Where now for Rafters?

The fu­ture of a favourite fam­ily re­mains un­clear, writes Colin Vick­ery

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RRafters.

The me­dia has been awash with spec­u­la­tion Rafters will fin­ish af­ter its sixth sea­son on Chan­nel 7.

The ru­mours have been fu­elled by cast leav­ing the show. Lo­gie win­ner Hugh Sheri­dan’s de­ci­sion to de­fect to Ten felt like a death knell for the pop­u­lar drama.

Sheri­dan’s move came af­ter Rafters had al­ready en­dured the ex­its of Jes­sica Marais (Rachel Rafter), Jes­sica McNamee (Sammy Rafter) and Zoe Ventoura (Melissa Rafter).

An­gus McLaren (Nathan Rafter) also took a break from the show.

Fans started to won­der how Seven could con­tinue a show called Packed to the Rafters if there weren’t any Rafters left.

Seven didn’t help Rafters’ cause. The net­work showed only 10 of the 22 fifth-se­ries episodes last year.

Yet again, Rafters was trun­cated to make way for Win­ners & Losers. When Rafters re­turns next week it will be a whop­ping eight months since we last saw Julie, Dave and the gang.

Late last year, ru­mours emerged that Seven was cut­ting the sixth sea­son of Rafters back to 12 episodes.

This year Seven is set to launch new Aussie drama A Place to Call Home. Rafters used to be the net­work’s flag­ship show but now the field is look­ing mighty crowded.

All of the Rafters cast are on hol­i­day at the moment. Seven in­sid­ers say the Rafters writ­ers will re­group in March to nut out new sto­ry­lines.

Whether that will be a full se­ries, sev­eral spe­cials or a one­off fi­nale re­mains a mys­tery.

‘‘ Will there be a sea­son seven — who knows?’’ Gib­ney says.

‘‘ If the sto­ry­lines are great and cer­tainly if the other ac­tors are pre­pared to go back, I never say never to any­thing. That said, I’m cur­rently de­vel­op­ing new shows at Seven.

‘‘ I’mhappy at Seven and I’ve EBECCA Gib­ney has her fin­gers crossed. For months the jun­gle drums have been beat­ing about the end of Packed to the got the free­dom to do movies, the­atre and other things.’’

Next Tues­day’s Rafters’ re­turn episode is full of meaty sto­ry­lines that will play out in coming months. Ben con­sid­ers a move to the coun­try, Ted con­fronts a se­ri­ous health cri­sis, and Carbo and Retta pur­sue dreams of a fam­ily.

‘‘ A very im­por­tant sit­u­a­tion oc­curs with one of the lead characters, which is go­ing to enor­mously af­fect the en­tire fam­ily,’’ Gib­ney says. ‘‘ It will have ram­i­fi­ca­tions right through­out se­ries six. It will be in­cred­i­bly sad and heart­break­ing.’’

Dave (Erik Thom­son) and Julie (Gib­ney) are still bat­tling the fall­out from Dave’s drunken kiss with ap­pren­tice Frankie Calasso (Brooke Satch­well). Last year, Julie had her own brush with temp­ta­tion — at­tracted to mag­a­zine ed­i­tor Adam Good­man (Cameron Daddo).

‘‘ We (Thom­son and Gib­ney) were the ones that sug­gested (to the writ­ers) that Julie and Dave have some se­ri­ous is­sues,’’ Gib­ney re­veals. ‘‘ Erik and I re­spect view­ers’ needs for Dave and Julie to be rock-solid, but we also have to re­flect what goes on in the real world.

‘‘ If we kept on go­ing along just be­ing the same, the an­chor of the show, we’d be­come bored.

‘‘ Cer­tainly the kiss cre­ated some trust is­sues but Julie is AB­SO­LUTELY SHAT­TERED: Ap­ple can be re­lied on to cre­ate trends, so is it really so un­be­liev­able that the tech­nol­ogy gi­ant would cre­ate iPhones just for teenagers? The Onion News Net­work re­veals that the new iPhone 5C will come with pre-shat­tered phone screens in sev­eral vari­a­tions, in­clud­ing a model that ap­pears to have been dropped in beer. Watch: http://bit.ly/TWtQ6h Back for more: ‘‘an­chors’’ Re­becca Gib­ney and Erik Thom­son (left), the full cast (above) and (be­low) Brooke Satch­well and Thom­son in that kiss. try­ing to be brave and move for­ward. Of course, there is still go­ing to be jeal­ousy. She is try­ing to be the good wife but she is strug­gling with it.

