Home and Away “Welcome to Summer Bay”: Rewatching the early years.

Discussion in 'Australian & New Zealand Soaps' started by Mel O'Drama, Nov 13, 2019.

  1. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Bevan Lee's dialogue is incredibly poetic and human. With a few small tweaks I could imagine these lines fitting seamlessly into early Corrie.

    Off the back of this rewatch I'm feeling motivated to explore other series which showcase his writing. And it looks like there's a choice of more recent series which tick that box.
     
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    Such as A Place to Call Home ...
     
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  3. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes indeed. Bevan Lee and Peter Healy. It's safe to say it's on my radar.
     
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  4. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 187-199


    We’re a little way off the blatant Neighbours cash-ins of recruiting Kylie’s screen brother and actual sister for the main cast. All the same, stunt casting is beginning to creep into the series in a couple of different forms.

    Firstly - and perhaps most obviously - there’s the big-name guest-star playing himself. I must confess the name John Farnham wasn’t known to me until May 1989 when James Oram’s Home and Away book covered his visit, which at that point was still months away on UK screens. Even now, when I have a few of his songs in my music library (he has a nice voice), the first thing I think of when I see his name is Home and Away. I’d guess he’s one of those Australian legends who’s not so well-known over here.

    As a guest-star he’s well served, with plenty of opportunities taken to massage his ego and promote him as an artist. We see concert footage of him as Bobby and Frank attend his concert. And since Sally, who won the tickets, is bedridden with chickenpox, the writers show John to be the generous, benevolent superstar. When Bobby asks for his autograph to give to Sally, John decides to drop everything and drive to Summer Bay, where he serenades the eight year old in her sickbed (this gives us a bizarre sequence where Sally’s bedroom disappears and we enter a naff budget Eighties music video before returning to the set for the end of the song. Think Frankie Valli in Grease and you’re halfway there).

    Naturally, everyone in Summer Bay is a huge Farnham fan, so there’s a whole sub-plot where Tom misleads Celia into thinking he’s going to drop by the store. While his clamouring fans gather there, Whispering Jack is able to wander into Summer Bay house unhindered. And because he’s so generous and benevolent, he is tolerance personified when Lance and Martin sing him their terrible song.

    Perhaps most bizarrely, Farnham’s presence in the Bay is used to wrap up Walt Bertam’s story, when Pippa intercepts his car as he’s leaving (an occurrence that further highlighted the indulgent narcissism of soap characters. He’d already been persuaded to wait for Pippa to return home, even though he had somewhere to be) and persuades John to visit Walt (who else but Pippa Fletcher could get away with screeching past and blocking the road in front of a singing star’s limousine in order to force them to get involved in her current storyline) where a local reporter takes their picture and puts it on the front page. The idea being that the local bigots will see John Farnham’s complete acceptance of Walter and will follow his example. And we’re led to believe the gamble pays off as Walt is instantly happy. So it gives Walt’s story an upbeat ending. All the same, I found it an unsatisfactory one. When last we see Walt he is still living at Donald’s and just starting to move forwards. I want to see what happens to him after this, but instead of a proper write-off all I’m going to get is snippets of dialogue. So he’s joined Doris Peters as a local who we just stop seeing. Walt’s example is even more strange, considering he’s meant to be living in the home of a lead character.

    Another example of stunt casting arguably comes in the arrival of Darius Perkins as Gary Samuels.
    [​IMG]
    In many ways he’s a natural choice, having appeared in Seven Network series before (and won a Logie for one of them). But the fact that Darius originated the character of Scott Robinson in Neighbours won’t have escaped the notice of the producers. As with John Farnham, Darius’s episodes are ones that were covered in the Behind The Scenes book so I was aware of them ahead of time. And this was something of a second chance for Darius whose departure from Neighbours had come under a cloud.

    Darius’s arrival was something I anticipated with a degree of excitement at the time. I enjoyed his portrayal of Scott. He had a humility. Almost to the point of lacking in confidence. And there’s something about this that seemed very truthful. I missed him when he left the series. And I think the largest part of why I never warmed to Jason Donovan’s portrayal of Scott is that he lacked these qualities and so came across as cocky and almost arrogant in comparison.

    Nonetheless, Jason’s Scott was then one of the hottest properties in Australian TV. So, even by association, Darius’s soap history was going to be something of a big deal at this time.

    Rather like Alan Fisher, Gary Samuels is right in the thick of things from his very first scene. In fact I’d forgotten just how mercurial the character is. He starts off as a Bad Guy when Carly identifies him as her rapist. Sorry… attacker. Although…

    This arc brings the series first empirical mention of the nature of Carly’s attack is given. We almost get it from Gary Samuels himself who starts to say what he’s been labelled as. Except he’s stopped by Carly.

    The real disclosure then comes from Bob Barnett after a second woman is “attacked” and Gary is the key suspect. When Carly asks if she will be able to speak to a judge should Gary be brought to trial for the second attack:
    It’s a throwaway line, but significant in acknowledging a sexual assault. Over seven months after the actual event!

    Something that hasn’t sat well with me about this story is how unwilling Carly’s family have been to believe her. Don’t get me wrong, the conflict coming from it was enjoyably frustrating to wathc. All the same, it seems a little untruthful that Tom and Pippa would brush off her concerns as easily as they did. Carly’s righteous anger seemed most justified to me.

    There’s a (rather convenient) twist when a third woman is “attacked” and fights back, getting her attacker caught. Naturally, he looks rather like Gary, and Carly identifies the lookalike as her true attacker, vindicating Gary.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    The main thing that jumped out at me was that he has a much better haircut than Gary.




    continued...
     
