Always Greener: articles

Amiable drama's double feature

The appeal of a show called Always Greener (TV One, 8.30pm) to drought-gripped and bushfire-blasted Australians seems obvious.

But the gentle, city-versus-country Aussie drama, which starts its second season tonight, deserves its following.

It is less clever and comedic than its older cousin, SeaChange, and the quality of the storylines can be uneven, but the drama knows its territory and stays pretty much in the warm and sunny shallows.

Even the trials of the city-dwellers don't get much past a bit of minor social work.

You can't help thinking an equivalent New Zealand drama would have had at least two cases of domestic violence, incest, rape and possibly an execution-style drugs killing by now.

The show got off to a slow start in its first season, with a welter of introductions and decision-making needed to get both its families on the road to changing their lives by swapping houses and milieus.

The stressed out, city-slicker Taylors, led by parents John and Liz (John Howard, mayor Bob Jelly in SeaChange and Anne Tenney, queen of the sponge cake in hit Aussie movie The Castle) swap homes with their rural cousins, the disillusioned and stuck-in-a-rut Todds.

The double set-up has now paid off as the parallel lives of the town and country cousins provide plenty of changes of scenery and the scope to keep the fairly low-key drama moving.

In tonight's double episode, streetwise daughter Marissa manages to extract her take on the house sale and is off to take the lessons learned in the country back to the bright lights, big city.

Dad John is working in the Inverness local pub and finds he just can't escape being a social worker.

The Taylors' dream to open a bed and breakfast is thwarted by a bank manager.

Meanwhile, the small town's resident mean bastard is softening up and planning to throw a party, the real estate agent keeps the short-sleeves-and-tie look favoured by a certain class of antipodean businessmen firmly in the crosshairs of the satirical gun, and the town's randiest senior citizen is forever ordering her favourite tipple, the orgasm.

Tom and the lemon-lipped Isabelle Turnbull take a hackneyed adoption-guilt storyline and manage to make it genuinely moving.

In the city, Sandra's kids are giving her a hard time about her new relationship, and daughter Pip has her first taste of heartbreak, Sydney-style.

Son Cam is threatening to return to the country: with two households it seems there's plenty of potential for shuffling Always Greener's deck of characters.

Unfortunately, the show still has not shed its most self-indulgent feature, starting each segment with a dictionary definition of a word. These sometimes work as an ironic statement on the action but mostly they're an irritation.

And the second of tonight's two parts labours away at an attempt to parody a Western-style barroom brawl.

However, watch for the gratifying fate of the talking poultry tonight—the gabby bird was a clumsy attempt at quirkiness which blighted the show at the start and was always a scriptwriter's darling waiting to be killed.

By Frances Grant
February 05, 2003
New Zealand Herald