‘‘ We stopped short of (Dave or Julie) hav­ing an af­fair. We didn’t want an af­fair be­cause there would be no coming back from that. From now on we’ll hopefully see the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Dave and Julie come back stronger than ever be­fore.’’

Seven has more than 20 episodes of Rafters in the can and is promis­ing it will run them all in 2013.

Seven has also pro­moted the fact that Sheri­dan, Marais, McNamee and McLaren will re­turn for spe­cial ap­pear­ances in up­com­ing episodes of Rafters. Sheri­dan crashed and burned with rat­ings dud I Will Sur­vive. Marais struck gold as Lily Di­a­mond in US drama Magic City. McNamee fea­tured op­po­site Chan­ning Ta­tum and Rachel McA­dams in hit movie The Vow.

‘‘ The kids will come back one by one,’’ Gib­ney says.

BREATH­ING EASY AF­TER HEALTH KICK

RE­BECCA Gib­ney and hus­band Richard Bell’s de­ci­sion to move from Tas­ma­nia to Syd­ney for Packed to the Rafters in late 2010 had un­ex­pected con­se­quences for their young son Zac.

Gib­ney and Bell moved just as Zac, now 8, was set to start pri­mary school.

Un­for­tu­nately, Zac ex­pe­ri­enced asthma-type prob­lems af­ter the switch to the Har­bour City. Liv­ing on Syd­ney’s North­ern Beaches helped ease Zac’s symp­toms, but Gib­ney has to re­main vig­i­lant.

‘‘We’re all on a health kick at the moment,’’ Gib­ney says. ‘‘We’re get­ting rid of sugar and prod­ucts with ad­di­tives.

‘‘Zac is strug­gling (with the new food rules) but it seems to be help­ing with his asthma.

‘‘At Christ­mas time we bought a lit­tle boat, so we’re go­ing out fish­ing and we’re also do­ing a lot of swim­ming.

‘‘I al­ways thought I was a Mel­bourne girl — I lived in Mel­bourne for 20 years — but I’m lov­ing the North­ern Beaches. I think we’ll be here for the fore­see­able fu­ture.’’ ‘‘ The great thing is that the writ­ers have al­ways left the door open (for characters to re­turn), with the ex­cep­tion of Mel.

‘‘ No one could see that (cast leav­ing) was go­ing to hap­pen, but they’re young and they want to ex­plore

Will there be a sea­son seven — who knows?

other av­enues. No one had bad feel­ings about that.

‘‘ We have adapted (to the cast ex­its). They go for a time but they all come back.’’

Now it is up to Seven to play its part by run­ning a full sea­son of Rafters and, hopefully, lock­ing down a sev­enth se­ries.

‘‘ I’m really hop­ing they (Seven) play it out,’’ Gib­ney says. ‘‘ I would love to see it ( Rafters) run in its en­tirety.’’ Packed to the Rafters, Chan­nel 7, Tues­day, 8.45pm iOS, $2.99 ★★★★ The move to touch con­trols has worked well for Joe Dan­ger. Play­ers still ca­reen through mo­tor­cy­cle cour­ses filled­with loops and ob­sta­cles, only now duck­ing, jump­ing, wheel­ies, tricks and more are all ex­e­cuted with sim­ple taps, holds and swipes. It’s the per­fect game for mo­bile phones too: each course is short and easy to beat but tricky to master. Out now. PS3/Xbox 360, $49.95 ★★★ From the stu­dio be­hind Bay­o­netta and MadWorld, this on­line­fo­cused fight­ing game takes some get­ting used to. Its graph­ics are clunky, its sin­gle­player com­po­nent repet­i­tive and its learn­ing curve steep. Once play­ers get the hang of com­bat, how­ever, Anar­chy Reigns more than lives up to its name. Bat­tles are chaotic, with up to 16 brawlers at once. Out now. PS3 (PSN), $12.95 ★★★★ In this clever puz­zle game, play­ers cre­ate a swelling or­ches­tral score by guid­ing streams of light around the screen. By angling, bend­ing and twist­ing the light to pass through cer­tain ar­eas, new lay­ers are in­tro­duced to the sound­track. There’s rarely a sin­gle so­lu­tion to each puz­zle. It’s sooth­ing, ab­sorb­ing and un­like any­thing else out there. Out now.

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