The Secret Life of Us: articles

Gigi and Sam

YAWNER… it might be time for The Secret Life of Us to sacrifice itself in the jaws of death, says Jennifer Dudley.

Shark time for Secret Life

"JUMPING the shark" is defined as that moment when your favourite television show reaches its peak and you just know it is about to begin a steep slide into mediocrity.

The term comes from the high point in Happy Days when Fonzie jumped a shark on his motorcycle [it was actually done on water skis]. From there it was all downhill for the popular sitcom.

Some critics are quick to pronounce a show has jumped the shark, and sometimes with good reason.

When cousin Oliver joined The Brady Bunch, for instance, it was clearly time for Carol and Mike to divorce and fight over who would raise their super-sweet kids ("You take them!" "No, you take them!"). When Mr Bad moved into E Street and when rock band KISS members removed their make-up, the time to move on was nigh.

Despite evidence, I often try to delay pronouncing the death of a TV show until it has been given a chance to recover from major surgery—the addition or loss of a major character, a dramatic haircut, sudden coma or possession by the devil, etc.

So when those around me bagged The Secret Life of Us the moment Claudia Karvan resigned, I fought for more time.

This was, after all, a show that had provided me with a reason to get home by 8.30pm on a Monday. It was a show that featured enough alcohol to induce viewer-cirrhosis and enough electric URST (unresolved sexual tension) to power the cast's trendy St Kilda apartment building.

But those days, it pains me to write, passed long ago. The show not only has jumped the shark but also has leapt from the aquarium and is lying on the table turning an unflattering shade of purple.

This is as clear as clingwrap in Monday's episode, as the characters stumble through what could have been a poignant look at the inevitable travesty that is adulthood.

It begins with our narrator Evan bemoaning his life as a writer. While he initially insists being free of the nine-to-five work cycle is terribly gratifying as "daytime sex is more than a weekend possibility", he rethinks his position after a caustic review of his first book.

Amusingly, the review says Evan's work is full of "egocentric and shallow observations" and "ultimately fails to deliver". One wonders if these phrases have been lifted from a recent review of Secret Life.

“Every other character fills the background by moping or groping”

After digesting this review, our unwashed anti-hero begins to question the merit of his freshly completed second novel.

We see him wonder whether to delete it. We see him ponder his literary worth. We see him attempt to wreak revenge on his critic.

Ultimately though, try as I did, I could not care what Evan did next.

In other plots, Richie the actor gets a substantial cheque for barking like a dog on CD and Christian the landscaper plans to buy a unit at auction, renovate it and become filthy rich.

Every other character fills the background by moping or groping.

The Secret Life of Us once was a quasi-realistic show about the lives of twentysomethings and the demons they faced. Now their lives have become such obscure realities few viewers could relate to. The characters have not grown so much as become uninteresting shadows of their former selves.

Once a Secret Life fan would tune in every week to see how relationships within the group had changed—whether Evan would proposition Alex, whether Alex's best friend, Gabrielle, would steal Alex's latest man, and so on. Now most relationships are stagnant, and many of them irksome.

Perhaps The Secret Life of Us will recover in time, finding the spark it lost with new tales and new characters. For the time being, it is sharkbait.

The Secret Life of Us, Ten, Monday, 8.30pm

By Jennifer Dudley
July 10, 2003
The Courier Mail