Love My Way: articles

Local heroes

It's novel to see actors behaving like real people - and all the better when the drama is in our own backyard.

It's time to stop bitching about Love My Way (W. Channel, Sunday, encore Saturday) airing on pay TV and acknowledge that it is the final straw, the lone legitimate reason, after all these years, to go cable.

It is almost inconceivable that the best Australian drama, the only truly fine Australian drama to be produced in years, is unavailable to the average viewer. And so perhaps it's time the average viewer changed. If Foxtel's courageous decision to produce the supersoap results in increased subscriptions, then so be it. If you build it, they will come eventually - to pay TV.

Cableworld has been utterly resistible until recently. Sure, the magnificent Office Christmas specials played a full year before the ABC got around to it and the cornucopious Lifestyle Food channel has some dab-hand dicing an onion around the clock. Personally, I was only ever in it for Shabby Chic, the lifestyle show that shares more natty tips for decorating with scrimshaw than I'd dare dream possible. And now Entourage is the glorious grubby Hollywood drama that scratches the itch left unattended for too long since Melrose Place.

And so another series of Love My Way finds our typical disjointed malfunctioning extended family picking up the pieces after the death of eight-year-old Lou. Grief is a staple of TV drama. Only after the big wedding and the shock teen pregnancy is the sudden death a handy audience winner. But none of us had seen this one coming. This kid was the show's glue. These people don't have best friends, or even many colleagues or neighbours. They are the people who surrounded Lou and now we're watching them grieve.

It's a fine piece of work with even, faultless performances. The location crew deserves an - um, I'm stumped for a local TV award that actually means something - enormous bar of chocolate for making the city of Sydney look so plainly familiar yet poignantly beautiful.

The main reason why everyone, not just those with pay TV, should see Love My Way is that the people and their stories are local and true, and because, in spite of my obligation as a TV critic, it is actually unbearable to visit Summer Bay or Ramsay Street, Drovers Run or the godforsaken world of Blue Heelers. To see or hear an Australian story these days, you have to watch Australian Story.

Desperate Housewives (Monday, Seven) came back with a big funeral and most welcome it was after the long, lean summer but, by contrast, Wisteria Lane grief is silly, trivial, funny and, well, just American. To compare Love My Way with Desperate Housewives is to compare a bunch of violets and a Casio clock-radio; there is no starting point and, actually, no point.

We are so used to seeing how a small, stereotypical handful of American women respond in stereotypical situations (heartbreak, embarrassment, terror, flirtation, scorn) it is startlingly refreshing to see an Australian woman doing anything.

Claudia Karvan plays women I know. Teri Hatcher plays women I know I'd like to smack. Susan behaves like a 10-year-old. She's a professional victim. Her daughter has an under-bite she really should have looked into long ago, and Susan wears two decorative singlets, one over the other, every day. When she found out her boyfriend is actually father to a teenage boy, somehow it's all about her.

Bree buried Rex and a really preposterous wrangle with her mother-in-law, concluding with tie-swapping schtick at the funeral, propelled the show into farce. Marcia Cross played a saner character on Melrose Place, and she used to tear off her own face and hair on a regular basis.

Felicity Huffman's Lynette was far more palatable as a woman buffaloed by her four small children. This week she landed a big job in an advertising agency because the boss was impressed by her ability to discuss a website while changing a disposable nappy. Those of us who have had experience with both disposable nappies and big jobs in advertising know that this scenario is as ludicrous as anything that ever went down at McMahon and Tate.

Mustn't grumble. We're all very glad that the big fat glossy American shows are back. We love them. They are the big steak dinners complete with cheesecake and ice-cream at the end of a long, dull summer diet. Perhaps that explains the slightly bilious, bloated, nauseating guilt I've been experiencing all week.

By Ruth Ritchie
February 11, 2006
Sydney Morning Herald