For those of you who never saw it on TV (and I was one of them), SeaChange told the tale of Laura Gibson, a big Melbourne lawyer who manages to suffer a disastrous set of circumstances in the space of 48 hours. Her marriage and her high-flying career all come crashing down around her ears.
So, realising that for the last 10 years, she’s been too busy to really stop and think about life, Laura takes her two kids, Rupert and Miranda, and heads off to a small seaside town called Pearl Bay to take a job as the local magistrate. The last time she was there was 10 years ago on holiday, and it was the last time she remembered being really happy and content.
This is really just the scene-setting part of it. The charm of the series comes from the range of characters that inhabit Pearl Bay. To list just some of them:
- Bob Jelly, imperious real estate agent and local mayor. Bob is nearly always the “bad guy” in every episode, as he seeks to get a bridge built that will turn Pearl Bay into a tourist trap and take away its small-town charm for ever.
- Meredith, who runs the local pub, and knows everyone in town and never forgets anything.
- Angus, the court clerk, who goes for a surf every morning before the court starts, and thinks nothing of showing up in his wetsuit to get ready for court. And, of course, his fiancee:
- Karen, the police prosecutor. She and Angus are “on a break” from their relationship, but they’re still engaged and planning the wedding.
- And, last but by no means least, the one and only Diver Dan (in a star-making role for David Wenham), the ultra-laid-back owner of a little cafe/fishing shop.
The amusing part of this series is just watching Laura’s reactions to these characters. Overall, the laid-back, bend-the-rules attitude of the town clashes majorly with her stressed, city attitude.
At first glance, the show appears to be a typical Aussie soap opera. But have a closer look and the writing in the series is absolutely outstanding. In any given episode, the mood can change from humour to romance to tear-jerking pathos instantly without missing a beat. On top of that, the acting is so well done, and the characterisations so strong, that a character can appear for just a few seconds in any episode and still act entirely within their character (and often getting a huge laugh out of us at the same time).
Fans of Diver Dan (and there were quite a few of those, let me tell you) were rather disappointed when he left in the second season (I do hope that wasn’t too much of a spoiler for you, but it’s mostly common knowledge) and it almost could have crippled a lesser show. But, amazingly, once you get used to David Wenham’s absence, the show picks up and becomes just as strong.
This is well worth a look, if for nothing else, an example of what can happen when you let talented writers at a TV show. We haven’t seen the third season yet, but if it’s anything like these two, it won’t be disappointing.
5 out of 5.