Always Greener: articles

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New faces, green acres

THAT darn rooster. It's hard to get the image out of your head.

One minute it's sitting proud atop a fence post, welcoming the soft morning sun with a hearty "cock-a-doodle-do".

The next minute the life is rudely blasted out of him with a shotgun.

As your eyes follow a flurry of feathers a subconscious notion sneaks into your head: maybe Seven's new Aussie drama Always Greener could be as unique as they say it is.

The series is based around two families, the Tailors and the Todds.

The Tailors 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.

So they swap houses. Simple, right?

Well, one imagines there are enough teething problems to feed at least the first 26 drama-hungry episodes.

At this point a number of likely comparisons spring to mind.

It could be Sons and Daughters only set in the city and the country, not Sydney and Melbourne.

It could be McLeod's Daughters with an urban component.

It could be a variation of SeaChange.

The first episode is all it takes to blast these comparisons out of the water.

According to producer Jo Porter, who came on board from All Saints, Always Greener is in a league of its own.

"It's a show about change and really it could've been set anywhere," Porter says.

"I think it's just really nice to see a family who are real and they have their ups and downs. The humour that is in there is very Australian and very cheeky."

Cheeky, indeed.

It was quite brave of the producers to include a fart joke in the first episode, let alone take it to such giddy heights that it leads to a major turning point in the plot.

But hey, it works.

A LOT of the acting credit must be handed to the cast. It includes John Howard and Anne Tenney, who play city-slickers and parents of three, John and Liz Taylor. Caitlin McDougall plays John's sister, widowed country mum of two, Sandra Todd.

Porter says having experienced actors on board makes her job a lot easier.

"It's great to have actors of the calibre of John Howard and Anne Tenney who all the young cast can look up to," Porter says.

"They're so professional. It sets a great tone."

The young cast includes some instant heart-throbs in Daniel Bowden, who plays 16-year-old Jason Taylor and Mikala Banas who, with a Katie Holmes-style beauty, plays Jason's elder sister Marissa.

Another fresh face belongs to Georgie Shew, who plays 16-year-old Katy Turnbull.

Shew, 22, says while she is relatively unknown she has done everything from television ads to extra roles and low-budget US cable films.

"From doing the bad stuff I know what the good stuff is," Shew says.

"When I saw the first episode of Always Greener I thought, 'Oh my god, I'm so proud to be in this'."

Playing a character six years her junior is not a problem for Shew.

"It's surprising how much more mature teenagers are today," Shew says.

"When I was 15 I was still hanging out in the school yard with my Cabbage Patch dolls."

Always Greener makes no attempt to view the world through rose-coloured glasses.

"It deals with serious issues," Porter says.

"Teenage sexuality, work pressure and stress and bullying is a big thing initially."

However, more so than Porter's previous project, All Saints, the heavy issues are balanced with a healthy dose of fun.

"All Saints is based in reality but in Always Greener you have some wacky moments," Porter says.

Having been with All Saints since its inception, leaving the top-rating drama was a gamble.

"It was hard to leave All Saints partly because it has really hit its stride this year," Porter says.

"But three-and-a-half years is a long time to do one show. When you're starting up a show it's the hardest time but also the most exciting and rewarding."

Seven program director David Franken says Always Greener will be the fourth Australian drama to currently air on the channel - the most for any network.

Leather and Silk [Marshall Law], an Australian legal drama starring Lisa McCune is planned for next year.

If Always Greener is still around it will take the network's tally to five.

But Porter is confident of her product.

"The response we've had so far has just been overwhelmingly positive," Porter says.

"I showed my dad and he's great, he's very supportive of what I do, but he said 'I would watch this regardless of whether you were involved in it'."

Not only did it pass the dad-test but it was well received by a pack of Sydney television critics at a launch attended by Porter.

"It was so nerve-racking because it's like an opening night watching it with all the journalists in the room," she says.

"But it was great because they were all laughing in the right places and didn't shuffle too much."

Always Greener, Seven, starting Sunday, September 9, 7.30pm.

Allison White
September 06, 2001
The Courier Mail