  5. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 187-199 (...continued)


    Further bolstering his new status as the misunderstood Good Guy, Gary plays hero when he rescues Brett Macklin from drowning. That both Roo and Brett have contemplated suicide as part of the Martha storyline is interesting. Brett reflects on his own to Stacey:
    This is all part of Brett’s closure. He’d returned to town to make amends to various people, and the suicide bid came when Phillip rejected his apology. They’ve since made peace. Frank and Stacey have both wished him well. The timing is a little odd, since Roo and Alf are both out of town (this series seems really good at giving actors some time off after big storylines). But I suppose we’ve had the definitive Roo/Brett ending scene at the hospital.

    But the back and forth with Gary doesn’t end with his hero status. The character is essentially a chancer. So there have been several episode endings featuring one-sided telephone calls in which he tells an unseen friend in the city of his plans to exploit various characters in various ways. He’s got plans for Lance’s money. And he’snow dating Carly which is quite a turnaround. But he’s also been seeing Alison Patterson in order to gain the Macklin Group safe code - something that got both Alison and Frank sacked, and has seen Alison do the walk of shame back to the classroom of Summer Bay High.

    Alison’s Mum, by the way, has turned out to be none other than Colleen Fitzpatrick, AKA Sons And Daughters’ Jean Hopkins. Which perhaps explains a lot.
    [​IMG]
    We’ve learnt that Alison’s father is the local milko, and she lives on the local dairy. Another new piece of Summer Bay geography to get confused over.
    [​IMG]
    I had wondered if “Sturt” on the sign was a misspelling of “Stuart”, which in turn could be a misspell of “Stewart”, since there are a lot of Stewart-related names in the Bay. But then I double-checked, and Gary had “psychically” previously guessed her address as “84 Sturk Road”. Which is close enough.

    Now that the attacker business is settled, a great deal of the Gary stuff is turning out to be less than sparkling. It’s not terrible, but neither does it have any depth. There’s little character, so it feels like antagonism for antagonism’s sake.

    It would probably be too much to hope that he would flesh out his brother Jeff a little more. But Floss seems to like Jeff just the way he is.

    Floss nibbles from a packet of nuts while complaining to Celia because there is no copy of Playgirl on the newsstand:
    [​IMG]

    Floss wanders off while Ailsa serves Jeff. Returning to the counter, Floss passes Jeff and gazes after him lustily. Lest the nuts-in-a-sack are too subtle, Floss is now fondling a banana:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Floss’s props are an example of the subtle sexual innuendo thrown in from time to time. It’s very welcome. Perhaps the filthiest to date was a while back when Bobby claimed that Narelle would eat a male character alive, and Alan asked if she’d care to rephrase that.

    Jeff's also had a date with Stacey, complete with audio thought bubbles so we knew what Stacey was really thinking. I can almost feel JFL's stomach churning.

    Speaking of lusty Narelle, she’s now exited the series for good to continue her quest for Mr Right in the city. Philip obligingly gave her the numbers of all his eligible male friends. She’s a loss for the series, I think. Rather like Floss and Nev, she was one of those characters who could be relied on to brighten up a scene, while generally staying somehow uninvolved in the mainstream chaos.

    Colleen has also gone, perhaps rendered obsolete by Celia's permanent return.

    I’ve now reached the end of what Amazon Prime bizarrely calls Season One, even though there are still almost thirty episodes left of the actual first season.
     
  6. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 200-206


    You have to feel for Donald Fisher. He’s trying to keep his life as normal as possible but keeps walking into these soapy scenarios. In this case it’s quite literal. Like the viewer who’s missed a few consecutive episodes, he pops into the Fletchers after hearing about the amnesia, only to be told he’s behind the times. Voicing the obscene ridiculousness of it all serves as a pre-emptive strike to get the audience on the same side. Any “us” and “them” isn’t the between audience and characters. It can’t be if the characters are responding with the same incredulity we would.

    As is evident from Donald’s neat little recap of just one character’s arc, things are moving very quickly in the Bay these days.

    Behind almost every twist in the series at the moment is Gary Samuels. Like Alan Fisher before him, he is suddenly at the centre of things as the proponent of drama. Even more so, really. Even when not present, he’s a talking point for many and an obsession for some. And like Bobby Simpson and Nico Pappas, Gary has polarised the characters into pro and anti factions. And he revels in it. There’s a kind of mental chess game going on between Gary and Stacey Macklin at the moment. And he’s displaying the ego, charm and cruelty of someone clearly on the ASPD spectrum. He’s kind of Chip Roberts with a ponytail.

    What makes Gary unique is that he’s created no end of great drama, conflict and interest without being particularly interesting to watch himself. He schemes, he uses, he boasts, he threatens, he makes phone calls to friends, he hangs out with his brother, he goes on dates. And for each scene he has exactly the same intonation, body language and expression. Lines are delivered in calm, hushed tones that are quite soporific.

    One could theorise that Darius Perkins is bored or self conscious or phoning it in. And yet at the same time there’s something very right about it. He seems so mousy, unassuming and ordinary that it’s easy to understand why he’s got away with the scams he’s been running for years in the city. He seems so disinterested in people that it wouldn’t occur to most that playing head games is his thing. And we’ve been told he’s got a thing for younger women (Carly and Alison are part of this pattern), but he’s so boyish and timid that this hadn’t even registered with me until it was made a plot point. So it makes sense, too, that he’s got away with that. Perhaps, rather than Chip Roberts, Gary is Summer Bay’s answer to Tom Ripley. And perhaps nice, quiet Darius Perkins is perfectly cast.

