Always Greener: articles

Aussie whiff of the surreal

Last week the chook said to the rooster: "It's morning, why don't you crow?"

Rooster: "Are you kidding? You saw what happened to the last bloke."

The last rooster got its head shot off. Indeed, we did see what happened to the last bloke.

In Six Feet Under, what passes for surrealism seeping into drama is Mum accidentally dropping a party drug and seeing Smokey the Bear in the woods. Spot the inspiration from the e-generation of scriptwriters.

In Always Greener, Australia's newest drama, what passes for surrealism is those talking birds. And The Book of Answers, a tome of pseudo-prophecy much relied on by youngest child Kimberly, being farted open to predict teenage son Jason's chances of scoring.

That's Aussie scriptwriting inspiration for you: straight from a night on the XXXX.

Last week we had a two-hour session. The pilot featured two families—the city cousins and the country cousins—and placed the pieces on the board to ready them for the big move. The big move is the premise on which Always Greener is based: the city cousins move to the country, and vice versa. It's a neat, and neatly predictable set-up.

We know that city cousin, sulky cow Marissa, is not going to cope too well because we've seen her set the chook house alight after lighting a fag during a tricky operation involving a vet, a cow's bum and a lot of methane. The fart joke looks like becoming a running gag. "Twenty cubic metres of cow gas doesn't smell like roses," said the vet.

We had already been set up for this one by the references to the, ah, clean country air.

Despite those stabs at the surreal, Always Greener is your good old nice family soap/drama.

Well, it's a nice idea, isn't it? Burnt-out social worker John/Dad needs a break. His sister, affectionately known as Snotty, newly widowed and just qualified as a real-estate agent, needs a big city break. So, why not swap?

We know there will be travails and tantrums, but these are basically nice families. We've been told that the Taylors are dysfunctional. We've seen John shout, we've seen Marissa shovel speed up her nose. But we've also seen that John is basically a guy who cares too much. And we've seen Marissa stand up for little sis Kimberly against a gang of girl bullies.

These are modern-day families who make decisions together. Sandra/Snotty tells her kids that if one of them doesn't want to go to the city, none of them will go.

They're an endearing lot; and we know they're going to endure a lot and that family will win through.

Now that we've had the set-up, the telly equivalent of the awkward teenage years with the characters struggling to define themselves, Always Greener should settle into pleasant, family entertainment with characters you could get to care about and, quite likely, a few more fart jokes.

But could somebody please shoot that talking rooster?

• Always Greener, TV One, 8.35pm

July 24, 2002
New Zealand Herald