BRITS ABROAD

Can new UK se­ries The Dur­rells fill Down­ton Abbey’s shoes?

Herald Sun - Switched On - - FRONT PAGE -

When Down­ton Abbey aired its last scene ear­lier this year, there was a huge hole left in many TV viewer’s hearts.

But Chan­nel 7 is con­fi­dent they have found a way to fill it with new Bri­tish se­ries, The Dur­rells.

The UK drama is pro­duced by ITV, the same net­work be­hind Down­ton Abbey. Not only that, but The Dur­rells film their in­te­rior scenes in the same Eal­ing Stu­dios used by their pre­de­ces­sor.

Seven’s di­rec­tor of pro­gram­ming, An­gus Ross, says that tak­ing a risk on an­other UK se­ries grip­ping Aus­tralians’ hearts was well worth it.

“English dra­mas have a che­quered his­tory on com­mer­cial net­works,” he says.

“We took a punt many years ago on Down­ton Abbey which ob­vi­ously changed that nar­ra­tive. It was a mas­sive show for a com­mer­cial net­work and it at­tracted a very broad range of de­mo­graph­ics.

“The Dur­rells was the first UK drama that has re­ally grabbed me since Down­ton Abbey. It’s a per­fect piece of mid­week es­capism and looks so dif­fer­ent to any­thing else on TV.”

The Dur­rells fol­lows the an­tics of strug­gling widow Louisa (Kee­ley Hawes) who moves her un­ruly brood of chil­dren from Bournemouth to Corfu in the hopes of start­ing afresh. It is based on the se­ries of books by youngest son and renowned nat­u­ral­ist Ger­ald Dur­rell (played by tal­ented 10year old Milo Parker) which chron­i­cled his fam­ily’s four years on the Greek is­land.

“It’s a clas­sic fish out of wa­ter story,” says Ross. “It’s also very well writ­ten, I was laugh­ing out loud when I first watched the show. It’s got these beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tions, it’s a very sump­tu­ous look­ing show and the per­for­mances are ter­rific as well.”

Ross could al­most be de­scrib­ing an­other mega-hit for the net­work, the Aus­tralianKiwi co-pro­duc­tion 800 Words.

It’s a com­par­i­son he hopes view­ers will also make and a big rea­son be­hind where it has been placed in Seven’s sched­ule.

“We think the shows are very com­ple­men­tary,” he ad­mits. “800 Words is on a Tues­day night which pro­vides a very nice promo base for us to pro­mote The Dur­rells, which is on Wed­nes­day night.”

With the cast due to head back to Corfu for a sec­ond sea­son next week, Seven have al­ready said the se­ries will re­turn in 2017.

When the first sea­son aired in the UK ear­lier this year, it gar­nered the big­gest rat­ings of any new drama in 2016.

“It came out in spring time and I think the idea of see­ing a Bri­tish fam­ily in warm beau­ti­ful weather is al­ways go­ing to get Bri­tish peo­ple ex­cited be­cause they love see­ing sun,” laughs Josh O’Con­nor, who plays el­dest brother Larry, of the show’s home­grown suc­cess.

“But the writer Si­mon Nye is amaz­ing and has cre­ated a script where you see the fam­ily dy­namic in such a vivid way.

“It’s this crazy fam­ily do­ing crazy things in a for­eign coun­try and how they get away with it — be­cause they’re quite charm­ing.”

“There’s noth­ing too gritty or dark in there that means kids can’t watch it,” adds Cal­lum Wood­house, who por­trays gun­mad mid­dle child Les­lie.

“It’s just re­ally light and goofy at times which makes it so easy for every­one in the house­hold to watch it.”

So can it recre­ate the suc­cess of Down­ton Abbey? Ross is hope­ful but the cast are try­ing to play down the huge task at hand.

“They’re big shoes to fill,” says O’Con­nor.

“There are a lot of friends of mine who were in Down­ton Abbey who would ar­gue we’re nowhere near as suc­cess­ful yet, which we’re not. But I cer­tainly think we’ve had a bril­liant start and we’re go­ing off next week to do sea­son two. As long as we keep putting out these lovely sto­ries, then I think peo­ple will keep watch­ing it.”

“It’s a clas­sic fish out of wa­ter story. It’s also very well writ­ten”

AN­GUS ROSS ON THE DUR­RELLS’ AP­PEAL

THE DUR­RELLS, CHAN­NEL 7, WED­NES­DAY, 8.50PM

The Dur­rells is about a crazy fam­ily do­ing crazy things, which Seven is hop­ing will trans­late into a huge rat­ings hit.

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