    Home and Away’s unashamedly soapy amnesia storyline has come out of Gary’s presence. He’s the brains behind the 1988 Summer Bay Fun Run Burglaries, having provided maps for his friends to burgle all the homes of people he knew would be out attending the event, while attending the fun run with Carly to give himself a solid alibi since Stacey was keeping her eye on him after realising - but being unable to prove - that he stole and used the Macklin chequebook.

    Bobby - who we’ve seen in training with Steven for months - was forced to stay at home after an orange juice related incident in which she fell and twisted her ankle. The OJ business - larking about with Tom and Carly - was a welcome moment in itself, since these three have been at it hammer and tongs in recent episodes. Tom vs. Carly. Carly vs. Bobby. Bobby vs. Tom. Due to Carly flouting the rules to be with Gary and Tom taking a job at Macklins after Frank was dismissed. Ugly words have been exchanged, with Bobby has even gone so far as to mock the suited Tom by asking him where his SS uniform was and then goose stepping, leading to a great outburst from Tom:
    [​IMG]
    But all’s well again on the day of the fun run. Until the home invaders don’t count on Bobby being at home, leading to Bobby being thrown violently over the sofa and landing on her head. A stunt in which Nicolle Dickson clearly did a great deal (perhaps all) of the stunt work herself:
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Notice on the right that Gary’s burglar friend, who Stacey found at a cocktail bar in the city, is none other than Adam Briscomb, AKA Charlie Bartlett’s son Adam Tate:
    [​IMG]

    After Bobby goes missing, Ailsa finds her staggering along in a fugue state and calls out to her, leading to an episode ending line worthy of middle years Sons and Daughters:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]




    continued…
     
  7. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 200-206 (continued…)



    Bobby’s amnesia is selective, we’ve been clearly told. I’ve had no personal experience with amnesia, but I’d hazard a guess that Bobby has soapy amnesia, which bears no resemblance to anything in the real world. All the same, it has its moments. Amnesia, by its very nature, is about tying the past to the present. And this run of episodes has been abundant with nods to the series’ history. One such being when Bobby remembers a scene from the Pilot:
    [​IMG]
    There’s also a nice scene where Carly tentatively comes to visit, unsure if Bobby will remember her (she does).

    More than anything, the amnesia storyline is a device to tear down Bobby and Frank so they can reunite stronger than ever. And this is actually the least gripping angle. She can’t remember him. He’s upset. He plays her Untold Moments and she cries (who wouldn’t). He tries to kiss her and she sends him away.
    [​IMG]
    She plays Untold Moments. Again. And cries. Again. Then comes the inevitable soapy miracle where Bobby shows up away from the hospital:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Which takes us back to Donald walking in to the news. And this is when the selective amnesia becomes compelling. As ever, there’s an incredibly special chemistry to this relationship. It’s fragile, combative, respectful, challenging. All of which makes for a frisson of energy. More than anyone else - Tom, Pippa, Frank or Ailsa - it’s Donald who seems most determined to bring out the best in Bobby who has (selectively) forgotten the progress she’s made in the classroom:
    Gauntlet thrown down and taken up, we’re given another throwback to the series’ past as Donald and Bobby revisit the book they memorably discussed in Episode 52: seven months and over 150 episodes earlier (and post #19 by this thread):
    [​IMG]
    Another one-time enemy of Bobby’s is persuaded to administer tough love to Bobby. And so it is that a returnee to the series makes a dramatic entrance in the school corridor on the morning of the exam:
    [​IMG]
    And as the exam starts, it’s Donald and Roo who take the time to look hopefully at Bobby as though they’re willing her to succeed.
    [​IMG]




    continued…
     
  8. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 200-206 (continued…)



    The engagement and Bobby briefly considering not taking her HSCs led to one of the juiciest dinners at the Fletchers. While typically light-hearted, there was blame and regret under the surface, with shots fired in several different directions:
    [​IMG]
    Maureen Ann Moran fleshes out the Fletchers in a way that’s really interesting. The conflict is fun, and it captures the sense that minor resentments can bubble away even with everything seeming OK on the surface. The statement about gender politics would seem trite and preachy as a standalone monologue of Pippa’s. But in this context - with it coming out during a seemingly trivial discussion as an honest response and not delivered from a soapbox - I found it unexpected and engaging.
    [​IMG]
    Much like Tom’s earlier diatribe to Bobby about wanting something for himself, this is Pippa as a person. The Pippa who had a life before Summer Bay, and before becoming a foster parent. And who has regrets. And that makes for interesting viewing.


    The ghost of another character’s former life came out of the spate of burglaries when Celia was distracted and forgetful, leading Floss to spout off to Stacey Macklin (unknowingly within Celia’s earshot):
    [​IMG]
    Home and Away at this point has begun to develop its own rich history and - as the Pilot recollection and the Johnno discussion prove - it utilises it well and remains fairly consistently true to its continuity.

    Now it goes a step further and takes a characters pre-series backstory and events we’ve witnessed earlier in the series. And it uses both to inform a character’s response to a present situation.

    Anyone who knows their series history will suspect exactly what Celia’s sudden pensiveness is about. And she confirms it to Ailsa in another beautifully fragile Fiona Spence reading, which perfectly picks up threads and facts established in Episodes 71 and 72:
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    As always, Celia is a richer character when she is in touch with the past. The time when she was a young woman in love, rather than a gossipy shopkeeper. And knowing who she was then helps us understand who she is now.

    Even Alison Patterson seemed moved - and speechless - when Celia told her about Les. But more than this, Gary was also moved enough to take some action and prove he has a heart.

    Bobby, when hospitalised, has already received a bunch of flowers and a slightly sinister note:
    And now Celia similarly receives a single red rose. Only her envelope contains her engagement ring along with the note:
    [​IMG]
    Could Gary’s conscience prove his undoing?
     
