Sons & Daughters Watching/rewatching/discussing The Aussie Hit Show

Mel O'Drama

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The countdown to Patricia 1.0's exit has begun, and maybe it's because I'm eager to start with the new season but somehow I find it all a bit exhausting.
It just feels like one nervous breakdown too many.
I'm hugely fond of this particular breakdown, but it's definitely nostalgia-tinged as this is when I properly became hooked on the series first time round.

Carlyle's goons manage to locate and kidnap Patricia, and they take her into the woods to execute her Adriana "Soprano" style.
This is a very exciting sequence, but suddenly the goons turn into the incompetent Jasper & Horace from 101 Dalmatians, which gives Patricia the opportunity to escape.
Funny you mention this, because there's an almost identical sequence with another character later in Season Four with very similar results.


He tells David that he has his flat and practice in the same building.
David thinks that's convenient, and I'm sure the set designers agree with him.
Again, this convenient practice has re-emerged in Season Four with another character. Except the newer one is even more silly because numerous other main characters also live in the same building.


Ross Newman, who looks like a 1970s schlager singer with a sinister vocal fry.
Not like a 1970s British sitcom star?








Well, it sort of is that idea, except that Ross is working for Carlyle in order to pay off his gambling debts, and that makes him kinda ordinary and a little less creepy.
It makes him Dr Ackerman.

Karen's son Alan turns out to be a mini-Wayne, an obnoxious heir to the Brandon fortune, which is why Karen contacted him in the first place.
He's sort of hanging out with Jill but also very interested in Amanda, much to Mitch's chagrin.
I've already made my feelings on Alan's unlikely ladykiller status and incessant lip smacking perfectly clear, so I won't wake that beast again.
 

Mel O'Drama

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Wholeheartedly agree Mel. Once again your superb words hit the nail in the head.
Oh, thanks VF3. I'm really enjoying all our different experiences of watching.


Who killed RC? was the whodunit on the cover.
Ah. Yes, I can imagine it was a big one. I'd be curious to see what angle the article took, and who the prime suspects were.


By the end of 85 the only two who we wish hadn’t got the chop were Judy Nunn and Cornelia. I remember an article about it at the time and Cornelia was surprised and hurt which I found sad :-(

But at least they found home & away
It's a real shame they lost two of their strongest characters at the same time. I know Judy has said it was felt there were "too many single 'nice aunty' types", so I suppose that's the official line. But it doesn't ring true with me.

Cornelia in particular had been around since almost the very beginning and Barbara was a very different character to Fiona and Irene (those two did share similarities, but I enjoyed the friendship between all three of them).

I agree it's sad to think of them leaving if they didn't want to. And I'd imagine they were popular with the audience. If it wasn't for budgetary reasons, there's no excuse for losing them both. It almost sounds like there's more to the story than we're being told. I'd be interested to know the real politics behind it.

Seeing Judy and Cornie in H&A was great fun. Because Morag was basically Summer Bay's Patricia the dynamic was very different between them, as evident from their first scene together:

I imagine it was great fun, too, for the actresses since they were good friends off-screen.

Because in the UK we were several years behind with S&D and only a year behind H&A, I seem to remember that in 1989, when Morag and Ailsa met for the first time on UK screens, "new" episodes of S&D still featured Barbara and Irene. So I got to really enjoy and appreciate the contrast in their onscreen relationships.


and Gordon found happiness with, to me, the ideal wife for him. Though I loved Barbara with him aswell - don’t get me wrong - Just the tie in of marrying Gordon to the opposite spouse he started with who actually would be loyal and loving too, I really liked that :)
The first time round I struggled with this pairing because I'd enjoyed Barbara and Gordon so much as a couple. So I'm looking forward to seeing how I feel about that pairing this time round.

I agree with you about things coming full circle with Gordon's final relationship on the series. I think perhaps more than any other series, S&D did a great job of giving the audience this kind of closure on a number of different levels.
 

James from London

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Even looking for a job has given Patricia some great innuendo-laden dialogue
Patricia on the dole is interesting. They gave her almost the exact same scenario that Brookside would Damon Grant a few years later - reluctantly turning up at the dole office to sign on, joining a massive queue (indicative of Aussie uneployment at the time? It's hard to tell - I've noticed a few remarks about how "jobs are hard to come by these days", but within the S&D universe, there's always a position at Woombai or the coffee shop available), only to be told when she's finally seen that there's some other bit of red tape she has to go through first. Unlike Damon, Patricia doesn't end up painting and decorating on a Youth Training Scheme.

It's a novelty to see the character on the breadline, but it seems a little too early in Patricia's arc for novelties. They usually come later on when a show is running out of ideas for a character -- e.g., putting Sue Ellen on Skid Row or JR on a chain gang or Alexis in a nun's habit or giving Krystle a doppelganger -- not less than two years into the show's run. However, it doesn't last long and gives Patricia that much more impetus to rise again from the ashes.

