Packed to the Rafters

Some years ago, writer Bevan Lee and producer Jo Porter delivered the feel-good family drama, Always Greener. It premiered to a record-breaking 2.3 million viewers – still an Aussie record.

The show, which saw a city family swap abodes with a country family, ran just two years, but was cancelled with around 1 – 1.2 million viewers (ironically, a figure that networks would kill for these days). It was a decision many argue was premature.

Now the team is back with Packed to the Rafters, another family-driven light drama about young adults returning to live with their parents.

Pilots are notoriously difficult animals, and this one spends much time establishing Julie and Dave Rafter (Rebecca Gibney and Erik Thomson) as sympathetic characters. As they reach their 25th wedding anniversary they finally wave off the last of their nest, Ben (Hugh Sheridan). A somewhat superfluous narration by Julie reminds us she’s rapt to finally have time for themselves, and for a long bath.

Before long, son Nathan (Angus McLaren) and wife Sammy (Jessica McNamee) are knocking on the door looking for a room at the inn. Meanwhile, Julie’s newly widowed father Ted (Michael Caton) isn’t coping with life alone, and it turns out Ben only moved in with a mate next door. If you think this sounds like an episode of Eight is Enough, you’d be right so far…

The tone of Packed to the Rafters is predominantly light. Ben provides most of the mirth as the goofy son making his way in the world. Dave is retrenched from his job as an electrician, but still manages to brighten his day with an (over) dose of Viagra. This leads to a similarly flippant exchange between Thomson’s character and Nurse Melissa (Zoe Ventoura) who – lo and behold – is set to move in with Ben.

But Rafters also features some darker, more successful moments in the pilot. When Ted has a suspected heart attack, Julie finds him in the hospital wearing her deceased mother’s dress. He wore it because its scent reminded him of his wife. Sullen-faced Caton gets the best moments in Rafters without needing any of the dialogue. Another more dramatic thread follows in episode two.

As in the SBS reality show The Nest, the saga of Australia’s blended families is worth mining. In a climate of grittier, “cop-heavy” new dramas, it will be interesting to watch how Rafters makes its mark as an adult soap opera.

Packed to the Rafters premieres 8:30pm Tuesday on Seven.

2 Responses

  1. I am really grateful for this wonderful portrayal of modern day family life. I identify with the family members and am around the same age or (maybe a little older,)as Julie and Dave with three adult children similar ages and it is just so well acted. They are all exceptional actors and actresses. The story line, whilst it deals with modern day issues has decency and family values to it and that is such a credit to all for bringing the family to the fore when so many sitcoms try to discredit and devalue the roles of parents and male and female relationships.
    Congratulations I am just so in to this show and wait anxiously for it each week.
    I hope Chrissy and Carbo get back together. They are a great couple and I hope they marry and raise kids.
    I just love you all, it is something really special.

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