FAMILIES TO THE FORE
The networks are keen to lure us with their offerings at this time of year, which means viewers could be in for some treats
The race to the end of the ratings year is well and truly on. Enter “Super September” and the push to get some last big viewer numbers under collective belts.
So what Aussie dramas should you be watching? Read on for our take on the cream of the new season’s small screen crop.
800 WORDS (SEVEN)
Three years ago, Eric Thomson was handed a treatment for 800 Words – a drama with a comic heart about a widower who moves his unwilling kids to a small town in New Zealand.
He was so taken with the premise that Thomson not only convinced Seven to get on board, he also signed on as associate producer.
But while Thomson plays another “dad” role, in this case widower George Turner, Packed to the Rafters this is not.
“It’s a starting-over story, a fish out of water story,” he says.
In other words, think SeaChange or Always Greener.
A strong ensemble cast, including newcomers Melina Vidler and Benson Jack Anthony as the Turner children, and fellow Aussie transplant Rick Donald as a resident surfer/life coach, make this new cross-Tasman drama a must-see.
Plus 800 Words gets bonus points for engineering the TV return of Bridie Carter.
“Audiences will fall in love with these characters,” says Carter, who plays Turner’s late wife’s best friend as well as his boss. “The writing is beautiful … There’s a lightness and a comedic element but a lot of heart as well.”
PETER ALLEN: NOT THE BOY NEXT DOOR (SEVEN)
While the spotlight will obviously turn to Joel Jackson, the breakout star of this hotly anticipated two-part miniseries about the life and work of entertainer Peter Allen, two of Australia’s leading ladies will also deliver unmissable performances.
Rebecca Gibney plays Peter Allen’s mother Marion Woolnough and has been singing the praises of Sigrid Thornton as Judy Garland since the cast gathered for the first table reading back in February.
The SeaChange favourite is remarkable as Garland, the showbiz icon who took Allen under her wing as his US manager and then as his mother-in-law when he wed her daughter, Liza (played by Sara West).
And Thornton has returned the love. “We’re actually a part of a mutual admiration society,” she says.
As Thornton explained, it was Gibney’s range that impressed. “She has to play her from quite a young woman to quite an elderly woman. It’s been extraordinary to watch that transformation.”
A PLACE TO CALL HOME (SOHO)
With Foxtel having revived the period drama, actor Sara Wiseman says expect a change in pace for all of the characters on the show when season three begins in its brand new home.
“They’ve upped the ante for everyone,” Wiseman says.
“That’s how it goes. It can’t all be smooth sailing because that’d be boring. And as they say, boats aren’t made for sitting in the harbour.”
Wiseman’s character Carolyn Bligh gets a heavy storyline and she admits to being “out of sorts” during the height of filming.
The scenes were “confronting and terrifying” for the performer at times, but satisfying to play, she says.
“It has a bit of a whiplash response that comes from it,” Wiseman hints.
“Her outlook on the world, her opinions and self-belief ... how she handles herself – everything is impacted.
‘‘There’s quite a surprise in store.”
Joel Jackson as Peter Allen in Channel 7's new biopic, Peter Allen: Not The Boy Next Door.
Rick Donald and Erik Thomson star in 800 Words.