Seeing Beryl and Patricia working together triggers memories of the light-hearted animosity between Anne Matheson and Claudia Whitaker.
Yes, but fortunately it wasn't quite as whimsical as those thought bubble scenes.

But then Rob comes to my rescue and shows her the door. Good, it's not Patricia's kind of environment anyway.
Rob and Patricia are great together. I loved him strong arming her.

Meanwhile John has become one of the series' less sympathetic characters on his return. He's got a new assertiveness to him, which should be interesting. But it turns out that the naivety is an essential part of his character and he's quite unlikeable without it. The main reason is that it seems to highlight the limitations to Peter Phelps's acting range. New John shouts. A lot. And it's no fun to watch as a viewer. Not, sadly, in an uncomfortable, challenging type of way. It's just a little irritating and tedious. It's also taken away the complexity of the triangle with Jill and Brian. I felt more concern for John's feelings when he was off-screen.
Jill and John have a nasty break-up scene, I know I shouldn't feel sorry for Jill but his words (in true Healy-style) are particularly vicious, eventhough it's obvious that he only says it to pay her back. I don't think we had seen this vindictive side to him before.
Furthermore, given his history as the innocent murder suspect (and the way David treated him at that time), I find it interesting that he's the only one who doesn't believe in David's innocence.
Add to that the fact that he's no longer putting up with Patricia's woe-is-me attitude, and it looks like he's become his own man now instead of being someone's son or brother.
So now it's Sons & John & Daughters. ha-ha.
Actually, I find Angry John kind of fascinating. Since returning from the Air Force, it feels like he's become an outsider in the show he was once essentially the star of. He doesn't really fit in anywhere. Even though the show doesn't fully explore it, the fact that he couldn't support David after he was arrested for killing Martin showed him caught between his two fathers. Beryl tells him to get out (albeit temporarily) and Kevin has a new brother in Peter so he doesn't belong with the Palmers anymore, but he knows too much about his real father to carry on in the Air Force either. Jill's married Brian, Angela thinks he's her husband and Patricia's too oppressively clingy. No wonder he can't take it anymore. It's not quite as extreme as Chase Gioberti turning to the Dark Side or the Corruption of Joshua Rush, but John is showing definite signs of soap opera wear and tear. You can see it in Rob and Peter and Paul too. They all started off as carefree happy go lucky and/or idealistic innocent blokey blokes and now they've all got the same haunted look about them.

Rosie has a secret. And it seems to be a Ninth Season Fallon type secret.
I really like how Angela's storyline lurches along - from pregnancy to miscarriage to amnesia to the Mystery of the Secret Room (yes, very Fallon Season 9) to thinking her brother's her husband (slightly reminiscent of Fallon thinking her brother's her rapist), and along the way S&D's very own Nick Toscanni hops on board for the ride.

Matt Kennedy seems to be everywhere suddenly. As a character he’s mildly interesting. As a doctor he’s somewhere between unethical and perverted. His omnipresence, post-amnesia makes little sense, which I think is why I’m finding it difficult to take to him.
A dashing psychiatrist (a Stephen Collins lookalike) gets a proper introduction, which means he's arrived to soap things up rather than take the sting out of the situation.
Angela's inconvenient memories is a clever twist as it allows the writers to unleash a series of (seemingly) shocking events.
*trembles*
Matt's ridiculous but great fun. With John and Angela, it's like he's some niche incest porn director. What's with the rolling up his sweater sleeves to his elbows while his shirt sleeves are still hanging down, though?

Peter is the last Healy standing, and even he is on the way out. David’s cellmate is set to replace him both at The Terrace and in the show, as someone for the Palmers to focus their nurturing skills on.
Gonna miss Peter. Happily, he turns out to be the star of A Place to Call Home, the new(ish) Australian soap people were raving about recently. He looks decidely Blake Carrington-ish on the DVD cover. It sounds like the ideal S&D replacement when this run is over.

Stephen Morrell, on the other hand, is in many ways the ideal new S&D character. On the surface there’s his enigmatic aura and matinee idol good looks (he looks very much like he belongs in a 1940s Ealing. And in close up he’s got something of a young John Le Mesurier to him). But it’s his placement in terms of interpersonal relationships that means he’s hit the ground running: Barbara’s brother; a business partner of Gordon’s and a suitor of Patricia’s. It’s an explosive combination
Very excited to see Stephen. This heralds the period of the show that I really got into first time around.

Lynn is back. Cue the girly giggles. Her first lines on returning:
Kevin [to Davey]: "I bet you hardly recognise this place."
Lynn: [chortle] "I do." [giggle]
Kevin: "Wait ’til you see the new footie I gotcha."
Lynn: [speaking whilst half laughing] "He hasn’t grown that much, Kevin" [guffaw]

There’s some marriage drama going on, which will hopefully minimise the maddening laughter.
Oh God, she's back. With more hair than the rest of the characters put together. From what I remember, the kid never stops screaming from here on in.

