Actor John Howard, who has reprised his role as the raucous Bob Jelly in Nine’s SeaChange revival, says the show should never have been axed.
He recalls trying to convince writers Andrew Knight, Deb Cox and ABC execs to keep the show on air in the late 1990s.
“I was surprised they stopped making SeaChange when they did,” he tells TV Tonight.
“I remember being at Andrew’s place at a party and people were umming and ahhing. I was running around like a football coach saying ‘Do you understand what you’ve got?’
“But at the end of 3 seasons -and Deb can correct me if I’m wrong- they sold Artist Services, and wanted to move on and do other things.
“If we were in England or America they probably would have been making it for 20 years.”
“The writing was so beautiful”
Such was his passion for the project that Howard, whose CV includes All Saints, Packed to the Rafters and Always Greener, was keen to reprise the show alongside star Sigrid Thornton.
“It was my favourite show and character from TV In 35-40 years. Easily. The writing was so beautiful. Every episode had a simple theme: love, hate, growing old…. Every scene pertained to that. The further the show went on the more people you got to meet in that village.
“That doesn’t happen very often.”
Relocating the production from its original Barwon Heads base on the Bellarine peninsula, to the Northern Rivers area of NSW has not impacted the spirit of the show, he believes.
“It goes like the clappers”
“The locations here are wonderful. It has the same vibe. The richness, the strangeness, the oddity, the idiosyncrasies and the emotions. It goes like the clappers,” he continues.
“It’s pure Deb Cox, the same spirit as before.
“The Tropical Star hotel was a set in the ABC building, originally. The outside was the St.Leonards Hotel.
“When we started SeaChange, Bellarine was a good place to do it. Although Deb always said she wanted to do it here. But now it’s all changed down there. Melbourne very soon discovered another place in Portsea, so this is perfect. Deb got her wish in the end.”
“Come on, this is the great-granddaughter of Bellbird!”
Indeed the show’s original quirkiness became a trait synonymous with the show, which has since become more common in storytelling.
“There were things like Northern Exposure. I used to annoy Andrew Knight by saying ‘Come on, this is the great-granddaughter of Bellbird!’ But he didn’t see the humour in it,” Howard recalls.
“At the time they had trouble putting it into a slot and ended up calling it a dramedy. They didn’t figure that you could have serious bits in comedies, or comic bits in dramas. Although obviously you do in Shakespeare.
“So it broke a bit of ground, I guess.”
In the new season Bob Jelly is estranged from wife Heather (Kerry Armstrong) and has been released from prison having defrauded the local community. Back in Pearl Bay he is quick to return to his bad habits and scheming.
“He gets out pretty quick but he has a deal with Rocco (Salvatore Coco), with half a million floating into town, literally. So Bob’s problem is he’s lost Rocco’s money.
“As usual Bob has a pie in the sky dream of something called The Pearl, which is a high-rise and marina.
“In the previous series Heather wanted to find herself and now she certainly has. She’s running Jelly Realty but she won’t let Bob back into their house.
“She won’t have a bar of him”
“She won’t have a bar of him because she’s worried about who he may have turned into while he was in prison.
“So Bob’s big ambition is to get The Pearl up to win back Heather. He’s a one woman man and there ain’t no Bob Jelly without Heather.”
SeaChange airs 8:40pm Tuesdays on Nine.