Putting surprise back into TV

raftersdjLet’s state the bleedingly obvious: having a hit show makes life a lot easier for a network publicist than one that’s underperforming.

Media are keen to cover the show because it will sell mags and newspapers, pleasing more of the people more of the time. Stories, photo shoots, interviews, covers, cross-promotions, radio and event invites are easier to come by.

Having a hit also affords publicists more unique options when it comes to keeping plots hush hush. Witness the case of Packed to the Rafters’ finale.

Seven broke from routine and decided not to send out previews of the final two episodes for fear of revealing a surprise pregnancy for Julie Rafter (Rebecca Gibney). That big reveal came on Tuesday. Most of the time a network is doing all it can to promote a show, rather than conceal it. Just weeks ago Seven even sent out four City Homicide eps at once, instead of the usual one a week.

Seven acknowledged it strategically withheld the final two episodes of Rafters to media.

“We take it case by case, show by show, storyline by storyline,” a Seven spokesperson told TV Tonight. “But we are always careful not to give too much away in pre-publicity for our local series, in particular. The overseas shows are harder to control, naturally.

“Yes, we made a decision to keep the pregnancy storyline under wraps. That included not previewing (last night’s) episode. It was hopefully a nice surprise for viewers (last night).”

Most journos are sensible about not spoiling storylines. So would the pregnancy have remained a surprise if Seven had revealed its hand?

In 2008 TEN had an episode of Rush that killed off a major character. While the show was still trying to build its audience, magazines (including this site) ran a “who will die?” story. None leaked the reveal.

If Rafters wasn’t hitting over 1.8m each week, Seven might not have had the ‘luxury’ of withholding the storyline.

Not sending out previews for local drama is rare but it does happen in the case of shows in quick turnaround, or as in the case of Underbelly (2008) there are legal cases pending. By contrast last week Seven attracted all manner of publicity for a ‘racy’ storyline for Home and Away it disclosed, without needing to send any previews at all.

Seven says for its 2008 finale of Home and Away it also didn’t send out any previews for an episode that included the death of Jack (Paul O’Brien).

“We didn’t pre-publicise the fact that Paul O’Brien was leaving the show, and his death was quite a shock to the Home and Away viewers,” said the spokesperson.

“We are always trying to bring back the element of surprise to TV!”

The finale of Packed to the Rafters airs 8:30pm next Tuesday night. The second season is expected mid-year.


  1. i try to hate this show – but cant. i’d probably like it a lot more if it wasnt advertised each and every ad break 🙂 come on 7…advertise lost and 24 more!!!! 🙂 I’ve forgotten about them 2 weeks in a row now……..come on people, I need to be reminded!!! 🙂

  2. god i picked that ages ago it was on the cards in fact is a bit predictable. But still its a good show. hope they dont go putting disabled character in show now that would be super predictable and plagerist.

  3. I love PTTR!

    Its a great show and the pregnancy story was a total surprise to me- I had no idea that was going to happen! I think that mid 2008 and with McLeod’s daughters ending there was a massive gap in the Australian drama industry. They needed a family drama, that people of all ages could enjoy, that was humerous and not too dark and depressing and dosen’t use sex and violence to sell itself. And then up popped Packed to the Rafters! It ticked all the right boxes and was a ratings sucsess- take note other networks!

  4. I thought she might be pregnant a couple of weeks ago when they were focusing so heavily on the menopause angle. The writers wanted us to think that it was a life-threatening illness, though, and clearly, most people “fell for it”. Very clever of them! It’s a great show :-).

  5. a new baby?

    This is usually jump the shark point.

    I certainly hope not and that the writers have plenty of other good story lines

    as I enjoy this show immensely

  6. I had a feeling half way through she would be preggas.

    (As an aside, I enjoyed this week’s episode except for one big flaw. The youngest Rafter’s wife (can’t remember her name, sorry) gets yelled at in an expensive restaurant by a lady and her husband who went bankrupt because of her dad. If the lady and husband were so destitute, how could they afford to be dining at the same restaurant?)

  7. A great show with so many stories happening at the same time it deserves the ratings it is dragging in.. it doesn’t need all the foul language, naked bodies and sex to score well..
    Julie may be pregnant but will she carry this bub full term???
    There may be more bumps in the future for rafters..

  8. well obviously this decision paid off. the way the episode was made and the ch7 promos made us think she was seriously sick with cancer or something. the pregnancy thought crossed my mind but i never thought it would actually happen. if the guides reviewed it and i read it i’m sure it wouldn’t have worked that way.

    i agree with kev. i am convinced that this baby will not happen but there will be some high quality drama in the meantime.

    very good episode this week may i add, all the characters storylines seem to be climaxing for the finale. should be a good episode next week.

  9. best show everrrrrrrr!

    all the girls at my school could not stop talking about this episode. the reveal was really well done. it used the shows predictability in its favour. i don’t think anyone was expecting a bombshell just the usual finish-with-what -the-writers-made-you-expect ending.

  10. good point craig, i didn’t think of that. and yes i did not see the pregnancy coming at all. this show is so predictable so i thought it would be cancer. in 21 episodes that was the first big reveal.

    i will predict that the baby will not be a long running story and that there will be a miscarriage, stone baby or something terrible like that. i just hope that they toy with the storyline for a bit. because post natal depression ect. always make for good drama and i think PTTR will handle it well.

  11. that preganancy blew me out of the water, from the way julie and dave reacted i was convinced it was cancer. i don’t know how people like belinda say that they predicted it, the thought only went through my mind a few seconds before she said it. anyway it sure got people talking which is good for ratings. isn’t it?

  12. i think it is a good idea, often you see the covers of gossip/womens mags and the headline reveals a plot in neighbours or home and away that doesn’t happen for a few weeks, they are always spoiling stuff. or they at least give you enough hints that you can work it out easily. people will often guess correctly, but you don’t believe them on a message board unless you see it confirmed in the media, until there is confirmation it is just a theory. it was a good surprise, i found myself glued to the screen waiting for them to spit it out. if they tell you someone is going to die it halves the impact, imagine if it had not only been a mystery who would die in rush but also if you had no idea someone was going to, would have had a much amplified shock value.

  13. I don’t watch the show anymore, but even I knew Julie was pregnant. Lots of people guessed that weeks ago. The show is too predictable.

  14. I’m still not sure about the pregnancy, seams a little too close to Always Greener, maybe this time it will turn out better but then we have the fact they have a new baby and no chance to be on their own (link in the pilot) for the best part of 20 years.

    How long does Seven plan to run the show? LOL

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