Rob and Doug show up at Woombai, it's an entertaining, action-packed episode full of deceit and aggression, and a wedding proposal squeezed in for good measure.
Oh, I loved the proposal, juxtaposed with Rob and Paul's fight. The fight was really funny, but not in an annoying self-parody way, but in a punch up at the Oil Baron's Ball way. It's a subtle difference but an absolutely crucial one.
 
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Willie Oleson

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With John and Angela, it's like he's some niche incest porn director.
They live extreme lives, the shock therapy has to be even more extreme. Matt knows what he's doing, he's the best!



SPOIL-O-RAMA








Beryl said nothing, but as David spoke she looked at him with what could be shock, disappointment, disgust, pity or sadness (I interpret it to be all five overlapping). Both actors were great in the scene, but Leila was especially wonderful, saying nothing for the entire scene until David had finished speaking. Before she opened her mouth, I knew exactly where Beryl stood.
I believe it was this scene that she would later recall as the moment that she realized it was finally over between them? And rightfully so. No more benefits of the doubts for David "CB" Palmer.
I'm still undecided as to whether or not Heather trying to shake the smug out of Patricia was overkill
It looked GIF-tastic.
Personally, I found the flashbacks a little intrusive
I didn't understand them. Patricia looked to dazed to think - let alone flashback - anything. And I'm not sure what it was supposed to illustrate.
And yet...well let's just say that I'm easily manipulated by flashbacks. It even felt like "3 years ago".
But the casting seems off. The writing has Alan pursuing women, getting into fights and drops numerous references to him working out. But the actor is a likeable, ordinary, slight young man. He’d be perfect for the Jeff O’Brien lad next door type of character, but he’s not a great fit here wearing suits and shirts that look like he’s raided his Dad’s wardrobe.
He's a cute/nasty twink who needs a good spanking. Speaking of which, that fight with Mitch sure looked like the real thing! I've watched it 4 times.
I can believe that he's taking himself very seriously, but I didn't expect Jill to fall for someone who looks younger than John Palmer in season 1. Or that Mitch would consider this boy a real threat (to the relationship he doesn't have).
 

Mel O'Drama

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They gave her almost the exact same scenario that Brookside would Damon Grant a few years later
These Brookie references are making S&D feel that much more special. I hope there are more to come.


a massive queue (indicative of Aussie uneployment at the time? It's hard to tell - I've noticed a few remarks about how "jobs are hard to come by these days", but within the S&D universe, there's always a position at Woombai or the coffee shop available),
Yes, it exists in such a world of its own that it's a little strange to think that social services offices or whatever are even part of the same universe. Worlds collide.


It's a novelty to see the character on the breadline, but it seems a little too early in Patricia's arc for novelties. They usually come later on when a show is running out of ideas for a character -- e.g., putting Sue Ellen on Skid Row or JR on a chain gang or Alexis in a nun's habit or giving Krystle a doppelganger -- not less than two years into the show's run. However, it doesn't last long and gives Patricia that much more impetus to rise again from the ashes.
I've started to think that a reason Patricia stayed as interesting as she did is partly down to the numerous ways that were found for her character to either lose everything or have to reset in some way and then claw her way back. With Patricia aiming high and frequently hitting the target, the odd fail prevented the Alexis Colby demigod thing manifesting in Patricia. Truly powerful people don't last long in this series.


Rob and Patricia are great together. I loved him strong arming her.
Yes and yes!


John is showing definite signs of soap opera wear and tear. You can see it in Rob and Peter and Paul too. They all started off as carefree happy go lucky and/or idealistic innocent blokey blokes and now they've all got the same haunted look about them.
That's really interesting. And spot on.


I really like how Angela's storyline lurches along - from pregnancy to miscarriage to amnesia to the Mystery of the Secret Room (yes, very Fallon Season 9) to thinking her brother's her husband (slightly reminiscent of Fallon thinking her brother's her rapist), and along the way S&D's very own Nick Toscanni hops on board for the ride.
And at the same time, there's something so ordinary and almost mundane about Ally Fowler that makes these lurches seem like just another day at the office.


Happily, he turns out to be the star of A Place to Call Home, the new(ish) Australian soap people were raving about recently. He looks decidely Blake Carrington-ish on the DVD cover. It sounds like the ideal S&D replacement when this run is over.
This is definitely on my viewing bucket list. And it's officially available on DVD, so no more panic over YouTube videos being taken down.


Very excited to see Stephen. This heralds the period of the show that I really got into first time around.
Oh great. That should add a new layer to the coming episodes for you (and hopefully us in turn).


Oh God, she's back. With more hair than the rest of the characters put together.
I wonder where she's been...?



Oh, I loved the proposal, juxtaposed with Rob and Paul's fight. The fight was really funny, but not in an annoying self-parody way, but in a punch up at the Oil Baron's Ball way. It's a subtle difference but an absolutely crucial one.
That makes complete sense to me.


