A Place to Call Home – Australia’s Downton Abbey?

Based on 100% of responses from my last post (thanks Sharon!) I have stepped into the world of the new Australian drama A Place to Call Home. Although I don’t think stepped is the right word. Maybe leapt is a better description, as I have devoured all six episodes in less than 48 hours.

It has a strong Australian flavour and the country and landscape is almost its own character. On reflection, there is also something that feels very familiar. It took me a little while to put my finger on it and then I realised that it reminds me of another one of my favourite series, Downton Abbey. It is hardly a copy but there are parallels: a dominant matriarch, the formality of upper class society, family politics and questionable relationships.

Image credit: Channel 7
Image credit: Channel 7

Marta Dusseldorp plays our heroine Sarah Adams and does so with dignity, control, professionalism and compassion. Sarah is not only defined by those characteristics though; she also comes with a mysterious past. Although we are still learning about her we almost immediately feel for her and are willingly drawn into her new world. I am sure I am not alone in developing a very soft spot for Frankie J. Holden’s beautifully caring and ocker Roy Briggs. Props go to the writers for creating a ‘true blue’ Aussie man without having to exaggerate him into a caricature.

Image credit: Channel 7
Image credit: Channel 7

I believe this kind of mature character development will help A Place to Call Home weave itself into viewer’s hearts. As much as we may dislike the fabulous Noni Hazlehurst’s Elizabeth Bligh for her snobbiness and bias we cannot deny her loyalty to her family and a select group of friends. In fact, with the exception of Michael Sheasby’s abusive, insecure and violent Bert Ford, nearly all of the characters have a couple of redeeming qualities.

We are nearly half way through the first season and there has been measured plot and character reveals. Although I guessed what was tormenting James Bligh (played by David Berry) early on, I don’t believe it was meant to come as a great surprise to the viewer. I think it was more about watching how James’ wife Olivia Bligh (played by Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood) would react when she put the pieces together. It is powerful and heartbreaking to watch how Olivia’s usual dignity and restraint is tested to the limits as the full extent of James’ dishonesty comes to light.

The real love story of the series between Anna Bligh (Abby Earl) and her Italian sweetheart Gino Poletti (Aldo Mignone) is touching. As you cheer for the young lovers it doesn’t take much to imagine the challenges they are going to face once their relationship becomes public. Although there has only been hints so far, there is a love triangle just begging to happen between the handsome doctor Jack Duncan (Craig Hall), the equally attractive and wealthy George Bligh (Brett Climo) and our reserved leading lady, Sarah.

Image credit: Channel 7
Image credit: Channel 7

A Place to Call Home’s creator is Bevan Lee, who has a host of successful Australian TV series under his belt. (Packed to the Rafters, City Homicide, Home and Away, Winners and Losers to name a few). Impressive story telling combined with a solid cast of talented newcomers and experienced performers could see A Place to Call Home becoming one of Australia’s most outstanding dramas to date. I for one will continue to tune in to find out more of Sarah’s past and her desires for the future, follow how the young lovers are faring and see if Elizabeth Bligh can hold on to her power stronghold or whether failing health and her nemesis will change Inverness forever…

Who is your favourite character in A Place to Call Home so far? 

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