It’s the end of an era as the Rafters sign off, writes Lisa Sim­mons

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

FANS farewell Aus­tralia’s favourite tele­vi­sion fam­ily, Dave and Julie Rafter when Packed to the Rafters signs off for good with a two-hour grand fi­nale on Tues­day night.

The hit Aus­tralian drama launched in 2008 with the ad­ven­tures of the wannabe empty nesters never fall­ing be­low the mil­lion viewer mark dur­ing five years and 120 episodes.

‘‘I’ve never been in any­thing like it,’’ says Erik Thom­son, who played dad Dave to Rebecca Gib­ney’s mum Julie, the empty nesters who watched while their kids and par­ents move back, one by one, to the fam­ily home.

‘‘Though it’s of­ten had many more, it’s true it never had less than a mil­lion view­ers – not even last week when there might have been a good ex­cuse for Aus­tralians turn­ing on to watch the Soc­ceroos (play­ing the game that won them en­tree into the 2014 World Cup),’’ he says.

Thom­son says it’s hard to pick what made the show an Aus­tralian hit.

‘‘I sup­pose peo­ple could re­late to the char­ac­ters. Peo­ple fell in love with the fam­ily quickly and once you es­tab­lish that re­la­tion­ship with any­one you want to keep com­ing back to see what hap­pen­ing in their lives; all the tri­als and tribu­la­tions.’’

Thom­son says it was fit­ting Dave and Julie Rafter, who dreamed of an empty house, should see that dream re­alised in the grand fi­nale.

‘‘They sell the house and in the fi­nal se­quence Julie takes the pho­tos of the kids off the wall. They leave the house and there’s a flash­back of the char­ac­ters who have passed through.

‘‘I haven’t seen it, my­self, but I un­der­stand it’s a tear­jerker.’’

The show’s en­tire cast was re­united for the fi­nale. ‘‘It was sur­real,’’ says Thom­son. ‘‘It was like I didn’t feel any­thing un­til a few weeks later. I can’t even re­mem­ber if I shed a tear.’’ He’ll miss his show­biz fam­ily. ‘‘I’ll most miss the ca­ma­raderie be­tween the cast and crew and the rap­port we had,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s a com­fort­able feel­ing to walk on to a set and have the same peo­ple around you ev­ery day.

‘‘They were long, hard days, but never bad days. Even when some­one was sick, ev­ery­one would rally round that per­son to get them through.

‘‘Some­one like Rebecca, my TV wife, I see her to­day; I saw her on the week­end. Whether she likes it or not, she’s now part of my life.

‘‘Af­ter five years of work­ing to­gether we’ve be­come good friends.’’

He has en­joyed watch­ing his tele­vi­sion kids test the wa­ter with other projects among them Jessica Marais to the US and the drama Magic City and Hugh Sheri­dan to the re­al­ity TV tal­ent show I Will Sur­vive.

Thom­son says the cast will re­unite to­day for a farewell bar­be­cue.

‘‘It sounds like just the thing to say good­bye,’’ says Thom­son, who will be seen in the up­com­ing tele­movie, The Bro­ken Shore, on ABC1, and a new film by Robin But­ler ( The Li­brar­i­ans).

Packed to the Rafters: Tues­day, 8.45pm, Seven, Prime7.

The cast of Packed to the Rafters re­united and (left) stars Rebecca Gib­ney and Erik Thom­son

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