Monday, 10 September 2012

Puberty Blues = Not So Blue

2012 has been a benchmark year in awful for Australian TV.

From the endless reality lowlights of Everybody Dance Now, Big Brother, Bingle, The Shire, and Excess Baggage, to the drama misses of House Husbands, The cheap ripoff of Sons of Anarchy Bikie Wars, Underbelly 58, and Winners and Losers; it's been nothing but bland predictable failures from go to woe.

But somehow, one drama that was firmly in the category of likely 2012 failures, has miraculously been able to buck the trend. Whether its by blind luck or design, who would have thought that Puberty Blues could actually be popular? When Channel 10 announced a remake of this 1970s film, a collective groan was heard across the country. Are there any new ideas in Australian TV. Any?

Of course, the answer to that question is no...

...But to everyone’s surprise, Puberty Blues is different. It has a hook. A coming of age drama is nothing new, but one set entirely in the 1970s is a surprisingly refreshing idea. Puberty Blues is essentially the typical “ordinary people, everyday problems” scenario that Australian scriptwriters love so dearly, but its the 1970s spin which is a little daring and sets this show apart. More importantly, it shields the writers from showing their ignorance on what real life and real situations are actually like. The nods to the good old simple life in the 70s are quaint, and the language used is timeless. Shut up Moles!

"She's such a Mole"

As is standard with all Aussie dramas, Puberty Blues is a pay cheque for a fair share of Aussie actor has beens. But this is one situation where the recycled actors almost adds to the retro feel of this show, albeit by accident. Although the retro feel has a very 90's flavour with all the hits including McLeod's Daughters, Water Rats, Blue Heelers and Stingers well represented in the CVs of the cast of Aussie washed ups.

Claudia Karvan is the one exception, and is a coup for Puberty Blues. Even though she has done the rounds of Aussie TV, she’s steered clear of the Neighbours, Home & Away, cop show, and hospital drama traps, and doesn't have that same washed up feel of her hack colleagues co stars. How she’s managed this is deserving of a Logie Award in itself. Not to mention she starred in one of the very rare gems of Australian film – The Big Steal. 

The Logie for managing to be an Australian TV actor and NOT
appear on Neighbours and H&A goes to Claudia Karvan.

The other win for this show is that it actually looks like some money has been spent on it to get the 1970s feel. The clothes, the props, they all fit to the 70s. Even the lack of High Def does.

In reality no money has been spent, its just that the budgets of all Aussie TV dramas can only afford used hand-me-down costumes from the 1970s, which have gathered dust since being worn by Molly and Simon on A Country Practice, but in this case it works, as they’ve hit the right era. Its funny how the school uniforms worn in Puberty Blues look exactly the same as those worn by Neighbours and Home & Away characters which are supposedly set 35 years later.

As for the props, is there anything worse than watching an Aussie drama which is set in current times, and seeing the characters boil the kettle on the stove for a cup of coffee, or wash dishes by hand? Does anyone really not have an electric kettle or a dishwasher anymore? You can get electric kettles from Coles for $10! Then again, according to Aussie drama, there is no Coles, all grocery shopping is done at Alf Stewart's corner store.

But once again, this scenario that makes Packed to Rafters look like its filmed in a $2 shop actually works for a show which set in the 1970s. Even the corner store is believable when its the 1970s! I wonder if they sell Big Boss candy cigars.

So it looks like channel 10 have stumbled upon a winning formula. When all the available ideas, dialogue, costumes and props are all decades behind the times, why not set the show to the same era? It'll look more genuine than anything else on TV...

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