Bed of Roses: articles

Kerry Armstrong

Blooming marvellous ... Bed of Roses star Kerry Armstrong.

ABC drama no bed of roses for star

THE THIRD season of Bed of Roses opens not with a bang but with a kiss as Louisa Atherton (Kerry Armstrong) and Nick (Jay Laga'aia) pick up where they left off in the final scene of season two - with lips locked. Bed of Roses isn't a big-bang sort of show; it's a gentle comedy-drama hybrid about a woman who comes undone in her late 40s and reinvents herself in her 50s.

In the first season Louisa, a citified, spoilt trophy wife, returned to the country town of her childhood to live with her mother Minna (Julia Blake) after her philandering husband died in a compromising position. This leaves her clueless as to how to start a new life with her teenage daughter Holly (Hanna Mangan Lawrence).

Two years on and Louisa's life is very different. She's editor of the town's newspaper, The Echo, and has made lasting friendships with smart women. She's fallen in love with a decent bloke and while there's still plenty of the flustered, girlish charisma, Louisa's figured out, at least in part, who she is.

Bed of Roses is comforting, roast-dinner viewing: parochial, predictable, dotted with familiar small-town archetypes struggling to keep life simple and doing battle with outsiders who threaten the town's tranquility.

While other recent ABC dramas have failed to strike a chord, the first season of Bed of Roses attracted a record number of downloads on the network's iView internet player and consistently delivers something a certain demographic finds appealing. Read: women over 50.

Producer Mark Ruse says this "strong and loyal" audience is the reason why the ABC agreed to a third season. "People love watching television because they see parts of their lives reflected back at them, whether it's on a personal level or about the society we live in. The show has evolved. Series one was about Louisa's superficial life and finding something deeper. Series two was about her career and finding what she wants to do with her life.

"Series three is about her relationship with her mother, daughter and Nick but there's a few single episodes that focus mostly on Minna and Holly, so you could say it's more episodic."

In this season, each of the women have reached pivotal points in their lives: Louisa's less emotionally frantic, Holly is more self-assured and Minna continues to suck the marrow out of life, despite the death of her friend Sandy, played by the late Charles "Bud" Tingwell.

But viewers familiar with the program know that Blake's Minna can be as fierce as Louisa can be ditzy and when the three generations find themselves lost in the bush, the tension, isolation and anxiety make for an explosive confrontation. On a recent set visit, Green Guide spoke to Armstrong about the bond the three women share.

"Being flanked by such truthful, instinctive actors like Julia and Hanna gives you a real sense of being at the height of your powers, that you are doing something that demands you don't fall short of your work," Armstrong says. That work means days that can start at 4am and end after 8pm - for 18 weeks."

"You need to be fit," Ruse says. "They can be taxing days but the cast never stops."

Between takes, Blake muffles a cough, the tail-end of a cold she's had for weeks. The show must go on.

There are dark times ahead for Rainbow's End and the smudges on Armstrong's face give part of the story away. Near the end of series three, pandemonium reigns when fires come dangerously close to the town. As locals meet up at the Rose and Thistle, Nick and a crew of firefighters do what they can to save property and lives.

Of the story that is partly inspired by the Black Saturday bushfires, Armstrong says: "This show is set in a small town and I'm deeply aware that this episode will resonate with lots of people. I think the whole cast, crew, the extras and the director of this episode, Ted Emery, all want to honour what people went through."

At one point, Armstrong's own property came under threat, an experience she draws on as Louisa.

"That's what this show is about: community, people supporting each other. We're giving this season and this episode our all."

By Frances Atkinson
December 02, 2010
Sydney Morning Herald