Keeping up with the Joneses
An unforgiving terrain, aerial shots, hard yakka, rogue crocs, and a likeable family feature in TEN's new factual series.
The Joneses, as they are so frequently branded in TEN’s new factual series, are quiet achievers.
Living on a cattle station 600km south of Darwin, their million-acre property is a spectacular, if unforgiving setting.
Like any Australian family working on the land, their daily routine is made up of hard yakka. It’s a matter of rolling up your sleeves and working relentless hours. It’s not at all romantic. But with aerial shots bookended with an alluring soundtrack it looks a whole lot more handsome on the small screen. This is not a criticism. There’s a lot to like about these Joneses.
The family is headed up by Milton, a patriarch who is as dusty as the land. Milton is middle-aged and beer-bellied, an outback Ocker who isn’t afraid of tackling any obstacle. He is married to Cristina, who loves to horse-ride and has clearly bonded with the lifestyle in ways the bush brides of Farmer wants a Wife can only hope to match.
Teenagers Beau (male) and Alex (female) study in the city but come home on holidays to help run the property. Both are so down to earth and seemingly camera-shy that it acually helps endorse the authenticity of the show. Their speeches to camera are endearingly understated. No starry-eyed reality celebs here. These two are the real deal.
Then there is three year old Little Milton, a ball of energy keen to try his hand at everything on the farm from bull riding to truck-driving. You’ll see him atop a bull calf clutching his father’s hand and sitting on his dad’s lap as he grips a big steering wheel. Do not attempt this at home, kids.
“If he’s going to make a career in the bush he’s got to learn about it,” says Dad. “He learns by looking, showing. Actually doing it.”
The five are the centrepiece of the series from WTFN (Bondi Vet), with in-laws and assorted supporting cast to boot.
To run a property of this size, Milton and his staff are licensed helicopter pilots. It gives the series both buoyancy and a memorable point of difference. While watching Milton muster the cattle from the air you can’t help but be sucked into the visuals of the red dirt land, green treetops and vast canyons. Start racking up those international sales, this is a show that should prove more successful abroad than in its home territory.
As well as bulls and horses, what Northern Territory property would be complete without rogue crocodiles? They add a sense of danger to life on the land and while it’s fascinating to watch you want Milton’s croc-hunting, it’s a job you wouldn’t want for quids. No doubt snakes are yet to come…
Toss in battles with the elements: rain, wind and fire, and you are well on your way to a series that looks to have plenty up its sleeve. Finally there are the personal moments. Watching how the family has adjusted its dynamic for this unforgiving lifestyle is what will define this series. After all, it’s no good having a great backdrop and plot points if the characters aren’t likeable. Thankfully they come across as salt of the earth folk, as ‘Dundee’ as they come.
Amusingly, every second sentence in the premiere hour episode ends in the word “Ay?”
“Growin’ up on the station, gives you a lot of common sense, ay?” says Beau.
The title is somewhat misleading. From the safety of my suburban sofa there’s no hope of trying to keep up with this lot. But it’s a race I’m happy to watch from arms-length distance.