  9. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 207-212


    The net is well and truly drawing in on the Samuels brothers. With investigations, difficult questions, petitions, confrontations. Any “…tion” you’d care to name, really. As well as threats and fake outs. Their enemies are varied, widespread and growing. And all are, to understate things, rather cross with them. But at least they have each other, for the moment.

    Take Jeff. By now he’s long established as Steven’s arch nemesis. We know he’ll go all-out to win. This has resulted in a doping scandal when he supplied Craig “Piglet” Barnett - Bob’s son - with his prescription painkillers to overcome a training injury then tried to cover up. He’s been dismissed from his duties and reinstated twice over recently. And Carly’s started a well-supported petition to oust him for a final time.

    Compounding Jeff’s unpopularity are the actions of his brother Gary. The series has attempted to explore Gary’s id, ego and superego. The overall result is not so much Freudian as Lucy van Peltian. But endearingly so. First, Philip attempts to discover the root cause of Gary’s nastiness.
    As written, trained doctor Phil’s attitude towards grief seems somewhat unhelpful (what’s the next step? Tell him to pull himself together?). This feeling is tripled when delivered by John Morris who seemed to skip acting class the day they did enunciation and emphasis.

    Then we get to the Scooby Doo part, when Philip and Stacey visit the scene of his parents’ car accident and try to put the pieces together. Then they do some sleuthing and discover Floss and Nev were the first to get to the car. They are duly interviewed:
    And so, it’s CSI: Summer Bay when Philip attempts to recreate the conditions on the day of the elder Samuels’ deaths, and tests a theory by hiding a plastic spider under Stacey’s sun visor as they round the clifftop road to where the sun is low in the sky. Phil deduces that if this had played out with a driver, rather than a passenger, it could have fatal consequences.
    [​IMG]
    They confront him. with this information:
    This is where I get frustrated. I think it unlikely that Gary - the master manipulator who has guarded his secret so zealously all these years - would simply give them what they wanted. And it’s implausible that Phil and Stacey would immediately then use that to blackmail him into doing their bidding. What’s more, they followed up this by deciding to leak the story to the local rag anyway. Neither character is well-acted, so I was fairly indifferent towards them up to this point. For them to be written as either lacking in empathy or just plain arch makes them inaccessible as characters for me. Theirs is not even an ugly, challenging, interesting kind of negativity. It’s just tedious and feels very plot-convenient.

    There’s some arch stuff where Gary pipped them to the post and reported it to the paper himself. Incidentally, how Mark Fowler Mk I is this picture:
    [​IMG]

    Something else that seems to have been overlooked is Jeff’s response to finding out his brother was behind his parents’ deaths. The main reason it had become a big secret, since Gary was worried about hurting Jeff. Yet we don’t really know how Jeff feels about it. We see him reading the article, watched by Gary, but it seems to be old news to him. As though he doesn’t particularly care. Which felt anti-climactic.

    Gary at least appeared to be partially affected by Stacey and Phil’s behaviour. But it was brief, and turned out to be another example of the writing being plot-driven and characters responding differently as the plot requires:
    You’d think Tom - a man with a good degree of life experience, a foster parent for over a decade and a pretty sharp cookie to boot - would find Gary’s message at least a little concerning. Instead, he simply passes it on so that Stacey can react to it.

    But wait, there are yet more twists. Stacey and Philip find Gary at the edge of the cliff. Where he spills his guts:
    [​IMG]
    And then he jumps from the cliff. Only to land a few metres down on a ledge, from where he mocks them. It’s all part of the game.
    [​IMG]
    There follows a late night meeting at the Macklin Office where Stacey, Phil, Carly, Bobby, Frank, Lance and Martin mind map Gary’s entire arc on - I kid you not - a flip chart.
    [​IMG]
    Mostly, the scene is there to establish that everyone in Summer Bay is hacked off with Gary. Shades of A House Divided. If that episode had a scene where the Cartel took time out made a diagram of JR’s shadiest deals.

    Even Pippa is on the warpath with Gary:
    There's some cartoony stuff in which Gary attends the gathering to taunt them with not being able to touch him, then the story reaches a conclusion of sorts with a fun whodunnit standard: the one-sided conversation. Gary takes a run to the edge of a peninsula where he stops to do some warm ups, and then sees… someone… approaching off camera.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Cut to Gary plummeting from a ledgeless cliff, witnessed by the very solid Alf. So it must be serious.
    [​IMG]





    continued...​
     
  10. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 207-212 (...continued)


    Another resident getting some serious backlash from the locals is Roo. And the pre-exam bitchery - however well intentioned - hasn’t helped.
    Then it’s Carly’s turn. When Gary pursues Roo, she makes it clear she’s not interested. But not before Carly’s seen them and assuming Roo is being predatory with her man. So Roo gets a blouseful of well-shaken cola.

    In a dramatic shift, Ailsa is now Roo’s primary confidante. She explains to Bobby that Roo’s bitchy pep talk was her idea, to shock Bobby’s memory into returning. And after her spritzing, it's Ailsa who assures Roo:
    [​IMG]
    I love that the scene started off with Ailsa watching that evening’s creature feature (a term I was unacquainted with before first watching this episode, thirty years ago), complete with Seventies wah-wah soundtrack:
    There’s a sweet moment in #210 in which Roo comes to help Alf and Ailsa take inventory at the bait shop:
    [​IMG]
    It’s heartwarming stuff.

    As Ailsa assured her, people start coming round. Bobby says she owes Roo one, and Carly observes that Roo has changed. Roo responds:
    In yet more heartwarming scenes, Bobby spoke to Donald between exams:
    These may not be the main stories at the moment, but they're keeping the spirit of the series well and truly alive for me. And they're pure character.
     