I believe it was this scene that she would later recall as the moment that she realized it was finally over between them?
Oh, quite possibly. I'm afraid I can't remember for sure (though that gardening scene is still stuck in my mind).


And rightfully so.
Yes indeed.


I didn't understand them. Patricia looked to dazed to think - let alone flashback - anything. And I'm not sure what it was supposed to illustrate.
Even now I think that scene would have been so much more powerful without the flashbacks.


And yet...well let's just say that I'm easily manipulated by flashbacks. It even felt like "3 years ago".
Well, I'm glad they didn't ruin your enjoyment.


Speaking of which, that fight with Mitch sure looked like the real thing! I've watched it 4 times.
You're nothing if not thorough, Willie.
 

Mel O'Drama

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#696

Some rotation is essential to the health of a long running series, to prevent stagnation and “keep it green”. And with a serial of this type, there are going to be the temporary characters who come in, do their thing and exit. All the same, this season’s cast changes seem especially hefty. And the consequence of this, for better or worse, is a change in direction and tone.

For several decades, S&D has always been split into three eras in my mind: the Patricia Years (from Episode 1 through to the end of #536), the brief interim period and finally the Alison Carr Years. It seems a little wrong that an ensemble series should be charted on the appearance, disappearance and reappearance of one character but knowing this hasn’t changed the way I felt.

This time round has reinforced that view for me. Though I’ve finally also conceded that the series as a whole could be split into just two parts, the second part beginning with episode 537 and going through to the end.

As the Fourth Season draws to a close, I can’t help but reflecting on the changes that have taken place during 1985.

Last year’s roster included Patricia; Jill; Heather; Mike; Katie; Amanda; Karen; Ross; Alan; Barney; Mitch.

Now every last one of them has gone. Along with Stephen and Roger Carlyle. Some, like the Turners have entered, carved their niche and left within the space of a season.

And we have newcomers Alison; Caroline; Samantha; James; Adam; Sally; Mary; Spider, Duncan; Rod; Jess; Doris; Kelly.

The first five of those new players have settled in really well in my opinion. Alison and James in particular have a compelling watchability. It’s perhaps fitting, then, that the season should end with these two in a life-threatening situation together. And while it’s not as gripping as the previous two season final shots (partly because of the prohibitive budget and partly because these are two relative newcomers to the piece), it was better than I remembered. I enjoyed the moment where James ensured Alison was distracted before throwing a switch (I’m assuming something to do with the reserve fuel tank), and so hiding the grimness of the situation from her. The sense of isolation and responsibility this created for him was very effective. Belinda Giblin was wonderfully dewy eyed in her final shot (I’m always in awe of actors who can do moisture on cue in the middle of what must be a very technical situation). And I’d forgotten about the crashing sound, added after the picture had frozen. I have mixed feelings about that. One one level it gilded the lily a little and was kind of a cheap trick. But on the other, it fuelled my desire to see what happens next so it was also effective.

It’s also worth noting that two key players - Fiona and David - have had extended breaks from the series during Season Four. David in particular feels like he’s been away for most of the year. It’s probably ten weeks’ worth in real air time, but it included a few weeks’ worth of time lapses. And a lot has happened, anyway.

Heather’s exit was sad to see. Yet again it was far too understated. She just left the room. And David muttered a perfunctory “bye”.

The ghost of Patricia continues to loom large. Now that David’s back, I love that we have a woman who is Patricia after plastic surgery and a woman who thinks she’s Patricia after plastic surgery. It’s way over the top, but played for complete truth by all involved and so becomes truthful somewhere along the line.

Wayne marrying his half sister feels appropriate thematically for this series. In a way, Alison’s reveal that Mary is Gordon’s daughter is the opposite of Patricia’s reveal three years earlier that the twins weren’t David’s. But it still works in the same way. Although it means Mary is an even more important character, which is a bad thing.

Fiona’s latest ward, Kelly’s scenes felt very issue-based, and I could feel my schmaltzometer approaching the red line. We’ve had Hung and the racism issues. Now we’ve got Kelly whose dialogue in her first few episodes was about being blind and wanting to be independent and not wanting pity blah blah blah. And I have issues with issues in this series. It’s not Highway To Heaven, after all. That said, Kelly is proving more watchable than expected. I’m not sure if it will go anywhere, but she’s likeable enough and Irene’s involved so that’s got to be a good thing.

I must say that Fiona’s creepy tactility is giving me a Herbert The Pervert vibe once again. You’ll remember she was very handsy with young John in his Scott Edwards days. And we’ve seen it from time to time with others. But the scene where she broke the news that young Kelly’s mother had died just took things to a whole new level. She started off holding hands, then her arm was round Kelly. Then they were on the sofa and Fiona just started rubbing Kelly as though she was trying to start a fire. Her arm, her hands. Then up to her face and hair, rubbing it while clutching Kelly’s head to her bosom. I could swear she rubbed her thigh at one point.

