- Sep 27, 2014
- AFL Club
- Other Teams
- Roosters, Mets, West Ham
Did produce this review which makes me want to watch the original episodes:Rebooted Seachange is utter s**t.
In Australia, the 1990s was an era of muggaccinos, emerging mainstream racism and old-school broadcast TV. Into that fray waded a Sunday night family show on the ABC, co-created by Deb Cox and Andrew Knight.
Seachange was special and strange. A corporate lawyer, Laura Gibson (Sigrid Thornton’s cartoonishly baffled, high-strung creation), leaves Melbourne in meltdown for a low-stress job as the local magistrate in the coastal hamlet of Pearl Bay. Every week, two million viewers tuned in to the Bay’s lovable cast of small-town weirdos, Laura’s slightly hapless children Rupert and Miranda, her new loves (first David Wenham’s Diver Dan, then William McInnes’ Max, a grumpy journo) and the show’s goofy real-estate villain, Bob Jelly (the actor John Howard). And before the night of 10 May 1998 there was nothing like Seachange.
The new season of Seachange, revived by Nine after six years of attempts, sees Laura in the anguish of a second midlife crisis. Her marriage to Max has imploded, she has been sacked from a volunteer position in Africa, and she returns to Pearl Bay to find the now-adult Miranda (Brooke Satchwell) approaching the end of an unplanned pregnancy. On the same day as Laura, Bob Jelly returns to Pearl Bay after a spell in jail for a shonky Ponzi scheme, and with new plans to rip out Pearl Bay’s mangroves for medium-density housing.
Revisiting the first three seasons of Seachange, I found them sweet, flecked with wisdom and amazingly absent of cynicism. Seachange was a healthy fantasy – that life could be simpler, that togetherness and community were possible. And at its centre was Laura – the hilariously harried neurotic, the mother who was often absent, the thorny woman who was almost always right up against the limits of her self-awareness, and who often looked as if she might tear her hair out at any moment.
With its heightened dramatic tone, Seachange wasn’t quite a soap, it wasn’t just a Sunday night family show and it wasn’t purely a country courtroom drama. And yes, like Rake, also co-created by Andrew Knight, Seachange was a tiny bit parochial. The original show hasn’t held up, and nor should it need to – it resulted from a very particular cultural moment.
I’m talking about Seachange in the past tense. A couple of moments glitter in the pale commercial revival: Kevin (Kevin Harrington), grey and bereaved, releasing a photo of his beloved Phrani (Georgina Naidu) into the ocean; the offhand, comic revelation that Laura’s children were birthed via elective caesarean and that she expressed her breastmilk, which fits beautifully with her character’s quirks as a working woman who values efficiency. Parents and their grown children, the resentments and rarely spoken-of rifts, emerge as constant thematic veins in the reboot, and this is where it’s interesting – boomer parents wondering why their grown children can’t just get on with life like they did.
In 2015, co-creator Deb Cox described Seachange as being about a woman who was “dropping out of being a high achiever ... it was very anti-economic rationalism. But when you write about politics in terms of a character, it doesn’t polarise audiences. We had the most conservative people who loved Seachange.”
The show – its anti-development themes, its anti-neoliberal plotline, originating from deep in the Howard era, when people longed to leave the greedy busy city for a more nurturing life closer to nature – should still resonate. Even though the first episode aired 20 years ago, it showed so much awareness about forces of change that are even more acute today.
But 2019 carries a recycled culture of borrowed nostalgia, which this new vision of Seachange wades right into. There are plenty of references to the Pearl Bay of old – the Tropical Star Hotel, gossip about Bucket, the town’s never seen but ubiquitous rascal (Rupert, as well as Max and Laura’s child, are not yet part of the new picture).
“Pearl Bay. Gateway to free parking, pork pies and pelicans,” says Wayne Blair, directing and also starring as Riley Bolt, the show’s new narrator and local broadcaster of Radio Riley, laying the nostalgia on thick and gooey. There are mentions of coastal erosion and rising tides and fracturing communities. And yet slices of not-so-subtle product placement (big cars, spreadable butter, tomato sauce at a barbecue) tell a new, different story: that of the unnecessary reboot.
The revived Seachange is, well, quite nice, in a mild, well-mannered, diet soda sort of way. It’s hard to fault a show that’s so affable (despite the sense that the script could use a few more drafts to make every little bit of it shine; perhaps it’s lacking Andrew Knight’s spirited presence). But Seachange without that off-kilter warmth isn’t Seachange.
Laura’s romantic interests weren’t just ways to explore the richness and difficulties of later-in-life love; they were funny, grounding dramatic foils to her neurosis. It’s hard to see Dan Wyllie’s character, established as her new paramour, in the same way.
The reboot serves a straight-down-the-line drama with a few comic bubbles. It’s much like the retro, tea-and-biscuits stylings of Rosehaven, and the aspirational everywoman vibe of Newton’s Law – both recent ABC dramas that try to offer a feel-good salve for today’s culture of cynicism – except it’s normcore, Channel Nine-style. And that makes this once forward-looking, fresh show much more conservative. Millennial kids like me grew up watching Seachange (having been raised on the similarly greenie fare of Fern Gully and Captain Planet) with their families on a Sunday night, but I can’t quite imagine people my age watching now – it feels made for a much older demographic.
The new Seachange is chasing a feeling – but it’s selling a stale memory of the late 1990s back to us at cut price.
Nine’s revival of the ABC TV drama is mild and well-mannered nostalgia, yet misses its original off-kilter warmth