of reading out one of two names correctly, in the first recorded instance of the Murdoch spirit being channelled for good, not evil.

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