Is Offspring the tipping point for Australian television drama?
One of the great by-products of Television dramas like Offspring being filmed in areas which ooze urbanity is it provides mainstream Australia with a looking glass - no matter how outrageous story lines can get - into what single and family life can be like in urban areas.
Offspring differs somewhat from previous productions which John Edwards has worked on like The Secret Life of Us in that there is no beachy backdrop, no sole focus on the young characters in the show and the silent character - the urban setting - is not your typical run of the mill suburb (well, St. Kilda isn't either) which so much of serial TV in Australian revolves around. 90% of Australians might live within an hour of a beach, but for the overwhelming majority of us who live in the capital cities, Bondi or St. Kilda lifestyle is as distant as Alice Springs is to Darwin.
Offspring has owned the Fitzroy brand - executed perfectly. Likewise Offspring has done a very good 'soft sell' of the urban lifestyle - the multitude of scenes where characters are walking to The Union Club hotel just back from Smith Street, the cafes and trams on Brunswick Street and best of all Offspring has shown off the diversity of housing stock available in inner northern Melbourne. The lead character Nina's apartment (check) in the first few seasons, her loft conversion (check) in the most recent season, the Proudman family home (check) - it's so refreshing to see a TV show which isn't just set inside a typical suburban home or in a beachside suburb.
Not only is this soft sell happening at home in Australia, but arguably the wider international audience is getting to see a part of Australian cities which so very rarely get exposure. International viewers are seeing we have some kick-arse urban nabes and no, not everyone's a 20 something surfie/beach bum just living the singleton life. Although buying a house in Fitzroy, Collingwood or Carlton North will be out of reach for many families and the same areas aren't picture perfect renditions of affordability (if your aim is to buy, renting is a different, slightly more affordable story) for everyone, however Offspring is, to my mind, the tipping point for Australian drama and the way we portray where we live, work and play.
Where some may argue the characters in Offspring are part of the infrastructure and liveability 'rich', I would say this: cast that mentality aside and look at Fitzroy as a model for retro-fitting suburbs far and wide right across Melbourne & other Australian cities. Density as illustrated by the show (Fitzroy has a population density of 6,740 people/square kilometre compared to the standard new suburb equivalent around 1,250-1,500 people/square kilometre) comes in many shapes and forms and offers up a huge number of opportunities for people who choose to live that way. We kick goals by aspiring to alter our suburban landscape to something like Fitzroy, St Kilda, North Melbourne or Richmond as we can house more people in a smaller footprint providing them with closer access to jobs, shops and alternative transport modes.
Neighbours and Home & Away may be a more accurate depiction of how the majority of Australia currently lives, but it's TV shows like Offspring which ought to be congratulated for tapping into the Australian mainstream (over a million people saw last night's season finale) and showing them there's a different way to live.
More of this please learned TV producers of Australia - Offspring's only scratching the surface and every architect, developer, sales agent, Local and State Government planning body should jump on the bandwagon and take stock of the 'there, but not in your face' type message being portrayed in the background in every episode of shows like Offspring - the aforementioned groups of people need provide more accessible, affordable and urban housing in existing areas so future generations don't have to live the Erinsborough life.
Image credit: Network Ten.