Grass Roots: Episode guide

Series 1 | Series 2

A Week In September

Episode 1.01
Sunday, July 02, 2000 (ABC)
Written by Geoffrey Atherden
Directed by Peter Andrikidis

Mid-September in Arcadia Waters Council and it’s only days to the local government elections. The mayor of Arcadia Waters, Col Dunkley, has a few problems. The local newspaper has run a story about his wife leaving him, a new showpiece bus shelter is way behind schedule and a member of staff is threatening to reveal something shocking about his past.

Col Dunkley stands with Helen, his press secretary, and asks why she can’t get him on the front page of the local paper with a story about his vision for the place. She worries he’s starting to look desperate. It’s only two days to the council elections and his main rival, Biddy Marchant looks like she might beat him. Things get worse when Col sees that his top priority, a showpiece new bus shelter, is nowhere near finished. And no one can explain why. The general manager, Greg, and the Head of Planning and Building, George, blame Daryl, a corrupt contracts manager who was supposed to have been moved sideways some time ago. Meanwhile, the election night results take Col and his faction back into Council but without a majority. He and Biddy have equal numbers and the position of Mayor (and control of the council) will be decided by a new councillor, the genuinely independent Karin Schumaker.

Karin’s worries about the bus shelter and whether there are any links to allegations about corruption among Council staff, leads Col to decide that the way to impress Karin is to get rid of Daryl. He makes dealing with corruption a top priority. However, Daryl is difficult to move. He seems to know things about several Councillors and some of the staff. But more importantly, he seems to know something about Col.

Guest Cast: Pauline Chan as Irene Cheung, Michael Craig as Gordon Mahon, Michael Denkha as Ewan McCrum, Judi Farr as Janice Corniglio, David Field as Daryl Kennedy, Sandy Gore as Dr Salwah Mandikis, Richard Healy as Mike Le Moignon, Melissa Jaffer as Fran Smith, Kellie Jones as Sue, Peter Kowitz as Warwick Marchant, Toulla Lavithis as Geraldine, Mark McCann as Barry Cunningham, Tara Morice as Julie Dunkley, Matthew Newton as Derek Garner, Paul Pantano as Ned Schumaker, Nicholas Papademetriou as Victor Trusillo, Bob Yearley as Man With Garbage

Late September

Episode 1.02
Sunday, July 09, 2000
Written by Geoffrey Atherden
Directed by Peter Andrikidis

Col Dunkley has made it back onto the council, but in the race to be Mayor, Col must win the vote of the newly elected and genuinely independent Karin Schumaker. His main stumbling block is Daryl, a corrupt member of staff who seems to have something on him personally.

While Col is dealing with Daryl, Biddy whisks Karin off to lunch and assails her with terrible stories about Col and at the same time, offers Karin the position of Deputy Mayor if she will vote for her as Mayor. Karin is clever enough to avoid making a decision until she has had good offers from both sides.

Meanwhile Biddy reports to her faction that her meeting with Karin have been very successful and she is now confident of Karin’s vote in the mayoral ballot, Col and Helen try to work out ways to win Karin over. Col hates having to depend so much on the vote of one person. He could so easily lose. What he needs is a plan B.

At the next Council meeting, the ballot for Mayor is held. Karin has spent a lot of time anguishing over her vote. But when the vote is held, it seems that Col has persuaded one of Biddy’s faction to abstain. This leaves him with a majority, with or without Karin’s vote. It’s her first lesson in politics.

Guest Cast: Pauline Chan as Irene Cheung, Michael Craig as Gordon Mahon, Judi Farr as Janice Corniglio, David Field as Daryl Kennedy, Sandy Gore as Dr Salwah Mandikis, Melissa Jaffer as Fran Smith, Kellie Jones as Sue, Tammy Macintosh as Marilyn Hennessy, Antonia Murphy as Sandra Kelly, Matthew Newton as Derek Garner, Paul Pantano as Ned Schumaker, Nicholas Papademetriou as Victor Trusillo, Lois Ramsey as Mrs Robbins, Bruce Venables as Lance Peterson, Richard White as Itzak the Security Guard

2000 Australian Film Institute Awards
Winner: Best Performance by an Actress in a Guest Role, TV Drama Series (Lois Ramsey)
Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Guest Role, TV Drama Series (David Field)
Nominee: Best Episode in a Television Drama Series

October to March

Episode 1.03
Sunday, July 16, 2000
Written by Geoffrey Atherden
Directed by Peter Andrikidis

There are more big dreams, bold plans and shady deals underway as we follow a year in the life of the Arcadia Waters Council. Col Dunkley and his faction celebrate their win and talk about Col’s vision for the year ahead.

