Brits reflect on a love for Aussie TV

Sometimes its hard to appreciate the good things under our very noses.

There’s been some discussion of late about the quality of Australian drama.

With The Secrets She Keeps launching well in the UK this article in The Guardian UK reflects on a great tradition of Aussie drama being appreciated overseas.

When I was at school, no sick day was complete without Sons and Daughters (Cornelia Frances as Barbara Hamilton), The Young Doctors (Cornelia again, as Sister Scott) and, my personal, perhaps niche, favourite, the wartime period drama The Sullivans (no Cornelia sadly, but a young Sam Neill). However, for me, the best of the Aussie offerings came not from soapland but from miniseries.

Far too young to understand, but enthralled nonetheless, I sat through The Thorn Birds, with Richard Chamberlain ipsy-dipsying between his love for the Catholic church and the equally irresistible charms of Rachel Ward. The line, “When we press the thorn to our chest we know, we understand, and still we do it,” still makes me swoon.

How did I learn that Australians had sent their brave men to fight in the second world war? Was it by making a trip to Gallipoli? No, it was watching Keith Michell and Gordon Jackson as two bereaved fathers in the Romeo-and-Juliet tale My Brother Tom. And I learned everything I know about cricket from Bodyline, the surprisingly accessible tale of how the 1932 Ashes were won by England in decidedly unsporting fashion. The first thing I did when I moved to Melbourne was hunt out the real Harold Larwood’s bowling shoes in the National Museum of Sports – unexpectedly small for such a disruptive proponent of “leg theory”.

Moved there? Yes, reader, one show finally tipped me over. Stuck in bed with flu during a London winter of discontent, I binged on yet another Aussie box set, this time The Secret Life of Us, the story of young, beautiful people sharing apartments, catching the tram home from work in time for a game of catch in the evening sun, followed by a communal barbie and sunset beers on the roof terrace. That was it for me. Six months later, I was living in Melbourne and soon ended up at a party on that very same roof, living the TV dream.

There are more shows, and some terrific reader comments, you can read here.


  1. harrypotter1994

    I’d love to be able to watch some of these miniseries somewhere. As a Marta Dusseldorp fan, I’ve been wanting to watch the Blackjack telemovies featuring Colin Friels but sadly they don’t seem to be viewable anywhere.

    Also talking about Cornelia Frances, I’m still really disappointed that Home and Away never did a farewell for Morag. In recent years, Alf hasn’t even mentioned his sisters. Instead when Ray has time off, Alf is travelling somewhere with Marta or he’s off visiting Duncan.

  2. The popularity of Australian television programs in the UK is also seen from the stories of people getting involved in voting for the Logies from the UK since the coupon voting days. One report was many years ago so I can’t remember how, but there was known to be a few very dedicated fans that either visited Australia or obtained the magazines somehow.

  3. The drama landscape has shifted lately but always used to annoy me UK channels would spend hundreds of thousands on US network shows but largely ignore popular Aussie hits like Packed to the Rafters, especially considering our historic association with Neighbours and Home and Away.

    It’s a bit different now with fewer Aussie dramas and a more competitive UK industry meaning most things get picked up, though you still have to know where to look really. Incidentally Five Bedrooms was also picked up by the BBC pre-lockdown and aired in a daytime slot.

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