  11. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 213-215


    Home and Away’s first murder mystery has felt surprisingly unengaging. Perhaps it’s partly because I know how it happened so there is no mystery, even if that hasn’t stopped me finding, say, Ciji’s murder mystery thrilling on rewatches.

    Knowing the twist to the story isn’t helping with investment. They’re having fun with the storytelling, but perhaps that’s partly to blame.

    There’s been some enjoyable stuff with an earring, which seems to be the equivalent of that cassette on Sons and Daughters. It keeps changing hands and won’t go away. But it might be a MacGuffin.
    [​IMG]
    It seems Carly misplaced it at the scene of Gary’s death, and she’s definitely hiding something. In fact she seems to be the #1 suspect at this moment in time through her increasingly guilty behaviour.

    First we watch a CSI team discovering an earring on Stewart’s Point before dissolving to Carly holding the matching one. Then we see Carly throw hers into the ocean. Only for it to turn up again when Sally gives it to Bobby as an engagement present, presumably having found it on the beach (what are the odds?). Which pushes Carly’s guilt-o-meter into the red:
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 213-215 (...continued)


    Perhaps my earlier wish that Gary’s arrival would flesh out Jeff in some way is being fulfilled. Well, technically, it’s Gary’s departure that’s doing this, but since he had to arrive in order to depart it’s close enough.

    For a start, Jeff’s made his sincere amends to Craig:
    [​IMG]
    In the aftermath of the news of his brother’s death, we see a couple of scenes of Jeff alone and clearly trying to suppress his pain. First he looks over the newspaper headline for a few seconds. And as his lip starts to quiver he angrily crushes the paper up and stands up. Then he spots a framed picture of Gary, walks an picks it up, looks as though he’s about to cry and then angrily smashes the photo. It’s an interesting little scene with no dialogue that shows us very effectively that Jeff is even harder on himself that he was his students.
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Carly, Bobby and Roo (and I guess Alison and Alyce) have now all but finished at Summer Bay High, having completed their HSCs. I think Steven still has another year or two, though I’ve lost track. I’m quite the fan of the scenes in the corridors at the school, so feel a little sad that perhaps I’ve seen the end of that era with this particular group.

    To celebrate, Frank hires a chauffeur driven Rolls-Royce and sweeps Bobby off her feet and away into the countryside where a table is set for silver service.
    [​IMG]
    He lifts the lid off the platter to reveal:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    It’s a memorable exchange that could have been made between David and Beryl Palmer. Or David Palmer and Patricia Hamilton during one of their lovey-dovey affairs (before reality set in for Patricia). But it does feel a little off and contrived here. It occurs to me that Frank is a yuppie of kinds here. He wears a suit to work, is getting confident at his job and I get the sense he now has aspirations. At this point, I don’t see him envisaging a life of fish and chips for himself. It may have been said in humility or self deprecation, or simply to hit the right romantic notes. But it didn’t feel truthful.

    In general, I find the Bobby/Frank romance saccharine and twee (though, fortunately, not quite as saccharine and twee as I remembered it). This sequence probably highlights everything I enjoy and everything I don’t enjoy about their whole storyline. It straddles the line between over the top idealised romance and earthy rebellion, but it doesn’t really get the balance right in any way that I can stomach.
     
  13. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 216-221


    With the end of Season One just around the corner, there’s an enjoyable mix of the old and the new in the air. Significant changes are happening in characters’ lives that guarantee things will not be quite the same again. While at the same time, characters and events from the series’ history are being referenced in passing or reflected upon to inform decisions about the future made in the present. Established characters are leaving. Others are unsure of their place in the series’ future. New characters are arriving. There’s even been a returnee.

    One storyline that’s had a definite line drawn under it is the Gary Samuels murder mystery, with Carly flashing back to her conversation with Gary at Stewart’s Point for the benefit of Inspector Truman and the audience:
    [​IMG]
    Notably, this flashback was in colour, which I assume is to show that it was fact and not fantasy.

    The denouement from here was brisk. “T”s were quickly crossed and “I”s quickly dotted. Naturally, Stacey and Philip were able to validate Carly’s story of Gary jumping as he’d tried a similar stunt on them. Thus Poor Gary Jill Bennetted himself several months before Poor Jill Bennett Jill Bennetted herself.

    On discovering this turn of events, Pippa took a particularly hard line:
    I found her lack of empathy or even sympathy a little startling, even considering Gary’s treatment of Carly. It was almost out of character, and yet not. Both Tom and Pippa are far more complex characters than I remember. Both can be opinionated and even, as this comment suggests, a little ugly at times. And this is a good thing.

    On the subject of ugly characters, the end of Gary’s murder mystery has also seen the departure of Jeff Samuels, whose unapologetically brutal outlook has been a delight through the course of Season One. Pleasingly, he remained almost as standoffish at the end as he was to begin with, with the added layer of him grieving and being somewhat outcast.

    There were flashes of the old Jeff when initially denying Carly’s claim:
    And when he could argue no longer, there were scenes of quiet closure. First Steven came to the flat:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    The dynamic with Jeff has seen Steven at his ugliest. And not just when he was training with the Power Pack and taking Jeff’s philosophies on board. One of their last scenes together prior to this took place in the school corridor and saw Steven gloating at Jeff being let go from the school, going as far as to give an evil laugh as he walked off. As with Tom and Pippa, Steven’s behaviour isn’t always endearing, and this adds a richness. It was no surprise that Jeff thought Steven had come to gloat. Perhaps the self-righteous judgement and thinly veiled distaste for him was even worse than out and out gloating. The scene, as with almost all of his post-Gary scenes, showed Jeff to conduct himself with a grace that is both satisfying and unexpected.

