Ending on a high
It’s the final season for SBS show The Family Law and its creator, Benjamin Law, is ready for the end. He tells DANIELLE MCGRANE why the time is right for its conclusion and what will be revealed in the final season.
Benjamin Law is not your typical TV show creator. He isn’t desperately clinging to his show, The Family Law, but instead he’s more than ready to let it go after its third and final season – because that’s what he had always planned.
“It’s hard to get a third season up of any show and we actually conceived of this show as a trilogy right from the start,” Law said.
The show, loosely based on Law’s 2010 memoirs of the same name, was carefully mapped out from the beginning of its run on SBS. “We didn’t conceive of Family Law as being a show that goes on forever like Home and Away or something, we really knew that the first season would be about divorce, the second season would be about what a family can be after a marital break-up, and the third season was always going to be about Ben coming out as gay – to the point where we flagged that right in the first episode of season one,” he said.
“He’s (Ben) looking through his telescope and there’s a reference to the fact that he’s supposed to be spying on his hot, female neighbour and he just lingers way too long on the hot, male neighbour who’s lifting weights. That wasn’t the centre of the plot, but we put that there in the very first episode, to signal to the audience that we’re all one step ahead of Ben.”
The show has provided a point of reference for young people and teenagers growing up in a family going through divorce. It’s also about an Asian-Australian family, again a reference Law wanted to provide for other young people out there looking for more diversity on their screens.
And this season it will also show how Ben’s character comes out to his family.
“Just before the book came out I thought, ‘Gee, this is a book about being gay and coming out in coastal Queensland in the 1990s at the height of Hanson, during the time my parents split up. This is not the classic Australian story – why would anyone read this?’ and then of course people did read it and related to it in so many different ways because they were Asian-Australian, or because they were kids of divorce and because they grew up gay and I think that’s the effect the TV show has had as well,” he said.
What’s been surprising for Law is how often he’s approached by people who didn’t have the exact same experience, or cultural background as he did, but still found a lot to identify with, or relate to, in his story.
“Non Asian-Australian people have come up to me and said, ‘ Wow you’ve depicted my family’ and originally that caught me off guard … but of course that’s what I did growing up. I was always made to identify with families that didn’t look like mine because there weren’t Asian-Australian families on TV. So it made sense that people would find themselves in that story,” he said.
There’s one relationship in the series that will be getting a particular focus this final season – the one between mother and son.
“This was increasingly a season about Ben and Jenny,” Law said.
“This season was always going to be an exploration of sexuality and we wanted to parallel that with Jenny’s journey, so as much as Ben is coming out as gay, Jenny is coming out as a sexual being.”
For Law, writing the book and creating the TV series was a way for him to create the things he wishes he had had growing up.
“I think we consume stories for two reasons; one is to learn about people who are not like us at all, and two is to find the stories that resonate with our own lives and to feel like we’re actually seen. And I think those two things can happen at the same time,” he said.
The Family Law
Saturday, 8.30pm on SBS
Family values: Benjamin Law, the creator of the comedy series TheFamilyLaw, with his real mother Jenny.