Seth MacFarlane’s Ted features drug use, sexual banter and profanity-fueled humor. ‘I loved that teddy bear. He could’ve said anything and it wouldn’t have bothered me,’ said one mother.
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LOS ANGELES: When I was with a group of parents last week, watching our kids play in a 14-and-under baseball tournament, I asked them how many of the boys – aged 13 and 14 – had gone to see the movie Ted (rated MA15+ in Australia). The answer: just about all of ’em. But here’s what I found really surprising: nearly all of them went with their mothers.

Put simply: despite its rampant drug use, crude sexual banter and profanity-fueled humour, Ted has become a family movie.

I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly shocked. When my wife and I saw Ted, we sat next to a dad with his son. When I asked the boy how old he was, he said 11.

This isn’t the first time a lot of parents have taken their kids to a raunchy comedy. The Hangover series also had considerable multi-generational appeal, though judging from anecdotal evidence, it was more of a father and son experience – bachelor parties gone bad isn’t exactly a mum-friendly genre.

But Ted has crashed the cultural zeitgeist in a big way. At first, I figured this might simply be a chattering-class phenomena. It wouldn’t exactly be a news flash that parents in West LA have different values than parents in Kansas City or Cleveland. But judging from the number of kids in the theatres across the US, Ted may be breaking records in terms of drawing pre-teens and early teens into the multiplexes.

Because it’s an R-rated movie in the US, children under 17 seeing Ted have to be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. According to CinemaScore, a research group that interviews opening-night moviegoers around the US, the number of under-18 moviegoers for R-rated comedies tends to run somewhere between 10 percent to 13 percent.

According to CinemaScore figures, 10 percent of the opening-night audience for Horrible Bosses and Bridesmaids was under 18. For Hangover 2 and Knocked Up, it was 13 percent.

For Ted, it was a whopping 18 percent. And those are just opening-night figures. If the survey included Saturday night and Sunday afternoon moviegoers, the percentage would surely be considerably higher.

But what made Ted such a family-friendly film? After talking to a bunch of mums as well as some Hollywood marketing executives, I think I can sketch out a few plausible theories.

First off, the film benefited in a big way from we might call the Seth MacFarlane Factor. MacFarlane, who co-wrote and directed the film, has built up a huge reservoir of goodwill with parents and kids, thanks to his popular Family Guy TV series. Even though the show’s comedy is sarcastic and occasionally crass, it’s hardly outrageously offensive material. So when parents saw MacFarlane’s name plastered all over Universal Pictures’ ads for Ted, they assumed that the film’s comedy wouldn’t be as nasty or insulting as Project X or Adam Sandler’s That’s My Boy, two recent R-rated comedies (both rated MA15+ in Australia).

And of course, Ted has, at its centre, a teddy bear. I suspect many moms were subconsciously drawn to the film because of the bear. Even though the bear actually has a mouth like a sewer, it was a reassuring icon from their kids’ childhoods. As one mum told me: “I loved that teddy bear. He could’ve said anything and it wouldn’t have bothered me. If they’d been selling stuffed Ted bears at the concession counter, I would’ve bought one.”

Movie marketers view it pretty much the same way. “You could say that parents were tricked, in the best possible way, by the combination of the furriness of the bear and acceptability of Seth MacFarlane,” said one studio marketing chief. Because of the bear, Ted had a very different image with parents than a stoner comedy featuring Seth Rogen or Jonah Hill.

“Most R-rated comedies with lots of drugs and bad behaviour come off as emulatable or aspirational, which for mums, is a huge drawback,” he said. “But somehow it’s OK to see scenes where Mark Wahlberg gets stoned with a teddy bear. It comes off as far more of a harmless fantasy than if Wahlberg was getting stoned with Owen Wilson.”

Ted also benefited from its online buzz factor. When Universal first put up the film’s trailer this year, the blogosphere and Twitter were filled with positive word-of-mouth. By the time the movie opened, fans were tweeting about the packed theaters and sharing great moments from the film.

The positive buzz created what movie marketers call a collective sense of momentum for the film. “Everyone is so inter-connected now that when you have a hit, it feeds off of its own frenzy,” said one marketing expert. “When the kids are all tweeting, ‘It’s so cool’ and ‘I’m at this theatre – why aren’t you here too?’ it creates an enormous peer pressure that parents find hard to resist.”

Or as one mum told me: “It just gets to the breaking point where you go, ‘Am I going to be the only parent who says no?'”