Cheryl da Costa is an angry woman who is not at all impressed by Mayor Dunkley. He has promised to stop an ugly development next to her house, but the developer won’t go away. Cheryl wants action and Col makes stopping the developer, Frank Brody his top priority. He does take action and sets up a photo opportunity for himself with Cheryl. The session is interrupted when Col gets a call to say that his father is very ill and has been taken to hospital.

While Col is away from Council, General Manager Greg slides a recommendation to raise childcare fees onto the agenda for the next Council meeting. Unknown to anyone, Greg has been having secret meetings with the beautiful Marilyn Hennessy, the operator of a private childcare company who would like to take over the service.

Col quickly discovers that not everyone on Council is anti development and to gain their support for an expensive legal battle, Col will have to break a promise to some of his most loyal supporters… but what rabbit can he pull out of his hat this time?

Guest Cast: Pauline Chan as Irene Cheung, Michael Craig as Gordon Mahon, Judi Farr as Janice Corniglio, Grant Galea as Frank Brody, Sandy Gore as Dr Salwah Mandikis, John Gregg as Morgan Bartok, Richard Healy as Mike Le Moignon, Melissa Jaffer as Fran Smith, Kellie Jones as Sue, Peter Kowitz as Warwick Marchant, Tony Llewellyn-Jones as Felix Crampthorne, Tammy Macintosh as Marilyn Hennessy, Elizabeth Maywald as Kate, Mark McCann as Barry Cunningham, Kris McQuade as Cheryl Da Costa, Tiriel Mora as David, Matthew Newton as Derek Garner, Nicholas Papademetriou as Victor Trusillo, Mark Owen-Taylor as Andrew Abetz, Zoe Andrikidis as Ellie, Catherine Dunne as Simone, Selena Edmunds as Newsreader, Andrew Tighe as Minister, Richard White as Itzak the Security Guard

February To May

Episode 1.04
Sunday, July 23, 2000
Written by Katherine Thompson
Directed by Peter Andrikidis

When entrepreneur Max Werring tells Col he can get Dame Kiri Te Kanawa for the Arcadia Waters Festival, Col’s grand plan to put Arcadia Waters on the cultural map looks as though it is about to be realised.

Col and Biddy are doing battle on several fronts. One is the festival, where Col has prevented Biddy from using Council’s cultural grants to buy votes. And Col doesn’t exactly have full support from his own faction. Harry, for example, would prefer the usual sausage sizzle at the surf club.

Another battleground is the long awaited renovations to the Council offices, where Col has jumped the gun and given Kevin Danzer permission to commence work, even though the contract has not been signed. Col knows that Biddy had expected the job to go to her long time supporter, Justin Thyer. What Col doesn’t know is that Justin has convinced Liberal Party preselectors that Biddy should be considered as a candidate for a coming by-election in a safe seat.

Guest Cast: Mitchell Butel as Max Werring, Pauline Chan as Irene Cheung, Alan Cinis as Justin Thyer, Michael Craig as Gordon Mahon, Michael Denkha as Ewan McCrum, Judi Farr as Janice Corniglio, Sandy Gore as Dr Salwah Mandikis, Richard Healy as Mike Le Moignon, Harold Hopkins as Surf Club Manager, Melissa Jaffer as Fran Smith, Peter Kowitz as Warwick Marchant, Mark McCann as Barry Cunningham, Matthew Newton as Derek Garner, Nicholas Papademetriou as Victor Trusillo, Jie Pittman as Kevin Danzer, Catherine Dunne as Simone, Selena Edmunds as Newsreader, Paul Harmer as Tongan Dancer, Tito Schmidt as Tongan Dancer, Naputi Terenaki as Tongan Dancer, Andrew Tighe as Minister, Richard White as Itzak the Security Guard

January To April

Episode 1.05
Sunday, July 30, 2000
Written by Geoffrey Atherden
Directed by Peter Andrikidis

At a secret meeting with Marilyn Hennessy, Greg tells her that he’s going to support Col in every silly plan he has for as long as it takes to get Council to agree to sell its childcare service to her. At the same time, Liz tries to convince Karin that Greg is leading Council slowly and surely towards privatising childcare. Karin says she’ll keep an open mind, but Liz would prefer a more unqualified support.