    His final scene with Stacey, Philip and Tom had a great combination of grace and bitterness:
    [​IMG]
    For a character who has spent a great deal of time bellowing and being the alpha male voice of arrogance almost to the point of one-dimensionality, there’s something unexpectedly Knotsian about Jeff’s latter day episodes. His bitterness towards Summer Bay and his feeling of exclusion from its inhabitants reminded me very much of Richard Avery.

    With so much going on elsewhere, Jeff’s final scene on the show - in the final act of Episode 218 - could easily be overlooked. It’s simple, but incredibly effective. As in the earlier scene of looking at Gary’s photo and fighting his feelings, he is entirely alone and the scene plays out wordlessly. No flashbacks. No thought bubbles. No soliloquys. Just one man, alone.

    Jeff walks through a graveyard carrying flowers, he looks at his parents’ grave (Clyde and Rose, died 30th March 1983). Then he moves to the freshly dug grave next to it, covered with floral tributes. He kneels, sifts earth through his fingers and looks deep in thought as we have an extreme close up.

    Then there’s a wide shot of Jeff. He stands up and walks away, still carrying the flowers. Tossing the flowers onto a random grave, he exits stage left. And that’s it for Jeff Samuels. It’s perfect. Poignant without being schmaltzy. Satisfying while enjoyably unfinished.
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    I never thought I’d say this, but I’m really going to miss Jeff. He left me wanting more.





    continued...
     
  14. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 216-221 (...continued)


    The Home and Away teens are coming of age. Literally, in the case of Carly who is fortunate enough to be exonerated of a murder charge on her eighteenth birthday. A factor which perhaps colours her thank you speech to her friends and family:
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Pippa’s very welcome analysis summarises the other two birthdays we’ve seen in the family:
    [​IMG]
    Echoing Pippa’s birthday faux pas with Steven’s cake, Frank sends Carly an unfunny funny card hastily made by the art department about life being a pushover and a little stick figure falling from a great height. It was too much. There was plenty going on without it.

    Frank is one of several series regulars who have become the embodiment of small mindedness for plot reasons in recent episodes. In Frank’s case, he is unhappy about the idea of his almost wife going to university rather than being there for him. Naturally this annoys most of the other characters, not least Donald who wants Bobby to build on her success this year. Ailsa similarly feels Bobby should go to uni, but seeing she’s determined not to, comes up with a middle ground:
    Bobby vacillates over the idea of going to uni. I’ve lost track of whether she currently is or isn’t going, but I appreciated yet another early storyline being name-checked along the way:
    Carly and Bobby’s changes dovetailed into a scene that began with one of those enjoyably frustrating conversations in which both speak out loud about their own dramas while ignoring what the other one is saying, and ended with Philip arriving to say he, too, is considering leaving. There’s the toss of a coin and the decision is taken. Altering several lives forever and spoiling the first Christmas Stacey had hoped to enjoy since she was a small child.
    [​IMG]






    ...continued​
     
  15. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 216-221 (...continued)


    The end of year social at Summer Bay High brings a touch of glamour and a dash of nostalgia as its most memorable era comes to a close.

    There’s also a touch of horror for Alf and Ailsa when Roo’s date arrives to pick her up:
    [​IMG]
    After Roo and Martin leave, we’re treated to an absolute gem of understated visual comedy. The Stewarts may be rendered shocked and speechless, but they’re still very much in sync.
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    This evening sees a new, arguably improved Martin as some effort is made to flesh him out beyond one half of joke that’s long since worn thin:
    [​IMG]
    Martin also proves the perfect gentleman with Roo. It’s a welcome attempt at showing a different side to Martin, albeit less successful than Jeff’s recent journey. Lance and Martin are everything that’s wrong with Home And Away, as proven by their recent ongoing attempt to release a charity single called Santa Never Stops In Summer Bay, which one can’t help feeling was more fun to write and film than it was to watch. I certainly hope it was.

    Recovering from their shock, Alf feels nostalgic and digs out his 1958 Summer Bay High Yearbook to show Ailsa, giving us further oral history:
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    It’s a warm scene as is, and full of heart. Even better, it segues into broaching the subject of yet another departed character who has had an impact on their lives recently:

    [QUOTE-Alf]Yeah. We’ve never really talked about ‘im, have we? I’ve often wanted to know what you thought about ‘im, what ‘e was really like. [/QUOTE]
    [​IMG]

    And just like that, the ghost of Graham is packed away. A loose end that’s slightly less loose than beforehand. But still unfinished enough to cast an unspoken shadow on the marriage. I hope.





    continued...
     
  16. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 216-221 (...continued)


    Meanwhile, back at Summer Bay High, Carly has entered with her own surprise date:
    [​IMG]
    The dress Matt sent for Carly to wear gave us a true Dynasty moment when it turned out to be identical to the “one of a kind” dress Alison had persuaded Lance to buy her.
    [​IMG]

    Alison plans to throw a drink over Carly but gets the wrong target thanks to clumsy Lance.
    [​IMG][​IMG]


    Then, in among the frivolity and borderline camp, comes a moment of poignance, made even more powerful by being unexpected, as Donald opens the envelopes with the award results:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    I particularly appreciated the long pause before Donald said Alan’s name, during which a quiet descended over the entire scene. It gave Norman Coburn the space to deliver what is yet another perfectly pitched moving and subtle performance. He’s stood out to me during this rewatch as an actor whom I’d greatly undervalued before. What he can do with very little dialogue is incredible, and he has such presence and emotion. The cuts between wide shots and close ups of his face, eyes moist, show perfectly the balance Donald strikes of detached professionalism and parental pride. It’s beautiful.