Leigh has become this season’s Terry Hansen. A character whose sin should have made it impossible for her to continue interacting with the main cast, and yet who has overcome that obstacle by getting on with other stories. By the time the sin catches up with them, they have a good relationship with the person who should hate them most, and they face the consequences with a degree of nobility. Leigh has been a bit more reluctant to face up to her responsibilities than Terry was, but her ongoing selfishness and her eagerness to run and hide have given some nice, soapy moments. Whereas Terry won me over very early on, it’s been quite a journey with Leigh. I still don’t find her all that likeable, but I’m at peace with this.

Oh. And it may or may not be the twins' twenty fourth birthday. But we'll never know because nobody has sent any cards.
 

Willie Oleson

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The first five of those new players have settled in really well in my opinion. Alison and James in particular have a compelling watchability
You didn't think it was possible to recast Patricia, but she proved to be a very popular S&D character. She got 50% of The Best Of Pat The Rat release (although I would have preferred more Rowena episodes).
and a woman who thinks she’s Patricia after plastic surgery
Sounds like my kind of thing.
Well well, madam has finally made the effort to show up.
Fiona’s latest ward, Kelly’s scenes felt very issue-based, and I could feel my schmaltzometer approaching the red line.
:lol:
But we'll never know because nobody has sent any cards.
Not even the Fishers?
 

Mel O'Drama

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You didn't think it was possible to recast Patricia, but she proved to be a very popular S&D character.
I think she works incredibly well. It helps that it's a very different characterisation to Rowena's. And the name change adds to the "same-but-different" tone. She's familiar, and there are enough flashes of Pat to satisfy, but she's also very much her own character.



She got 50% of The Best Of Pat The Rat release (although I would have preferred more Rowena episodes).
Speaking of the DVDs, I was looking through today and decided to work out the representation per season. It came out thus:

Seasons One and Four have eight episodes each.
Season Six has six episodes
Season Three has three episodes
Season Five has two episodes

Unbelievably, just one episode from Season Two appears on the four discs.



Well well, madam has finally made the effort to show up.
I really like Samantha. She just comes across to me as likeable and vibrant.
 

Mel O'Drama

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#708

No time has been wasted in getting pieces into place for Season Five’s spring clean. Leigh committed suicide in the year’s second episode. Sarah has taken flight (the anticipated epic battle of Stepford Pat vs. Dark Pat turning out to be something the Season Five creative team have no desire to explore. There wasn't even a Pat-on-Pat bitch slap). Doris and Rod have both exited after showing their true colours. Mary’s been shipped off to school. Alison and James have become close though their shared experience. And Bill Ashley is back with tantalising news of Amanda.

There have been some returns: Tim and Donna, now married (offscreen, mercifully) and with Tim experiencing the seven day itch after meeting Plain Jane from Neighbours. It’s as thrilling as it sounds. Along similar lines (and arguably only marginally more watchable) Charlie’s sibilant mousy daughter has set her sights on doing an Amanda Carrington with her mother’s boyfriend. Oh, and Andy has fallen for Kelly after she felt his bumps.

But on to the bigger storylines:

Fiona’s cancer story, rather like Karen Mackenzie choosing to ignore the bullet fragment, seems out of character for someone who professes to tackle things head on. I suppose that’s the point: all characters need their Achilles’ heel. But that doesn’t stop it feeling almost disingenuous. As though the character is deliberately wallowing and working every drop of overwrought drama from it before, as is inevitable, simply dealing with it. That's soap, I suppose. But it can be a testing experience sometimes.

But then Fiona is drawn into the Amanda prostitution story as the series’ specialist on the subject (“There’s still plenty of life in the old girl yet”, she said melancholically to an old acquaintance - a successful madam who speaks like Eliza Doolittle, pre-Rain In Spain). As is usual when Fiona reconnects with her past and loses all trace of that silly attempt at a dramatic "posh" voice, she instantly became fiery, edgy, fascinating to watch all over again. More importantly, she's likeable, which is something I don't often find her these days.

One one level, the Amanda storyline seems a little pointless. Alyce Platt is gone, never to return. It’s a little like the search for Pam on 21st Century Dallas. But then, also in common with Pam, the actress is gone but the other characters are in a form of limbo. The Amanda storyline needs wrapping up, lest the viewer would always wonder. And if writers want to tie up a loose end just a few months down the line, I’m not one to argue.

Delving into the world of prostitution this time has been Caroline who trowelled on the slap and theatrically dropped her “h”s to fit the bill. Her second client (she balked at the first) was none other than David, which - even though he too was undercover - added some enjoyably seedy imagery to the series. David is actually starting to look rough as old houses, and were we meeting him for the first time in this episode as a prospective client of Caroline's I'd fear for her safety.

Ten episodes into the new season, the search ended in a mortuary, the body mostly unseen by the viewer, but the grief writ large on the faces of Caroline and Fiona, and so giving a form of closure to the viewer. Lying on a slab, destroyed by drug addiction and prostitution is a grim ending for a character we’ve spent so much time with. When a character is written off in ignominy and beyond redemption it’s frequently a message to the actor. A not too subtle slur on their character in turn. It makes me wonder if Alyce Platt had, for whatever reason, really got on the bad side of the writers.

