Love My Way: articles

Asher Keddie and Dan Wyllie

Asher Keddie and Dan Wyllie grapple with the roles.


It is the last week of the official ratings season and the free-to-air networks are throwing everything at us before they wind down for summer. But pay TV is just taking off—it rates best in summer—and among its offerings this week has been the premiere of the best Australian TV drama series of recent years.

Only about a quarter of Australian households subscribe to pay TV, so Love My Way will not win the huge audience it deserves. However, those who can watch it are in for a treat.

It has been likened to Channel Ten’s Secret Life of Us and suggested it will appeal to much the same young-adult audience. But those forecasts underestimate this character-rich drama.

Many under-35s will find Love My Way in sync with their lives, their woes and their aspirations. Others can appreciate it for what it is—an absorbing drama.

The main character is 31, but could just as easily be 40, or even 45. In several other cases, age is largely irrelevant, unlike in Secret Life, where age was all-important.

Claudia Karvan is the star and her character, Frankie Page, is the centrepiece. She is attractive, single, in her 30s and an illustrator at a Sydney newspaper.

Her ex-partner—and the father of her daughter Lou—is Charlie (Dan Wyllie), who, since their break-up, has married Julia (Asher Keddie).

Frankie now lives with Charlie’s brother, the complicated, moody, substance-abusing and enigmatic Tom (Brendan Cowell), although they’re not an item.

Throw into the mix Frankie’s weird mother, Di (Gillian Jones), and Tom and Charlie’s parents, Gerry (Max Cullen) and Brenda (Lynette Curran), and there you have it.

But it all revolves around Frankie, and this is where Love My Way shows its class.

The writers, working with producers John Edwards (Police Rescue, The Secret Life of Us) and Karvan, have sculpted a series about a gentle, idealistic woman who, judging by Monday’s debut episode, is looking for love in all the wrong places.

To make life more miserable, she is one of those who take on everyone else’s troubles. Hence, everything happens to and around Frankie.

There are two guys at work who fancy her, but Felix is an unreliable womaniser and George, who lusts after her in his own boyish, clumsy way, is more a soul mate than a potential lover. Or so it seems after the first episode.

Daughter Lou shares her time between Frankie and her father—and his family, including a newborn—and that’s sometimes an uneasy arrangement. But it is Tom who, for me, steals the show. He shares a renovator’s delight with Frankie beside the beach, and she shares all of his troubles.

Tom works as a cook at what appears to be some sort of psychiatric or rehab institution. It’s not exactly an exciting job.

He seems to spend most of his time whisking up various gooey concoctions while he stares out the window contemplating the meaning of life. Tom is one of those who thinks too much because, like Frankie, he ends up with the world’s problems on his shoulders.

But while Frankie does much the same—she’s always there for anyone who needs her—she does it with a smile (sometimes, a forced smile) and it never seems to get her down.

When it gets too much for Tom, he hits the bottle and, as happened in the first episode, ends up paralytic and is carted off to hospital to get his stomach pumped.

Tom is a man of few words. He’s also one of the best characters I have seen written for an Australian drama in recent years. And Brendan Cowell’s performance is remarkable. It could have been overdone, but Cowell is measured.

His portrayal of Tom at the wake held after the apparent suicide of an old friend of his and his brother Charlie’s was stunning. And the fact the writers got away with Tom having sex with a colleague from the rehab hospital in a bathroom during the wake shows how clever this series is.

Without seeing it, you might doubt it. But Jacquelin Perske, who wrote the first episode got it totally in context.

Love My Way is brilliant drama. But it is a pity it will not be screened on free-to-air TV. Channel Ten was involved at the start but pulled out. If it had stuck with it, the censorship code would have seen it screen after 9.30pm.

More lenient standards apply to pay TV, so Love My Way screens on Fox8 at 8.30pm Mondays.

This series is a credit to Foxtel. Required to spend 10 per cent of its drama acquisition budget on Australian material, it had been involved in a number of co-productions with free-to-air channels. But Foxtel’s executive director of television Brian Walsh has signalled an end to this because, he says, Foxtel is sick of compromising.

Like HBO in the US, which has produced Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, and The Sopranos, Foxtel wants to invest in edgy, more mature material than the free-to-air networks.

So Foxtel’s going it alone, and with Love My Way, it has made a promising start.

By Ross Warneke
November 25, 2004
The Age