Australian viewers love a family saga.
Mature readers will remember the iconic wartime series The Sullivans, which ran for more than six successful years.
In 2017 it’s A Place to Call Home on Foxtel’s Showcase channel that is claiming the prime position for audience attention in the family saga market.
Beginning on Channel 7 in 2013, the storyline is set in post-war Australia, with nurse Sarah Adams returning home after 20 years in Europe. On the ship she encounters the wealthy pastoral family the Blighs, and due to saving the life of a Bligh grandson, becomes involved with the whole family in the small country town of Inverness.
The Bligh family is headed by the matriarch of steel, Elizabeth, a brilliant characterisation from veteran actor Noni Hazlehurst, with her son George, the male head of the dynasty played authoritatively by Brett Climo of A Country Practice fame. Marta Dusseldorp is a splendid fit for the lead character of Sarah, and stalwart Frankie J. Holden is the perfect bushie with a heart of gold, Roy Briggs, who becomes one of Sarah’s staunchest allies.
The wealthy Blighs resemble a duck on the pond—serene on the surface, and paddling like fury underneath as the skeletons tumble out of the family cupboard.
Now in its fifth series, A Place to Call Home is directed by Bevan Lee, whose pedigree includes impressive family dramas including Always Greener and Packed to the Rafters, so it’s no surprise that A Place to Call Home found an appreciative audience.
When Channel 7 cancelled the show after series two, in a surprising but gratifying twist Foxtel’s Showcase network picked it up and made series three, four and now five.
Judging by the reaction on Facebook, the move paid dividends for Foxtel, with a fan base across Australia and interest being shown from overseas.
One Facebook user asked the pertinent question, “Why did they take this great show off normal TV?” while others posted, “Without doubt the best Aussie show ever made!” and “Wow—wonder if TVNZ is going to screen this?”
One wistful viewer went as far as writing to her local public broadcasting station in America, asking if they would pick it up, and WXXI TV responded by promising to air it as soon as it becomes available to them in 2018.
A Place to Call Home has obviously found a place in Australian viewers’ hearts.
Perhaps Foxtel might also like to rescue ABC-TV’s Dr Blake Mysteries, which is being dumped by the network after the current series and a telemovie. Surely the success of A Place to Call Home has proved that Australians want to see our own stories and actors on the small screen!