All Saints: articles

Judith McGrath

LAST show ... an era ends for All Saints

All Saints joins TV graveyard

IS All Saints the most popular show ever to get axed? Has to be close. It's the last episode on Tuesday night after 12 seasons.

You might've thought an audience bigger than a million every week would be enough of a buffer between life and death. Nope. It's the last episode on Tuesday night after 12 seasons, 493 episodes and a mere 150 medical misadventures resulting in the cessation of life.

Money. That's the reason. Of course it is. Even though each episode costs about the same price as a house - a house in the suburbs, not a beach house - it was still too much. So we're left now in the unseemly position of not having a local medical series on television. Plenty of cop shows, but no sweaty and anxious dramas taking place inside a hospital.

There are shows set in hospitals, though - Last Chance Surgery, for instance, and Medical Emergency, which is filmed on location in two metropolitan hospitals, and which has fewer viewers than All Saints, and less sex, and is still on air.

Of course, Medical Emergency is one of those fly-on-the-wall documentaries - a term I don't like using, it sounds disease-ridden - which come about through commercial arrangements between the hospital and producers.

All Saints had commercial arrangements of its own - the last episode mentions the NSW ambulance service and the Concord Repatriation General Hospital in the closing credits - and I wish a way could've been found to somehow treat All Saints the way RPA and those others are. Filmed in a hospital, with real life people languishing in waiting rooms, while more attractive paid actors wander past clutching a sheaf of X-rays in one hand and a colleague in the other.

And I say that as somebody who doesn't even like All Saints. Only because it's not very good. It had the same problem we find in a lot of Australian television - ordinary writing.

The acting was never an issue. Having John Howard and Judith McGrath and John Waters in the cast made up for any weaknesses the others might've had. But it's no worse than Packed to the Rafters. Or only a little bit worse. But Seven's schedule isn't big enough for both of them.

Ideally, All Saints should've been on at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, where earlier repeats of it were running for a while this year. And where it would also generate its own income, like Kerri-Anne or General Electric Theatre Hosted By Ronald Reagan - fully paid for by domestic appliances.

It seems people want to watch medical procedures, and they want to watch personal family stories, but not at the same time.

What All Saints had become was an unsatisfying mix of triage and soap. This show was never more addictive than when Georgie Parker and Erik Thomson were embroiled in their love affair.

Georgie was Terri, a nun who became a nurse, Erik's Mitch was a doctor married to a woman with bi-polar who luckily died but not soon enough to guarantee Mitch and Terri the lifetime of togetherness due to them because Mitch soon got a brain tumour and died himself, with Terri a wan and constant presence at his bed. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beeeeeeeeee. . . And it was basically lights out for All Saints after that.

The ratings were still solid, and there were plenty more shared moments of love and laughter, tears of sadness and happiness but nothing on the same scale. It was like when Lisa McCune left Blue Heelers. A black day in TV history.

Credit though to All Saints for almost making it to 500 episodes. The list of others who have tried is longer than a non-adhesive gauze bandage: The Strip, McLeod's Daughters, The Alice, Young Lions . . . there's about $300 million worth in a heap behind us, and that's in under 10 years.

Where to now for the actors, I wonder? It's entirely possible the next time you're in a Sydney cafe your latte will be brought to your table by one of these medical professionals.

It might be time for that Young Doctors remake to be resuscitated.

October 23, 2009
The Courier-Mail