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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


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