Packed To The Rafters: articles

'Packed to the Rafters' a warm family drama on Seven

PACKED to the Rafters is the type of drama Seven does so well. It's warm family fare that makes you smile and keeps you entertained.

Like Nine's acclaimed Underbelly, Packed to the Rafters arrives on our screens next Tuesday at 8.30pm with a buzz about it. Unlike Underbelly, it's not a heavy drama. It's classic feel-good, or blue sky, television.

Rafters series producer Jo Porter is nervously awaiting the premiere next week after eight months of filming at Seven's Epping studios and on location.

Porter set up the successful City Homicide in Melbourne last year before being called back to Sydney to develop Rafters, the creation of Seven drama guru Bevan Lee, alongside script producer Anthony Ellis and Seven head of drama John Holmes.

Seven must be just a little confident about this series as the network has rented the Rafters suburban house in Sydney's inner-west for three years. When the audience numbers come in next week, series two may get the green light.

Porter says the time is right for Rafters. "In a time of uncertainty it will be nice to go to a safe family home," Porter says. "Yes, we put the characters under pressure each week but you know they're going to be OK. It's a nice place where you want to spend an hour a week."

Porter says the actors playing mum and dad, Erik Thomson and Rebecca Gibney, were cast before producers began an exhaustive process of finding the right family of actors to join them. The cast members appear to work very well together.

"This is very much a Channel Seven show with the family at its core," Porter says. "I am hoping that the Rafters will become a family that people will really love. We have an hour in which to tell stories, so we go into more examination of the psychology of the characters and it becomes about moments in life."

Packed to the Rafters is made in-house, like all other drama on Seven: Home and Away, All Saints and City Homicide. Seven has a soapie, a cop show and a medical show. The time was right for a family show.

"We wanted to explore a new family model -- the concept of the empty nesters who have their kids move back in," Porter says.

"It's a rich source of comedy and drama, having all the ages under one roof having to learn to live with one another again. It's a drama with lighter moments. We deal with some quite strong themes, always with a light tone."

Viewers will be treated to a feast of new dramas after the Olympics.

On Nine, Underbelly 2 may not be ready until next year but drama head Jo Horsborough has two new offerings. On Sunday next week (August 31) Nine will screen Scorched, a one-hour futuristic drama about Australia after 200 days without rain. Starring Vince Colosimo, Rachael Carpani and Georgie Parker, the show is supplemented by an online drama series that screens at before and after it screens on television.

"It's the biggest online collaboration for an Australian drama we've ever seen in this country," Horsburgh says. "Integration is not just the way of the future. It's here now."

Horsburgh is also excited about The Strip, a 13-part cop show starring Aaron Jeffery and Frankie J Holden, and set on the Gold Coast. The Strip is "big, broad entertainment with good stories and good characters", she says. "People keep comparing it to Miami Vice but we don't have even a fraction of their budget!"

Ten will also launch a new drama series next month -- Rush starring Rodger Corser, Callan Mulvey and Catherine McClements. Rush is set in a critical incident police unit.

By Amanda Meade
August 21, 2008
The Australian