HOW WILL WE COPE WHEN THE RAT LEAVES?
With the shock of Rowena Wallace's imminent departure from
Seven's top-rating Sons and Daughters - an absence
to become apparent early next year - you'd think the show's
writers would be gnashing their teeth in horror, fearful of
plummeting ratings and eroded job security.
No so, according to Bevan Lee, story editor on the long-running
soapie. He told The Guide last week that while the
silver-haired vixen had been the mainstay of the show, "we
have a number of alternatives which we are weighing up about
how to fill the gap." But he wasn't prepared to discuss
any of them at length.
However, he did have some insights into the program's past
success. "The show has worked consistently on the strength
of the story-line, with or without Patricia. We had one of the
lowest rating periods when she was in the show, and one of the
highest was when she was being rested.
"I'm not trying to downgrade the power of the character
- it's one of the most popular in the history of Australian
television - but Sons and Daughters works because the
storylines are riveting, fast-moving and strong. It's one of
the fastest moving of all the series," he says.
"So we are not trying to create a Patricia Morrell clone."
Ms. Wallace won't be appearing for the next few weeks anyway,
as she's recovering from an attempt on her life (in the series,
that is). By way of fill, tonight's episode details the court
proceedings dealing with the 'abduction' of Jill O'Donnell's
baby, Fee, by de facto Terry Hansen (played by Andrew Clarke),
and the development of Jeff O'Brien's steroid dilemma.
Lee said that while both of these conflicts had parallels in
real life, Sons and Daughters really aims for a balance
between escapism and reality. "With steroids, with the
court case around the baby, we look at human issues counter-balanced
against some of the more melodramatic areas the show goes into.
"We put the characters through the hoops, but always try
to keep the balance, not go into once-upon-a-time land. Otherwise,
we'd lose our audience.
"Primarily, we are out to entertain in what we see as
a recession mentality. Sons and Daughters, like Indiana
Jones, survives because it is fantasy. It may be less expensive
fantasy, but it's still fantasy."
Lee was also critical of the critics. "We've had a slagging
in the press. Right across the board, they said 'We don't possibly
see how this could last more than six weeks', but it's now running
into a very healthy fourth year. And it could run into a fifth.
"Very few of the press have ever stopped to ask 'How come
the show is such a high rater after 2½ years? What's
the show got going for it that people flick the switch for two
hours every week?' Well the answer is the show is a bit escapist.
Not too much, just a little.
People have an electricity bill which they can't pay. Well,
it is almost preferable to have Pat Morrell there to slap your
face, because in a way the problem is less threatening.
"Some kids would rather watch another sportsman go through
a trauma (tonight) in preference to the trauma which they themselves
face," he said. "Sons and Daughters isn't
their own problem. I think if there is anyone out there with
a problem like those suffered by Sons and Daughters
characters, they've really got problems."
By: Alex Pollak
Source: 'The Guide', Sydney Melbourne Herald
Date: 13 August 1984