If it isn’t already well-known that this new soap opera has been made to order for the UK market, it’s certainly obvious from looking at it.
It has a dash of Neighbours, spoonfuls of Home and Away, hints of Echo Point -maybe even a sprinkling of Fast Forward‘s parody ‘Dumb Street.’ Like a slice of glorious suburban Australiana, all the ingredients for which Aussie soaps have become famous in the UK are here: a pretty, young, whitebread cast, a slim budget impossibly stretched (there are quite a few location scenes), pedestrian dialogue, rolling surf, a local diner, a matriarch, cross-generational drama, the introductory voice over to set the scene. It has everything except the cardboard, recycled sets from HeadLand.
The premise of Out of the Blue is a reunion of the Class of 95, as old school mates gather to reminisce. Most love each other, one or two are at odds over broken hearts. A mother has two bickering sons and a grandchild on the way. As these thirtysomethings gather we see old video footage of them back in high school (despite the uniforms and acting up, they don’t quite pass that test). Several scenes push the backstory to bring viewers up to speed on how a myriad of characters interlock. Few of the classmates seem to have moved beyond their class, pardon the pun.
It isn’t until the third episode that one of the characters is found dead, igniting the ‘whodunnit’ element of the soap. It is debatable if by that point there has been the same investment from audience to replicate the same outcome that other soaps have achieved utilised this device. Will we really care if Mike, Dazza or whatever their name is has been bumped off, so soon?
At its best Out of the Blue seems to know what it needs to be to hook a UK audience: unabashed teeny soap that never aims especially high. At its worst it is, like a recent parody title, little more than moving wallpaper.
TEN has scheduled the show for a 10:30pm weeknight timeslot, seemingly aware it may struggle to build an audience in the more competitive early evenings. If it can perform in a late slot it will deliver the network some much needed local content points. The network is hoping it will benefit from the fact that summer audiences also watch television later in the night than during other seasons.
Out of the Blue isn’t trying to be taxing, and on that level it certainly succeeds. Hopefully there are enough younger viewers willing to stay up to 11pm to see it.
Out of the Blue screens 10:30pm Monday – Thursday on TEN.