One outcome of the story has been that we've got to see Caroline's vengeful side. She ensured Bill Ashley was tracked down by the people from whom he was hiding, and he was last seen being bundled into a car from where he would presumably sleep with the fishes (and Paul Sheppard).

James has recovered, irritated the hell out of the Hamiltons by proposing to Alison and making her the largest shareholder in the company, then returned to Quilpie. Obstensibly a temporary departure, but there were enough parting shots to raise alarm bells with knowing viewers (to Alison: “I’ll catch you soon”. To Barbara: “See ya”. To Gordon: “Keep ya guard up. I’ll see ya when I see ya”). I’ll miss him. He’s quite possibly my favourite piece of casting from Season Four. And that includes Alison.
 

Mel O'Drama

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#713

With the Sydney settings, it was good to see some location work on the beach. While watching, it struck me that most of those enjoying the surf and sun weren’t around this time last season: Samantha; Adam; Sally; Tom; Kelly. The most established character present was Andy, but even he still feels very junior to me.

Meanwhile we cut to Gordon and Alison at Woombai on the same afternoon and there are ominous dark clouds and strong breezes. It’s almost symbolic.

There was a gorgeous close-up of Alison observing Sally and Tom getting intimate from outside Charlie’s front door. Then we cut to her coming into the set and I couldn’t help noticing the door, while very similar, is different and far less ornate.

Sally has thankfully left. Scott Robinson’s Dad exited in the next episode. Now Adam is planning a trip. I’ll miss him. He’s one of the better young cast members at the moment and certainly a step up from your Brett Keegans and Andy Greens.

Charlie is a delight at the moment. There were some nice, sweet moments with Tom and now she’s getting back into being shallow, buying furs for her holiday, poo-pooing the idea of bicycles and waxing romantic about camels (Belinda Giblin and Adam Briscomb’s grins look genuine as Sarah Kemp does some of her most hilarious delivery yet).

Meanwhile we have Amanda’s funeral, but nobody seemed to notice that there was no sign of Amanda’s father Stephen. Caroline managed to stop sipping her drink long enough to notice that James hadn’t shown up though.

At this point anything that links back to the series’ early days is a very good thing, and there are still some ties to the past.

At Robert’s Christening, we learnt Beryl’s brother and sister-in-law had come down with something. I had assumed this meant Rob and Angela until Fiona referred to “your sister-in-law” and sounding like she was speaking about a stranger. Beryl’s Mum and Dad were also under the weather. Will that family ever get a break?

On the Woombai front, it’s pleasing to see Alan Pascoe still around.

More nostalgia in a lovely ValandKarenesque scene between Fiona and Beryl, walking along the beach in Sydney, with Fiona reminiscing about the boarding house, John and Angela and deciding to buy an ice cream (perhaps the equivalent of Laura Avery’s pizza). The location looked familiar. It’s been used in earlier episodes.

Sadly it contrasts with Fiona at her most overwrought, making a drama out of her health crisis and creating scenes in front of rooms full of concerned friends.

Wayne is currently being written and played as a smirking sociopath, revelling in hurting Caroline and doing all he can to push her off the wagon. It’s painfully cartoony and one dimensional, which is a shame because Abigail is actually delivering some uncharacteristically touching moments as the grieving mother.

But then there’s a scene in which Wayne comes to challenge Fiona into having the operation she fears and these two characters I’m struggling to enjoy start firing. He’s still broad, he’s also written as someone with a caring side. Fiona seethes silently as he speaks, and it’s far more powerful than all her histrionics.
 

Mel O'Drama

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You know, I was dreading the arrival of Janice. She’s a character I associate with the hollow quirkiness of the series’ in its latter days. The first time round I saw the injection of comedic characters - along with bland young things such as Craig and Debbie - as a conscious effort to Neighbourise the series: a move to emulate the popularity enjoyed by Seven’s recently lost property.

Whatever the motives behind it (and bear in mind I could have been way off, since at this point Neighbours had only just begun running on Channel Ten and was still a little way off peaking in popularity), the arrival of Janice in particular does bring a change in tone.

Janice is a caricature in many ways. Her very first scene had her adopting a cartoony martial arts pose when facing off with Andy. She’s the comedy spinster archetype, complete with thick glasses and grey cardie.

What’s surprised me, though, is how on viewing this time I feel her arrival has added a special something rather than detracting from things. She is quirky, but she’s the kind of character we’d have seen on Number 96 during its heyday. Other characters’ reactions to her have been priceless. And the pairing with Fiona is proving a gem. Fiona is a character that I’ve struggled with over the last couple of seasons. But it’s occurred to me that in every scene with Janice, Fiona been enjoyable: spirited, resistant, nonplussed. There’s none of her bulldozing and little of her tendency to go into overwrought theatrics. She’s just Aunt Fiona again. Literally.