Speaking from personal experience – I have one of those 14-year-old boys too – it isn’t easy to say no. So far, I’ve been holding firm. I let my son see 21 Jump Street and American Reunion, but I’m drawing a line in the sand with Ted. The foul language and sexual innuendo didn’t bother me, but the massive amount of casual drug use – even if it involved a guy and a bear – came off as a bit too easy to emulate for me.

But how firm is that line in the sand? Ask any parent. When a movie is as irresistible as Ted, it creates a big cultural wave, certainly a wave big enough to wash away a lot of parental lines in the sand.

LA TIMES

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Queensland Health plans to provide a loan of two weeks’ wages to each of its 84,000 workers, allowing the department to delay the regular pay date in a bid to reduce errors.
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Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said today the government would push ahead with plans to change to pay date for its workforce, as overpayments continued to cost about $1.7 million and affect 4000 people each pay cycle.

Mr Springborg said employees were currently paid three days after the end of their roster, but from October that period would be extended to 10 days, in line with expert recommendations to improve the accuracy of payments.

This would mean as many as 10,000 additional forms could be included in each pay run, but the income of health staff would not be affected, he said.

Mr Springborg said the changeover would require transition loans to help staff manage their financial obligations, with such loans set to be provided to all employees unless they opted out. He said the loan value to be calculated for each staff member would be based on about two weeks’ net pay.

Each loan would be recovered automatically when staff members left Queensland Health.

Mr Springborg said it was unfortunate that employees with bank account deductions would need to adjust their schedule to suit the new pay timetable.

He said “long-suffering employees” would be inconvenienced by the change, the latest impact coming in the wake of Labor’s 2010 introduction of a new health payroll system “from hell”.

“Details will be discussed with unions shortly,” Mr Springborg said in a statement.

“We will handle this process sensitively, but it will not be comfortable and for that, from those responsible, there is still no apology.”

Mr Springborg also announced that in the future, staff pays would be adjusted automatically when overpayments occurred, so that mistakes were resolved correctly.

This would not apply to pre-existing overpayments or debts from earlier payroll malfunctions, but would be “restricted to correct future payroll overpayments – and only after permission is sought and received from the employee concerned”.

Mr Springborg is due to face the media early this afternoon.

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GEELONG coach Chris Scott believes the reigning premiers have a “huge opportunity” to lift their “average” season in the run home to finals.
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The seventh-placed Cats, face a tough task in coming weeks, facing the league’s top six teams, starting with Collingwood this Saturday at the MCG.

“In some respects it’s a little bit daunting, especially for the people looking in from the outside,” Scott said.

“But we are treating it as a huge opportunity. We have a chance to test ourselves in the way we play against the good teams. We have a chance to take points away from them. We have a big chance to really improve the way that we are playing and there’s no better time to do that than against the really good sides.”

The Cats narrowly staved off an unsually uncompetitive Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium on Sunday, beating the home team by 14 points.

Still Scott believes the Cats can dramatically lift their form to ensure they are playing their best football as the season nears its pointy end.

“Absolutely I think we can (have a big jump in form). As I said the preference is to be playing better but there is no reason why we can’t play really well this week.

“It would be probably easier for us to be playing really well and continue that form into this week rather than to be playing average footy and then play really well, but it doesn’t make it impossible.

“I was asked the question post game on the weekend: ‘Do you think you can win on the weekend?’ Of course we can. Of course we can. I’m not saying we are going to. But if we play near our best, absolutely we can win. Not only this week, but every other game we play in the rest of the year.”

Collingwood defeated Geelong by 12 points in the dying seconds of their last meeting in round eight.

Scott took heart from the game and believed the Cats game style could still “stand up” to the Pies.

“I don’t think there’s been significant change in the way the two teams will approach it, so we know we need to play our best to go with them.

“They have been playing pretty good footy, especially before the weekend, so it’s going to be a big challenge.

“(But) I think we have got a pretty good record against Collingwood. I mean, apparently we were playing pretty poorly before we played them last time and scores were level with 90 seconds to go, so we think our method is OK against them, but we are not hiding away from the fact that we need to play a little bit better than we are to compete with them.”

Geelong will most likely without power forward James Podsiadly, who missed last week with an ankle.

He will have a fitness test last this week, but Scott conceded that Podsiadly, who did not join full training this morning, would probably be ruled out.

“It’s a bit hard to say. He didn’t do anything last week. We ruled him out probably mid week so that would mean he’s in doubt for this week.

