Always Greener: articles

Always Greener

During the first week of the Sydney 2000 Olympics, only one drama, ABC TV's fish-out of-water show SeaChange managed to penetrate the top 30 programs on Australian television. The yearning for people in urban societies to escape to a simpler life—and what that entails in terms of interrelationships—forming no small part of its phenomenal appeal. With excellent writing and a strong cast, SeaChange had clearly tapped into a rich vein of sentiment amongst the Australian viewing public. For network executives at the ABC's commercial counterparts, this was clearly a market worth tapping into.

With Always Greener Seven is seems to be looking to generate the same buzz—and ratings. Drawing on similar themes of wish fulfilment and lifestyle choices, the series even lured former SeaChange cast member John Howard on board to ensure that there is no confusion about its intention to corner the market in 'quirky and character based'. No coincidence either, that the Network has programmed it into the time slot (Sundays 7.30pm), formerly occupied (and dominated by)—that's right, SeaChange. So far, the deliberate gamble seems to be working—Always Greener made the highest ratings debut of any Australian drama in the past decade, with 2.64 million viewers tuning in on Sunday.

Always Greener is based around two families, the Taylors and the Todds. The Taylors are city dwellers who desperately want to escape the rat race. The Todds are country folk who would love to pursue a new challenge in the city. Wisely hedging its bets, Always Greener, is a humourous family drama which offers wish fulfilment on both sides of the divide, as the two families swap homes—and lives.

One of its big drawcards is a strong cast which includes both experienced actors like John Howard and Anne Tenney (best remembered for her role as Molly, in A Country Practice), who play city slickers and parents of three, John and Liz Taylor. Their terrific chemistry is already evident and gives the proceedings a good shot in the arm. They are joined by a young and almost unknown cast of talented young actors, whose various frictions give the show much of its dramatic impetus.

For the 'city slickers', Natasha Lee plays the angst-ridden Kimberley Taylor, Daniel Bowden plays resident spunk Jason Taylor, and Michala Banas is wild-child Marissa Taylor. The 'country folk' are Abe Forsythe (son of well known Australian actor Drew) who plays Campbell Todd, and Bree Walters, who plays tomboy Phillipa Todd.

Like most families, both have their ups and downs and one of the show's hallmarks is its very cheeky—and distinctly Australian—humour. Episode one saw a chicken-coop being inadvertently set alight after a cow released a methane build-up, and 15-year-old Pip offering a scathing review of farmhand Tom Morgan's (Scott Major) erhm—appendage—after catching him skinny-dipping in the lake.

According to series' writer and creator, Bevan Lee , "Always Greener is very accessible to the audience, but it doesn't treat them like idiots. We are taking risks to move, inspire and challenge our audiences. I really believe that's the kind of show people are looking for", he says. "It's a truthful but optimistic look at family". So far we have seen bullying, drug use (and misuse), potential illicit affairs, teenage lust, and neighbour wars—all in just one instalment. It is safe to say the show is desperate to cling to all audiences, which could be its downfall. However, if the level of scriptwriting remains as high, it should soon find its niche.

Whether Always Greener will be all that remains to be seen. But the signs are good. Besides, it's a refreshing and welcome change from the announcement of yet another new reality TV show. For that, Seven is to be congratulated.

November 20, 2001
Telstra Entertainment