The other John Howard is gone

As one household Australian drama comes to an end, anothers gains momentum in its quest for juggernaut status. To paraphrase the Lion King, such is the circle of life for a television show.

The show that sadly has come to a halt is that grand old dame All Saints. After 12 years and 302 episodes (I’ll admit, I made that up), the head honchos have decided that enough is enough. And even though I tune in intently each week, I will freely admit that they made the right call. For whilst it may have once been a powerhouse of Australian TV, it is now but a mere shadow of its former self.

There are many reasons why All Saints doesn’t work anymore as a show, but most of these are boring and I don’t want to talk about them. There are a couple, though, that I would like to bring to the fore, and the first of them is it’s repetitious nature. Frankly, I have no idea how All Saints lasted for so many years. Every episode seemed to be a carbon copy of the previous one- some person’s had a horrible accident, one of their friends may or may not have been involved and/or hurt; meanwhile, another patient is displaying erratic behaviour and unusual symptoms; in addition, a different, quirky patient acts as a sort of comic foil. Maybe we could deal with this for a few episodes, but every single one? Can you imagine if Friends had just revolved around the various relationships of its cast, with Ross moaning non-stop about Rachel for eleven seasons? Oh wait, that’s what actually happened.

Admittedly, All Saints did try to un-one-dimentionalise its characters by occasionally embroiling them in a personal drama of their own. But more often than not this seemed contrived, designed purely to extend the show’s lifetime by an episode or two. Also, these issues, upon having being resolved, almost never seemed to resurface. For example, when Gabby’s father passed away a month or two ago, she was understandably distraught. Yet two weeks after the fateful event she was all smiles, leading me to presume that she was either a) schizophrenic; or b) just poorly written. 

The latter of these choices was probably the truest, as there were some truly awful patients brought into the All Saints Hospital. In this last season alone, there has been an inordinate amount of sexually frustrated cases. For instance, we have seen one man who somehow got his appendage stuck in a park bench, another who had an “accident” whilst in the midst of extramarital relations, and another who couldn’t masturbate for it would somehow kill him. In fact, this last patient showcased not only a slip in the show’s quality, but also in the ethics of the nurses- one of them took him to a friend who showed him how to have a good time, yet almost killed him in the process.

These above examples demonstrate one of the main factors in All Saints’ demise: its cringeworthy grip on reality. Because amongst all this existed a disgusting manifestation of technology,  perhaps the greatest flaw of all. For in the fictional world of All Saints, televisions did not exist; phones were replaced with walkie-talkies; and using the Internet to research similar cases was virtually unheard of. This embarrassingly out-of-touch approach culminated in a young male patient who basically lived online. Of course, this was established through a nurse’s horrible series of questions such as “What is your Avatar?” Really? The young, hot female nurse who’s working 80-90 hours a week is going to go know what an Avatar is, let alone inform people of this knowledge? And who even uses the word Avatar unless they’re discussing the upcoming James Cameron epic? It makes me sick.

Having said all that, I will miss All Saints. I had grown to love each character’s idiosyncrasies: Adam’s stubborness; Gabby’s vivacity; Von’s zombie-like appearance; Frank’s morbid obesity. I can only wonder what they will get up to next. Waiting tables is my guess.


Now on to the aforementioned juggernaut- Packed to the Rafters (PTTR). PTTR, in case you’ve been living in Maitland and don’t know what a TV is, is a show about the Rafter family. With the help of a puntastic title, it has catapulted to the no. 1 rating drama on television, as the audience’s thirst for everyday suburban existence is left unquenched by their mundane lives.

But really, the success of the show is inexplicable. Here’s a few reasons why a show might succeed, and how PTTR fares in these categories:

  • Storylines: Thought-provoking storyliness, extreme realism and stupendous cliffhangers are just some of the facets of traditionally excellent dramatic storylines. PTTR has none of these. The plots are crap, it’s realistic in a way that is the antithesis to something like The Wire, and we haven’t had a “Who shot JR?”-style moment yet.
  • Acting: Sometimes a shabbily presented show can be saved by its high-calibre acting. Unfortunately, PTTR comes up a bit short in this department. Sure, the parents are established veterans of the small screen, but some of the younger actors are just awful. I’m looking at you, guy who plays Nathan Rafter. A bit of emotion when your wife leaves you wouldn’t actually be out of place. And don’t be such a smug bastard. No one likes that.
  • Controversy: Just ask John Safran.
  • Nudity: Can a show ever go wrong with gratuitous nudity? If it’s of the continual prison rape kind, then the answer is yes. But on the whole, this is a proven ratings winner.

So how is it that PTTR is so successful despite having almost none of these qualities? The general consensus seems to be that it has a familiarity about it, an air of comfortableness that is less prevalent in CSI and the likes. But is this really true? I mean, having watched an episode or seven myself, I am often amazed at the antics they get up to, and the situations they find themselves in. For example, Carbo began an illicit affair with a woman he met while working in a flower shop, Chrissy is being forced away by her unexplained love for Dave, Nathan sleeps with his relatively unattractive (compared to his wife) co-worker, and Rebecca Gibney is pregnant 20 years after her last child. Never before has there been as much sexual activity in a supposed family drama. And this is the key to the show’s success; for whilst we may consciously view it as an accurate representation of modern suburbia, it is little more than well-scripted pornography. And no-one dislikes porn- just ask the Internet.

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One response to “The other John Howard is gone

  1. I’m gunna say I liked both of these shows. So my masculinity just went down a few pegs. oops.

    Wow, it had never dawned on me how ignorant of technology All Saints was. I can’t believe I missed that. However I know I will miss the show and the intriguing characters. Even if the patients were a a bit far fetched.

    PTTR in my opinion is a great show. Sure it is unrealistic as a whole, but I think it’s strength is that it brings together a number of highly plausible real life problems and conflicts. It has a universal appeal in that almost everybody can relate to at least one of the major sub plots. Allow me to elaborate;
    – Dave’s being adopted, so all the adopted middle aged people of Australia can now relate
    – Chrissy being in love with Dave, now everyone who has ever wanted someone that they knew they would never have but were still so close
    – Carbo being an emotionally stunted man with a lust for anything with legs and boobs but secretly has a deeper emotional side he’s just afraid to show, everyone knows a guy like this
    – Jules being pregnant, this certainly addresses the aging mother epidemic in Australia (until recently anywho) not to mention the very humbling episode about Down’s Syndrome which no doubt sparked many emotionally charged talks around the country (it did for me)
    – Nathan, how many guys or girls have made a mistake that lost them someone they really care about?
    – Warney, everybody has that person that they can’t stand or get rid of
    – Jake, how many girls would be hooked just because of his bad-boy persona? Never mind his on-again-off-again relationship which I’m sure many can relate to.

    ps. i’ve only been watching since the start of this season. so excuse any omissions.

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