Submitted by Don Doman
We donated a special Name That Tune night to our Tacoma Rotary auction. Politician Jake Fey won the bid and was the only person we knew at the evening of fine dining, talk, and Name That Tune with me at the piano. My wife, Peggy was the sole judge and jury. We had excellent prizes of course.
The game was fine and the dinner was perfect, but for me the best part was meeting new people. We connected, even if only for the one evening. We talked about books and TV entertainment. Specifically, we talked about Australian TV. We never saw these people again, but we enjoyed the evening.
When you’re talking with other people in book groups you expect people to know some of the other books, because book people are usually well read and they pass along suggestions. But when the conversation is about world wide TV offerings, and centralizes in one particular country, that’s unusual. And who would have guessed it would be Australia?
For us it started several years ago with the mini-series A Place to Call Home. It’s been described as a “compelling melodrama about love and loss set against the social change of the 1950s” and exalted as the “Downton Abbey” of Australian TV. Peg and I had been die-hard fans of “Downton Abbey” since day one and so recognized the quality, and similarity of the two programs. Although “Downton” begins prior to World War I and spans the war and adjustments immediately afterwards and leading up to World War II, “Home” deals just with the aftermath of World War II.
The story involves nurse Sarah Adams (Marta Dusseldorp), who returns to Australia after twenty years in Europe and living through the Nazi occupation of France. She heads home to start a new life and butts heads en route with the wealthy matriarch of the Bligh family (one of the closest families to royalty in Australia). There is social intrigue, lovable characters, and heroes to cheer for. We see changing allies along with racial, gender and religious discrimination, sexual abuse, the struggle for power, collusion and lying. It seems so current.
Taking place after the First World War is the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. As a combination of Miss Marple and Wonder Woman, Phryne Fisher uses wit, sexual attraction, and a pearl-handled pistol as she fights for truth, justice, and the Australian Way. One of the interesting sides of Miss Fisher is the wooden homes and buildings of the 1920s. They combine Victorian gingerbread with long covered porches that take advantage of breezes that make sweltering days bearable.
The Doctor Blake Mysteries again focuses on the time right after World War II. Doctor Lucian Blake takes over his dead father’s medical practice. In the country town of Ballarat, Dr. Blake is also the police surgeon. By using his medical knowledge and the expanding area of forensic science he helps solve crimes, often to the chagrin and dismay of his superiors. Dr. Blake has an understanding of the human heart, except where it involves him and his long suffering housekeeper.
What’s interesting is that all three of these programs involve families, friendship, humor, loyalty, and love. That’s a great combination. Also, for those who like automobiles, viewing the Australian version of transportation is eye-catching.
Another mystery series we found after developing our interest in Australia is a film noir offering of private investigator Jack Irish. Not only does it fall in line with all the above qualities including automotive connections, but Marta Dusseldorp of “Home” is a featured love interest of the more modern times Mister Irish.
By watching programs about other countries you start to learn more about them and you see that we all face the same enemy/friend: change. All of our lives actually revolve around relationships and change. Nothing remains the same. It is a struggle, but it’s easier to accept and adjust to, with friends and family we can depend upon. It’s a little more complicated than just throwing another shrimp on the barbie.