The Secret Life of Us: articles

Secret to keeping the vibe alive

IT could be called the "difficult-third-series syndrome".

You get a show up and running, find an audience, entertain it with a second season of episodes—and then try to keep the vibe going.

So far, the team behind The Secret Life Of Us hasn't come up against any major problems, and are now shooting episode six of the third series.

According to the show's producer Amanda Higgs, SLOU has taken on a life of its own.

"It's better than ever," says Higgs. "As time goes on we learn more about the show and we learn more about our team. In some ways, the challenge is to always keep the series fresh and yet the same.

"Everyone is so familiar with it now, it's a really good team of people."

SLOU became a hit in its first two years. The street-smart drama about seven 20-somethings still finding their place in life hits many demographic nails on the head.

In many ways it talks to, and reflects, the lives of the audience. That the other main character—the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda where much of it is filmed—is a real place inhabited by the same kind of hipsters, adds to the authenticity.

London's Observer newspaper was particularly impressed. "(It) cherrypicks the best bits of Friends, This Life, Cold Feet ... and then, quite extraordinarily, has constructed something better than any of them," its TV critic wrote.

To sustain this praise, the producers and writers must keep injecting that special something. This year, as part of the new season freshen-up, Gabrielle, played by Sibylla Budd, will be given a higher profile.

Her marriage crumbled early in the first series after her husband had an affair with her best friend, Alex (Claudia Karvan).

She's been a pretty intense person, one where shades of dark have dominated.

"It's going to be an interesting year for Gabrielle," says Budd. "We're going to see more of her and see another side—Gabrielle in love."

The seven-strong ensemble gives writers a lot to play with, and a couple of new characters will be introduced—expanding the possibilities.

In the first episode, things have moved on for everyone. Evan has moved out of apartment six and has astonished himself by accepting a job in advertising. Kelly is at uni, Richie is heading to Nepal, Miranda is working at a call centre and Christian is cruising with a new chick.

Instead of simply laying it all out and asking viewers to accept it, Higgs and co turned the story-telling on its head.

The characters are introduced in the present, then things literally go into high-speed rewind on screen and retreat to where all the changes started.

Higgs says the technique fits SLOU's philosophy to do things its own way.

"We wanted to explore the idea of how they came to where they are and how things unfolded," she says.

"So that's the structure we went with. It's always difficult to play with the form but I feel you can do that with a show like ours. It's challenging for the audience, but our audience is intelligent."

The Secret Life Of Us returns to Ten, 8.30pm, Monday, Feb 10.

By Marcus Casey
January 30, 2003
The Daily Telegraph