    There was a foot wrong in this scene. It went too quickly to cheesy comedy with Alison muttering under her breath (she had designs on the award herself), then a put-down from her bitchy friend and a guffaw from Lance. It needed a few moments longer to resonate and ideally more of a build-up back to the less substantial stuff.

    The scene then goes on to quietly acknowledge the forward steps in another of Donald’s tempestuous relationships:
    Naturally, this isn’t so much about Bobby’s academic success as it is about the journey in the relationship between Bobby and Donald. There’s a lovely moment in which he proffers his hand, just as Steven did to Samuels. Instead of a perfunctory shake, she looks at his hand for a few moments, shrugs and throws her arms round him. It’s a sweet little scene, and gets even better when watched with an understanding of the bigger picture.
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    I appreciated that the detente was just temporary. Indeed, first thing next morning, Bobby was getting up Donald’s nose by burning her school books during a fire ban.
    [​IMG]
    Two steps forward. One step back.



    The series’ key love triangle up to this point is also present at the social and also shows signs of growth, as Roo makes her peace with Frank and Bobby:
    [​IMG]
    Even having seen evidence that Roo appears to have grown. And that she has a date. And a serious boyfriend in Melbourne, there’s an edge to this. It’s hard to truly trust Roo with her track record. So we’re on the same page with Frank and Bobby while truly wanting to believe the best.

    Meanwhile, Martin keeping Roo out late on the night of the social turns out to be just the start of Alf’s concerns. And he joins Frank as the series’ Devil’s Advocate when it’s clear he has a problem with Roo’s long-concealed new boyfriend, David Lee, being Asian:
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Naturally, Celia is firmly on Alf’s side. Happily, this turn of events not only allows her to flap, it also gives us Celia’s views on two faiths that differ from her own:


     
  17. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 222-227


    The first season has been an eventful year, and that shows no sign of stopping in this final run of episodes. There’s so much story to tell at the moment that even the recaps of the previous episode haven’t been used for a number of the late Season One episodes.

    For those who care to look there are reminders in these episodes of the changes that have taken place in the months since the Pilot. The smaller interactions bear witness to this incredibly well. Like the scene of Bobby, Frank and Steven’s road trip to the city. It would have been a very different car journey if the three of these were in the same situation at the beginning of the series.

    Likewise, there’s a gem of a scene in which Donald drops by Summer Bay House with a leaving present for Carly (a copy of Donald gets Carly George Orwell’s Down And Out In Paris And London “I thought it had a certain appropriateness.”, he quipped to a blank faced Tom and Pippa). He then offers his help with unravelling the Christmas decorations, and is evidently coming to them for company. Pippa goes as far as to ask him to come by at Christmas (Tom is briefly shaken but covers well), and Donald graciously declines the offer, saying how much he appreciates the thought. It’s a far cry from threatening the life of the family dog.

    In fact, it’s Donald who unwittingly sows the seed for major change within the Fletcher household during the course of his visit:
    This has now been put to the vote with the two remaining “official” foster children, Steven and Sally. And the decision has been taken to get the wheels moving to foster another kid.

    Incidentally, Donald must have been quite some time unravelling the decorations. The next episode had a title card indicating a three week time jump, and those trimmings still weren’t up.
    [​IMG]

    Carly, despite her Eighteenth birthday spiel about growing up, is still assuringly self-centred. She was waved off with with music that harked back to the end of the Pilot and with only her framed family photo to ward off the evils of the big city.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    I enjoyed that despite the progress she and Bobby have made this year, Bobby didn’t hold back when she realised that Carly had no intention of coming back over Christmas but had copped out of telling Tom and Pippa:
    Steven visits Carly’s hovel of a pad in the city and finds Carly the worse for a night out. He also meets her housemates and proves he’s not the naive kid he was:
    [​IMG]





    continued...
     
  18. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 222-227 (...continued)



    More shades of the Pilot with flashbacks to Frank’s childhood. This time we got what felt like half an episode in sepia with wailing guitar rock music when Frank took Bobby to show her where he’d grown up.
    [​IMG]
    Which prompted them to make a decision:
    This has opened up a major can of worms. And an exciting one at that. Already it feels very cloak and dagger, with people knowing more than they are saying. All we get are hints and allusions. First to pique our interest is our Friendly Neighbourhood Social Worker:
    Needless to say, this is just the beginning. And Bobby gets a written reply from him that turns her world upside down:
    This leads to a face-to-face confrontation with the man she thought was her father in a prison visiting room, a scene I clearly remember watching when it aired here on Christmas Day 1989. I was visiting family and took myself away to watch the episode in an aunt’s bedroom. Funny the things that stick in your mind.

    Every one of Al’s lines is a put down or a form of rejection. The tone is set with Al’s first response when Bobby perfunctorily introduces Frank:
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    And it gets worse:
    It’s clear that Al is the villain here. Not because he’s a criminal serving a prison sentence, but because of how openly he expresses his dislike for his own daughter. It’s an unflattering part.

    In among my recollection of watching the scene, something that has surprised me is how note perfect a performance George Leppard gives. This is is his one and only episode, and he has little to work with: just two short scenes of almost one-dimensional dialogue. But he oozes, not just with contemptuous sneers and bitterness, but also with the charm of a rough diamond. There’s an edge to him, but paired with the aura of someone with a wry sense of humour. A loveable rogue, if you like. It’s not on the page here, but I believe this man could be charming if he wanted something. And that that he has a heart underneath it all. Perhaps he’s even doing this in Bobby’s best interest. Incredibly, there’s something quite likeable about him. And that’s all Leppard.
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    Al Simpson would go on to be a victim of the series’ stunt casting in the era when the series lost its way and began casting Donovans, Minogues and Henry Ramsay. And that’s the series’ loss. Because I’d love to have watched George Leppard on a more permanent basis.


