Mcleod's Daughters: articles

Land of the bush utopia

Taking a trip back to the country can be a risky business. Ask John Howard and Kim Beazley. It's not just the silly dress code, the glut of lamingtons or that cheery encouragement to join a grouse lynch mob at the local bank, but the bush really does need a bit of a workover. It's so dusty.

Not on television. From Bellbird to A Country Practice, The Man From Snowy River and The Flying Doctors, rural ways have promised a neat, clean, romantic escape from city life. We get to know that out there in the heart of Australia they really do support and care for each other … and that, when not line-dancing with Troy Dann or whingeing about fuel prices, someone actually does get out the duster. The TV country, then, is the place to go. No worries about the state of the dollar. Room service without ruinous hotel expenses. And no waiting lists.

You can take that journey, suck in the fresh air and become "real Australians" again tonight in McLeod's Daughters (Nine, 7.30pm), the new 22-part drama series filmed in a sun-scorched South Australia by producer Posie Graeme-Evans.

There are no anorexic models or anaemic suits in sight. The blokes look like they've stepped out of an 1980s beer commercial and there are sheilas here that can tidy up the Northern Territory before brekky. Their eyes crease up to take in the horizon. This is good old-fashioned, chauvinistic, predictable, down-on-the-farm TV. Well, almost.

McLeod's Daughters opens by reuniting a couple of half-sisters on a large cattle and sheep property about two hours from the nearest town and a day's drive from Adelaide. Drovers Run has, it seems, been in the McLeod family for generations, passing, until now, from father to son.

Tess Silverman (Bridie Carter), raised in the city, is told she has inherited half the rundown property following her father Jack McLeod's death. She returns to Drovers Run and, after years out of touch, struggles to win the confidence of Claire McLeod (Lisa Chappell), the sister who stayed on the land. Before too long, however, they're running the place with an all-woman workforce and all the confidence of the Cartwrights on the Ponderosa.

The girls go it alone when the male hired help proves dodgy and neighbor Harry Ryan (Marshall Napier) and his sons start talking about buying the land and adding it to their place, Killarney. Ryan's sons, however, look more of a romantic interest for future episodes than any serious threat to Drovers Run.

McLeod's Daughters is an easy-going family drama that has, as well as appealing performances from both Chappell and Carter as the sisters, a pleasing Sonia Todd as wise housekeeper Meg Fountain and the rugged John Jarratt as stockman Terry Dodge. It's set around a historic, double-storeyed Edinburgh sandstone house, Kingsford, over which Roger Dowling's cameras almost too lovingly linger.

If only Senior Sergeant Tom Croydon (John Wood) and Mt Thomas' finest could enjoy just a touch of architectural understanding for Blue Heelers (Seven, 8.30pm), their lock-up might not be so claustrophobic and their visitors might not always appear so bad-tempered. Their station set, worryingly bush, is becoming positively All Saints.

Such is the Heelers frustration this week that they start investigating each other instead of focusing on local sheep duffers or on breathalysing tourists. Tom finds himself defending a couple of old police mates accused of stealing marijuana. One of them is played by actor Gary Sweet, who looked a lot happier with his lot when we saw him in Police Rescue.

Country life clearly doesn't agree with everyone.

By Brian Courtis
Wednesday 8 August 2001
TV Preview, The Age