“We’ll train later in the week and probably give him until Thursday and Friday before we make a call. At the moment, speculating, I’d say he’d be in doubt. But as I said he hasn’t tested it so we don’t really know.”

The Cats will also be missing 2007 Brownlow medallist Jimmy Bartel who has accepted a suspension after striking Gold Coast’s Trent McKenzie behind play.

“We are disappointed he is not going to be available but we understand things happen,” Scott said.

“Jimmy is a very experienced player. He has got a pretty good record, everyone respects him as a ball player, so we’ll treat it as an isolated incident and move on.”

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Olympic dreams … Abby Bishop is now on her way to London.Basketball has taken Abby Bishop around the world but as she prepares for the biggest moment of her career, the former Canberra Capital revealed she almost quit when she lost her passion for the sport.
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Bishop left Canberra on Monday to begin her Olympic Games journey.

It’s the dream she’s been trying to reach since arriving at the Australian Institute of Sport as a boom teenager in 2005.

Since then she has conquered the WNBL, won a WNBA title and played at a world championship.

But life as a semi professional took its toll and Bishop was ready to give basketball away just 18 months ago.

Her love of the game disappeared and it became a chore.

But with the Australian Opals chasing an elusive gold medal, the 23-year-old’s passion is back and she is ready to perform on the world stage.

“There have been a few moments where I wasn’t sure about basketball, I felt like I was missing out on what my friends were doing,” Bishop said.

“But I realised they envy what I do and that I do love the game and I’m not taking it for granted again.

“There were times when I didn’t want to do it any more, I didn’t enjoy my time at Dandenong [in the WNBL in 2010-11].

“The biggest thing is you have to enjoy it, you have to find a way to be happy and that’s the biggest thing I’ve learnt.

“It has just made me stronger and helped me in my journey to where I am now.”

The Opals will be one of the first teams to arrive in London as they aim to better the silver medals they have won at the last three Olympics.

Superstar Lauren Jackson will lead the campaign. But with Penny Taylor out of action, Bishop and her teammates need to rise to a new level to reach the top.

Capitals coach Carrie Graf will lead the gold medal bid with former Canberra player Suzy Batkovic also in the side.

Bishop saw limited game time at her world championship debut two years ago, but her workload will increase in London.

“Everyone goes to an Olympics wanting to win gold and that’s what we want to do,” Bishop said.

“I think it will hit me when we get to the [Olympic] village … I’ve grown as a player and I feel as ready as I can be.”

Bishop has lived a nomadic life during her basketball career.

Originally from South Australia, Bishop moved to Canberra to start a scholarship with the AIS.

She left the program early to join the Capitals and played in three championships.

After helping the team to a title in 2010-11, she joined the Seattle Storm in the United States, returned to Australia to play for Dandenong and moved to the Adelaide Lightning last year.

At the end of the Olympics, she will join French club Perpignan.

But “Canberra is my home” and Bishop is building a house in Bonner.

“Everyone says why do you live in Canberra, but I’ve been here for seven years now and I love it,” Bishop said.

“It’s my base and I’ve got amazing friends and I’ll always come back here.”

The Opals are in the same group as Great Britain, Brazil, Russia, France and Canada.

They will play their first match against Great Britain on July 28.

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Former ministerial adviser Tristan Weston worked to bring down former police chief commissioner Simon Overland, and is not owed an apology by the government, according to Police Minister Peter Ryan.
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The Office of Police Integrity has reportedly written to Mr Weston saying he will not be charged with a criminal offence, despite his admissions that he used his position in Mr Ryan’s office to actively undermine Mr Overland, who eventually resigned.

Mr Ryan — who described Mr Weston as a “Walter Mitty” character — told radio station 3AW it was unusual for anyone to be charged on the basis of Office of Police Integrity reports.

“I think he did act inappropriately,” Mr Ryan said.

“He conducted himself in that period of 90 days in a situation where he was leaking information extensively to the media. He subsequently apologised to my chief of staff and to myself and the report carries his own admissions in relation to his course of conduct at the time and he resigned.”

Mr Ryan said he still believed Mr Weston had run a campaign to undermine Mr Overland and promote the prospect of the former chief commissioner’s deputy, Sir Ken Jones, taking the top job.

“He conducted himself in a way for which he was most apologetic when the matter was disclosed, and as far as I’m concerned, there it rests.”

Mr Ryan said that if Mr Weston — who was a serving officer when he worked in the minister’s officer — was still a member of Victoria Police he could be subject to disciplinary action.

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