Oh, and this very recent interview with Rima Te Wiata has helped cement Janice as a character I could really enjoy this time round.

The plot with the characters suddenly interested in an old house for differing reasons would have made sense in Neighbours, which is about community, but seems forced here. Even so, everyone seemed to be having so much fun with it I can overlook that. May has arrived (hence a new, semi-permanent reminder of Fiona's days as a sex worker. No bad thing). She's another "quirky" character without too much else at the moment, but it shows a little promise too.

Jess has gone. Donna and Tim look like they're on the way out. This is all for the good. Janice and May are like a tonic after the endless stream of long lost young Palmer nephews and nieces. Perhaps, rather than the problem, these new quirky characters are the solution after all.

Wayne threw Alison in the pool and Barbara smirks all the way through their next scene together then exits and guffaws off camera just loudly enough for Alison to hear.

Oh, and Beryl knows that Alison is Patricia. But Alison's turned the tables by threatening Beryl and David with prison for concealing their knowledge of her whereabouts from the police.
 

Willie Oleson

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Apparently I'm in season 4 right now, although it doesn't really look like it yet. Gosh, so much has happened in these 11 episodes, but I like to start with a comment on the excellent picture quality of these last 20 episodes or so. It really looks good enough for an official DVD release.
The end credits song sounds very crisp and every now and then I get the idea of a sensurround system which magically transports all the Australian birds into my living room.

Patricia, still on the run from Carlyle & Co, is now hiding in the guest flat at Dural, the mansion that was once her home, and where she schemed and bossed and ruined peoples lives.
How things change!
The highlight (for me) is when she has to leave her hideout in order to rescue Wayne who's been pushed into the swimming pool by Karen. He's too drunk to swim so it looks as if he's going to drown.
Wayne thanks her for saving his life, especially considering his nasty blackmail for more money.
"I've watched you growing up", she replies.
This seems like a turning point in Patricia's arc, as she continues to be on her best behaviour and even plans to disappear altogether for remarkably unselfish reasons.

Wayne pretends he wants to come back to Karen, and she tells him how much she loves him. Then he rejects and insults her in the most vicious way possible.
This is also a turning point for Karen, who now slips into a Fatal Attraction mode.
There's nothing left of the confident and successful finance tycoonette who stormed the Sons & Daughters set with guns blazing. She loves Wayne, and she's going to have him - and that's really all that matters.

There's even an end of the season turning point for Irene when she finally tells David that she's in love with him, and always has been. She hints at leaving, going overseas, practise medicine again.
David tells her that they can still be friends, but he's not trying very hard to stop her from leaving. It's kind of reminiscent to his scene with Beryl, when he asked her about the baby.
Irene tries to be as calm and sensible as she can be, but inside her head she's falling apart. It's a great example of an actor playing two different mindsets at the same time.

Mitch has kidnapped Amanda, I'm surprised it took him so long. He also discovers Barney's war crime journals, he gets shot by Amanda and after that he gets killed by Wayne in a painfully unconvincing physical scene.
Of course the only thing that matters is that Wayne believes it, but because it was such a lame accident (a Sesame Street version of Ted Dinard's death) I find it hard to "feel" his guilt and torment.
Karen later claims that she has made his body disappear in order to protect Wayne (Ted Dinard becomes Peter Hollister) but it turns out to be a scheme and Mitch is still alive and kicking. With the money from Karen (from Alan) he's going to disappear, but Amanda spots him in a car at a later time. Seems like a pivotal plot point to me!
I find Mitch to be hit-or-miss, he has some great moments an initially he had a very dark presence, but then when things really happen it just feels a little bit too late, as if he can't keep up with the story (which is not the case, of course).

Evil Dr. Rossi Newman is an interesting character but I feel he's been exposed too early on in the series. There's no more room for mystery and suspense - can we trust him or not? - and other characters believe he wanted to kill Patricia but they're not particularly upset about it, or him, I should say. He's still in contact with Carlyle but at this point I like to see this story being wrapped up.
He and Barbara are still dating and her friends warn her about his true intentions, but she's offended that they think Ross can't like her for who she is ("I’m not over the hill yet!").

A contagious laughter session between Fiona and Irene reminds of how loveable Fiona used to be. She used to bring so much humour to the show, but when Beryl returns from Perth because things didn't work out with Jim (and I want to know all about that) she decides to upstage Beryl's drama and have her big moment in the iconic Palmer kitchen.
Before that, Beryl catches Katie and Alan in her bedroom (!) and since that kind of thing wasn't the reason why the O'Briens were allowed to stay there, she tells Katie to pack her bags and leave.
Katie, who's working on her "entertaining woman" imago to please the bad boys, basically tells Beryl to mind her own business.
Beryl snaps. "You little SLUT!"

And so the fourth season starts with the show's campiest bitch-slut-slap so far. Needless to say, I sat here squealing with delight.

