What Is Lacking In Aussie Drama

Posted Thursday, July 2, 2009, 1:03 PM


I don't watch any Australian Drama series. I do, however, watch a lot of US and UK Drama serieseses. Here's why.

Australia tries very hard to do realistic and significant drama, that has a unique Australian voice. But they really don't know how to do it without it falling into a soap operatic melodrama. Australia, you see, excels at soap opera. They have had worldwide success with all their shows which have melodrama and overwrought plotlines and "serious" acting moments in it.

For example: Neighbours and Home and Away are cheap, and easy to make. They have almost no requirement for skill in either writing or acting talent. They're really good for learning how to organise the production of a TV show, though. These shows are very popular in overseas market who like soap opera cheese.

Macleod's Daughters is an excellent example of being uniquely Australian in its theme, being set in a rural Cattle Station. But it is a relationship drama. It has no real action or adventure elements, except in that typical plot-driven way to push two characters closer together, or further apart. It's entirely about people, and not situations.

Similar concepts are central to shows like Water Rats, A Country Practice, The Flying Doctors, All Saints, Blue Heelers, Seachange, Packed To The Rafters, Stingers, RPA, Young Lions, and pretty much everything else you can think of.

When they try to be a little less melodramatic, and try to emulate the successful American shows, they do what ostensibly ought to work. They take ideas and inspiration from what they perceive to be the successful factors, twist them to fit Australia, then add in some of their own originality.

But the problem is, without fail, they inevitably take the wrong elements from the US shows, then add in either unnecessary "sexy" elements, or melodramatic cliché storylines. It's heartbreaking to see they still haven't learned anything.

What they don't put in is humour. Yeah, some of the characters joke around occasionally, but that's not what I mean. I mean the concept itself has to have a central comedic element to it. The ideas have to be super-real, and stylised, to make it fun, to make the adventure over-the-top just enough to be a rollicking joyride. Instead they lay it thick with realism and drama, sucking the fun out of it, until it's just a bland standard Australian drama, exactly alike to all that has gone before.

Their latest adventure action dramas are Sea Patrol, which is one of the stupidest titles for a show ever, like it was something made up by a twelve year old in 1967, and Rush, which doesn't seem to mean anything, and is just an exciting word they randomly picked from a thesaurus.

Sea Patrol is set on a Navy Frigate, and appears to be about border patrols and stopping the criminals from getting into or out of the country. But, inevitably, what it's really about is who is sleeping with whom on board the ship.

Rush is trying desperately to be an action packed Police Rescue show, so it has tons of people abseiling down buildings, or being stuck in cars precariously sliding over clifftops, or helicopter rescues in floodwaters. Except it's really about who is sleeping with whom back at the Station.

Even the most celebrated mini-series of recent times, Underbelly, based on real events in Australia's history, and widely lauded, is still more notable for how many nudey sex scenes it could cram in.

The UK is great at dramas that are realistic and yet not cloying or melodramatic. America is amazing at coming up with heightened reality, adventure with a sprinkling of self-awareness to make it zing and sparkle off the screen.

Get over it, Australia! Do we have any fantasy adventure shows for adults here? Not one. Do we have any action adventure shows with a stylised plot, and a range of quirky funny characters? Nothing. Do we have any drama at all that doesn't fall back into the "Who is sleeping with whom" premise? God forbid we try something original in this country.

Save us!

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