All Saints: articles

Hats off to the decapitation drama

Get me four episodes of All Saints (with a bit of doctors-and-nurses on the side), stat!

OK READERS, STRAP yourself in. To prove to you that television reviewing can be an extreme sport, I have given myself a Three Episode Challenge. I'm pumped, I'm high fiving, I'm air punching and they are backing in the icy cold cans of Coke. There may be urine testing involved but that's OK, I'm no stranger to taking the piss.

The Challenge consists of me watching three episodes of all the 2007 Logie nominees for "Most Popular Drama". Last week it was a little pony porn with Airheads On Horseback (sorry, I mean McLeod's Daughters) and this week it's All Saints.

I have chanced upon the odd snippet of this Aussie-made hospital drama in the past and thought to myself, "It's a bit like ER but with ugly people." ER had George Clooney. All Saints has John Howard. Point made. Medical dramas have huge appeal because the opportunities for life and death are more feasible and with a bit of doctors-and-nurses thrown in, we're talking a licence to print TV guides.

Wealthy, self-funded retirees chat about their trips to Tuscany. Poor pensioners talk about their trips to casualty. I'll choose medical drama over any other kind faster than you can say, "80 mills of Hyperthorax! Stat!" I wonder if these shows raise public awareness about illnesses or do they just turn us all into hypochondriacs?

So with a glass of red in my left hand and a pewter goblet of truth in the other I say to you that, not only did I watch three episodes of All Saints, but I watched four. Because I enjoyed it.

You have Von Ryan, the gruff matron with the heart of gold, John Campion, the grumpy maverick head of emergency with the messy personal life, Dr Bianca Frost, the conniving bitch, Mike Vlasek, the brilliant surgeon with the substance-abuse problem and a young Doogie Howseresque Dr Bartholomew West, intern complete with knitted vests.

For fleeting moments it feels a bit "three stereotypes walked into a hospital" and there is the odd cheesy line; but, all in all (and I know you hate it when I don't hate something), it's good telly.

The story-lines are well executed, with intelligent and challenging subject matter all delivered with snappy dialogue and mostly fine acting. The partner of one of the doctors finds out that their baby has spina bifida and she has decided to terminate the pregnancy against his will, interspersed with gay relationships, child abuse and an accident resulting in an internal decapitation.

I'll make the point that two of the directors of the episodes I watched were Daina Read and Nick Bufalo. Both are perfect examples of how experienced and versatile our television practitioners are. The two have extensive TV experience directing, writing and performing comedy and drama, which illustrates how, in our tiny industry, you have to be a Jack or Jill of all trades.

I don't know if it's always this good but I would watch All Saints for free.

All Saints Tuesday, Channel Seven, 9pm.

By Catherine Deveny
April 21, 2007
The Age