Charlie visits Patricia in the hospital and she has a bottle of champagne stuffed in her fake dog. To be honest, at first I wasn't sure if the dog was supposed to be fake.
She decides to organize a party for Patricia's release from the hospital and combine it with the wedding party that couldn't happen at the time of the wedding.
Oh my God, some guys are tampering with the wheelchair!
Most of the guests end up sitting in the wheelchair at some point, just for the fun of it, and the combination of suspense and hilarity looks very Number 96.
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David and Patricia's wedding speech is short but bittersweet. I wish Beryl and Terry had been there too because it also feels like one of those farewell-to-the-crew moments.

And then...BOOM!
A moment later they're all in the hospital, Amanda, Alan and Barney are in critical condition. Problems during the operation, the doctor comes out of surgery…"I'm afraid I have some bad news…"

It's almost too exciting!

I find it so hard to imagine that this soap was only popular in a few countries. Does that make Sons & Daughters the underground soap?
 

Mel O'Drama

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Apparently I'm in season 4 right now, although it doesn't really look like it yet.
Give it another half a dozen episodes or so and it will.


Wayne thanks her for saving his life, especially considering his nasty blackmail for more money.
"I've watched you growing up", she replies.
It's a nice moment, isn't it? It harks back to the relative simplicity of their relationship when the series began. Before things got complex, messy and dramatic.


There's even an end of the season turning point for Irene when she finally tells David that she's in love with him, and always has been. She hints at leaving, going overseas, practise medicine again.
Thinking about it, moving past that elephant in the room takes her to the Irene I remember best.


Irene tries to be as calm and sensible as she can be, but inside her head she's falling apart. It's a great example of an actor playing two different mindsets at the same time.
Judy Nunn excels at these kinds of scenes.


A contagious laughter session between Fiona and Irene reminds of how loveable Fiona used to be. She used to bring so much humour to the show, but when Beryl returns from Perth because things didn't work out with Jim (and I want to know all about that) she decides to upstage Beryl's drama and have her big moment in the iconic Palmer kitchen.
Yes. I've recently watched scenes of Beryl making a celebration organised by someone else all about her. Not just the actual occasion but the preparations as well.


Beryl snaps. "You little SLUT!"

And so the fourth season starts with the show's campiest bitch-slut-slap so far. Needless to say, I sat here squealing with delight.
It made me want to cheer as well.


Charlie visits Patricia in the hospital and she has a bottle of champagne stuffed in her fake dog.
At the time I think I commented how Karen Walker it was. It made me laugh out loud.


Most of the guests end up sitting in the wheelchair at some point, just for the fun of it, and the combination of suspense and hilarity looks very Number 96.
Isn't it just?
 

Willie Oleson

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Beryl returns from Perth because things didn't work out with Jim (and I want to know all about that)
Beryl snaps. "You little SLUT!"
Aha, that explains a lot. Katie got slapped for herself and Leigh. Must have been a very hard slap, but we're not going to revel in Katie's discomfort, are we?
 

Willie Oleson

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I remembered the SFX being rather poor for the explosion scene, but actually it was better than memory told me.
I agree, it looked pretty good.
After some overwrought hand wringing about whether to accept a proposal and even more overwrought angonising over the discovery that her fiancé is a killer, Barney’s death gave Fiona carte blanche to grieve being robbed of her husband-to-be
Hm, somehow I felt this fixed Fiona's dilemma. Barney's story has been rather army-unfriendly (starting with that conversation about "arms and legs flying around") but the army isn't just the "army", it's also the husbands, sons and brothers fighting in that war.
Quite a touchy subject, and Fiona's decision to marry Barney or not looked like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.
being paraplegic hasn’t removed Alan’s special ability to loudly smack his lips at the start of each line
And he also has to swallow a lot. Could this be a case of hypersalivation?
and I imagine Rowena Wallace’s last scene with so many assembled key characters was a driving force
We were definitely on the same wavelength with this.
but I feel I might have been OK with most of the unresolved situations had the series wrapped here. Patricia handing the flame of revenge to Leigh has always felt symbolic rather than anything else. We don’t need to see Leigh execute her schemes. It’s enough to know that the machinations will continue. Less is more
If Sons & Daughters had ended this way then I could appreciate this approach. Although back then I probably would have been furious and devastated.
So the series needed to continue for that alone
And a few new Aussie hunks wouldn't hurt either.
 

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Oh Mel I loved Janice. She was so funny and indeed made Fiona Fiona again. I met Rima a couple of times in the early 00s. Such a cool woman. We hit it off the moment I mentioned I like her in S&D.

Enter sex god Glen Young nearly naked in his first few scenes. May is easy to watch too. I quite liked Debbie and Craig aswell, infinitely better than 1985s wave of tepid new youngsters.

Soon we have the Beryl doppelgänger Ruby appearing too. It feels settled again lighter, the dark and lost tone of 85 gone.

Alyce Platt left to be co-host on Sale of the Century. She was on that for several years.
 
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