Offspring: articles

Don Hany and Asher Keddie ... the show moves beyond 'will they or won't they'.

Offspring a nice surprise

BEING a thirtysomething single woman in this day and age is as easy as ABC: Ally, Bridget and Carrie. Which is to say — it's goddamned grim. You just can't slam down six cranberry vodkas any more and then make a bumbling fool of yourself in front of a guy you have a massive crush on while bickering with your own stream-of-consciousness voiceover at the same time without feeling like a pattern-cut, patchwork single-woman cliche churned out by the House of McBeal, Jones and Bradshaw.

It's not fair: the lives of single women have been hijacked by screen portrayals so idiotic and entrenched that many women are forced into situations they'll quickly regret, like marriage, just to avoid the ignominy of being typecast as a flippant moron.

This brings me to the promos for Offspring (Sundays, 8.40pm on Ten). Of course, one should never take any notice of promos but what's a flippant moron to do? The ads for this show made it look like a veritable television burp, bringing up such long-forgotten bad tastes in the mouth as dancing babies, nanna underpants and ridiculously expensive shoes — flavours we all happily devoured a decade ago but that now taste musky, bland and outdated.

Having watched Offspring, though, I've discovered, to my great astonishment, that it's not what I thought it would be at all. OK, so there's no denying it's about a single thirtysomething who spends all of her time fawning over Don Hany (and who can blame her?) but the show is more about her relationship to her family, a swarming bunch of likeable characters who have been excellently cast.

Excellently cast ... Eddie Perfect as Mick Holland and Kat Stewart as Billie Proudfoot.

Asher Keddie is Nina Proudman, an obstetrician in love with the dishy Dr Chris (Hany). The romantic set-up between Nina and Chris makes the question of "will they or won't they?" about as gripping as wondering whether a kettle will boil if you flick the switch on. But Dr Chris is from Brisbane, bringing with him a vaguely mysterious subplot about a missing wife, which brings some element of intrigue, albeit weaksish intrigue. This mystery moves the plot forward in the same way you might gently push a baby on a swing — just enough so that there's forward movement but not enough for anyone to get overly excited. (Except whenever Hany is actually on-screen — the squealing then is of a permanently damaging decibel.)

Things do happen in Offspring, many things, but the real reason to tune in is for the performances. Which isn't to suggest there are any discernibly brilliant Olivierian moments of drama exactly; it's just that the actors are genuinely a pleasure to watch.

The two other female leads — Deborah Mailman as Nina's friend Cherie and Kat Stewart as big sister Billie — are both fabulous. Billie's on-again-off-again boyf, Mick, is played by Eddie Perfect, who frequently bursts into song, which can be either delightful or torturous, depending on whether you like his music or not.

But it's the Proudman patriarch Darcy (John Waters) — who, in a wonderfully shameless soapie-esque subplot has unknowingly fathered a baby with Cherie on a cruise ship — who ends up being one of the most interesting characters. The gentle, enthusiastic way he navigates parenting responsibilities with Cherie is beautiful.

Then there's the mum, Geraldine (Linda Cropper), who in accordance with the current rules of everyone her age on telly has decided to join a dating website. And, finally, the Proudman younger brother is Jimmy (Richard Davies), whose girlfriend Odile, played by Leah de Niese, is a minor character but intriguing nonetheless. She has already shown us her Swiss, French and British accents and, in a potentially Logie-winning performance on an escalator last week, she even got to bring out a bogan accent. A mention must be made, amongst all these likes, about the character of Nina's ex-husband, the explosives expert who is always blowing stuff up. I could use words like "fizzle" and "bombed" to describe his effect on the storyline but the less said about him the better.

Also, while we're whingeing, we could note the little "moments" of misfired comedy, the sort that would normally inspire a pain in your gut to gradually uncoil in a long, extravagant hurl directed at the TV. But any discomfort can usually be soothed by calmly bringing your mind back to Don Hany.

"So, I wonder if all this means I actually like Offspring?" my inner voice asks itself and I cock my head demurely to one side to prove how weighed down it is with hefty neuroses. I continue: "I mean, if I admit to liking this show, will I ever get a date?" And as I fire a final round of kooky interrobangs at a cute guy at a cafe, I walk my expensively shod feet down Brunswick Street as the sparkly music swells.

By Lorelei Vashti
September 03, 2010
The Age