    The name Al gives Bobby is a familiar one, and she shows up on their doorstep demanding answers:
    And while Alf won’t admit knowing anything to Bobby, he confesses to Ailsa and Celia after the latter has overheard Bobby talking about the situation:


    And even this is playing down the full story. Because when he’s alone, Alf makes a phone call:
    [​IMG]
    Even knowing the outcome, it’s thrilling to watch. The air of mystery, and the fact that so many characters have secrets - BIG secrets - is very exciting. Especially the thought that the truth will out. And to that end, Bobby has her own secret weapon to drive her real parents out from underground:




    continued...​
     
  19. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episodes 222-227 (...continued)


    The young character who has grown the most this year is no doubt Roo, whose personality is almost unrecognisable compared with the manipulator we first met almost a year ago. Her anguished outburst to Skid after his racist put downs cast her in the role of the idealist:
    It’s unthinkable that Roo would have uttered these lines a few short months ago. The turnaround is dramatic and sudden, and almost hard to swallow. But it also makes sense with her experiences this year.

    Her comments to Skid came off the back of her relationship with David Lee. A relationship that forced Alf to look deep into his own heart:
    [​IMG]

    After some reflection, and some soul searching helped by Ailsa, Alf speaks about the situation to Roo:
    There’s insightful discussion of “positive” racism after a conversation with Floss and Neville who go out of their way to mention how inclusive circus life is:
    [​IMG]
    But Alf will get his wish after all.
    After spending several episodes trying to dispel myths around stereotypes, David reveals he’s about to enter an arranged marriage.
    It has that messy, unhappy ending that I like. All the same, it just feels far too convenient as far as the writing goes. The intentions may have been good when it came to tackling racism, but it’s far too dry. Most of it felt too dry and informative.

    To my mind, there’s little progressive about having a character who is solely defined by one aspect of their life and who is brought in to serve the plot while remaining very much an “other”. A “them” to the main cast’s “us”. If there was a Bechdel test for race, I’m not sure David would pass. Every scene he was in - or in which he was mentioned - had his race as the focus. This may have improved had he stayed. Instead, he came. He showed us that racism exists and is A Very Bad Thing. Then he left and it’s almost a moot point, because nobody actually deals with it. It simply goes away from view.

    It felt unsubtle and clunky for too much of the time. A little like watching an episode of Highway To Heaven. Which is a waste.

    However, the conflict in the Stewart household was interesting (even if David felt almost incidental to it). And the revelation about David’s engagement showed Roo at her noblest in a way that was “hidden” from the main cast, so we know it to be truth:
    I also appreciated that Roo isn’t completely self-actualised. There were still some reflexive flashes of her bitchy side when David was telling her about his engagement. But she recognised it immediately and apologised. And I love that she’s still imperfect.







    continued...
     
  20. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Episode 228


    The Season One finale has “Christmas Special” written all over it. One by one it ticks off the boxes of the traditional festive episode. Father Christmas costumes. A nativity scene. References - both explicitly and thematically - to A Christmas Carol. Families gathered around the tree. Presents. The self-exiled loner who discovers the true spirit of Christmas through togetherness (and one who doesn’t). Healing where there’s been difficulties. And everyone coming together to sing carols.

    The opening scene, which combines at least three of the above, contains what I’ve long viewed as an example of the dialogue being layered so that it may be read different ways by the audience, depending on their age and belief:
    [​IMG]
    It’s a nice quiet moment which, I imagine, captures that quiet moment parents have to breathe between frantic shopping and wrapping and the chaos of excited young children tearing the wrapping open. In a nice touch the pseudo romantic moment is interrupted by excited Sally who couldn’t wait any longer.

    Also losing sleep is Alf who, still reflecting on his mysterious phone call to one of Bobby’s natural parents, confides in Ailsa:
    Although we learn how Alf uncovered the mystery, there’s actually very little new information in it. There’s just enough to keep it ticking along. We know that Alf knows one of the parents and that Martha, too, knew even more about it. So it’s someone the Stewarts know - or knew. But in a town like this, that doesn’t whittle it down much. Like all good mysteries, just keeping it alive in this way both satisfies and entices. I love how piecemeal this is playing out. It feels very unhurried and long-term.

    Then there’s a scene of Celia clucking over Donald, tut tutting that he shouldn’t be working on Christmas day… while serving him in the store. Without a trace of irony. And we establish (or re-establish) that Christmas doesn’t have the same meaning for him. Then comes Celia comparing Donald with Scrooge. Enter Betty Falwell - Celia’s gossipy friend who pops up every once in a while - with a crisis over the baby Jesus. Here’s where the stories intersect, because Celia then dashes to the Fletchers to nab Christopher for the job.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Nativity saved.


    There’s some outside the church exposition: Celia deciding to speak to Colleen in a bid to get her and Lance talking again; Steven hinting to Pippa and Tom that Carly may not be home. Most fun is a bitchy exchange between three former classmates. First Alison accuses Roo of “scraping the bottom of the barrel” by choosing David. Then it’s Bobby’s turn:
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Once again, the outside antagonism serves to bring two former enemies closer, and so we get one of the most genuine Roo and Bobby scenes since the earliest days of the series. But now with added meaning
    Roo then asks David to leave, saying she’s finding the pretence too painful to keep up.

    Next we pan to Celia clucking over Donald again, appalled he’s planning to have Christmas lunch at home alone
    [​IMG]
    There’s a scene in which Matt reaches out to Carly and is rebuffed. Greg Benson’s acting leaves much to be desired. I don’t know if he’s got worse, is trying too hard or is being given too much to say. Perhaps it’s more noticeable now that he seems to have his shirt on almost permanently.




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