Col has a scheme to support local business using the Internet to get connected with the global economy — all based on a radio program he heard a part of. The first response to a call for public submissions is disappointing but it does turn up a request from a local comedian who wants funds to travel to the Edinburgh Festival.

Biddy surprises Col and improves on his idea. Council will fund a modest letterbox campaign so that Sandy will do odd jobs and earn his way to Edinburgh. His business booms and soon every underemployed person in Arcadia Waters is demanding that Council support their letterbox campaign.

Greg offers to help Col out of his problem by scaring Sandy out of his odd job work with demands for expensive insurance cover. When Sandy goes to Biddy to complain, she changes her mind and gets council to pay for his trip to Edinburgh.

Guest Cast: Aaron Blabey as Sandy Maxwell, Pauline Chan as Irene Cheung, Michael Craig as Gordon Mahon, Judi Farr as Janice Corniglio, Ken Goodlet as Albert Zerefos, Sandy Gore as Dr Salwah Mandikis, Richard Healy as Mike Le Moignon, Melissa Jaffer as Fran Smith, Kellie Jones as Sue, Peter Kowitz as Warwick Marchant, Tammy Macintosh as Marilyn Hennessy, Mark McCann as Barry Cunningham, Kumud Merani as Dr Priya Samarjwadi, Matthew Newton as Derek Garner, Nicholas Papademetriou as Victor Trusillo, David Bowers as Motor Bike Club, Catherine Dunne as Simone, Richard White as Itzak the Security Guard.

April To July

Episode 1.06
Sunday, August 06, 2000
Written by Michael Brindley
Directed by Peter Andrikidis

When Col refuses any more financial support to Harry’s run down bowling club, Harry feels he has no alternative than to talk to the men-in-suits from the Business Club. The Business Club proposes a merger, a new club on the bowling club premises, but renovated, extended and generally much bigger.

Col has been distracted from his council work, so he is content to let Harry set up the merger between the two clubs. And so is Biddy and her faction, most of whom are members of the Business Club. Only Karin has worries about its impact on the local community. She tries to warn Col but he reassures her that it’s all for the best and a good bit of local politics.

Liz’s childcare service is about to be handed over to the private operator, and it appears that the contract has a few holes in it. Greg, who put the holes in the contract in the hope of winning some fringe benefits from the seductive Marilyn Hennessy, is shocked when she tells him that there will be no reward. Greg is furious when he finds he is stuck with a leaky contract that he negotiated and is embarrassed when Col starts to suspect why he did such a bad job on the contract.

Karin sets up a site meeting with the purpose of alerting the local community to the impact of the club merger. Her tactic works and local opposition grows. When she realises that no one on Council is on her side, she starts to develop a different plan.

Greg tries to redeem himself with Col by digging into the club merger. He finds out that the Business Club is bankrupt with enormous debts. Their plan was to sell their existing building and move in on the bowlers, using the proceeds of their property sale to pay off their debts and some renovations.

Guest Cast: Vincent Ball as Monty Chesney, Pauline Chan as Irene Cheung, Alan Cinis as Justin Thyer, Michael Craig as Gordon Mahon, Judi Farr as Janice Corniglio, Sandy Gore as Dr Salwah Mandikis, Richard Healy as Mike Le Moignon, Douglas Hedge as Ken Cameron, Kirstie Hutton as Cilla, Melissa Jaffer as Fran Smith, Elizabeth Maywald as Kate, Mark McCann as Barry Cunningham, Tiriel Mora as David, Matthew Newton as Derek Garner, Silvio Ofria as Paul Del Favero, Leah Vanderberg as Meera, Catherine Dunne as Simone, Nicholas Gannon as Brad, Adam Gazzard as Brad, Jake Gazzard as Brad

Late July Friday 4:00 pm To 10:30 pm

Episode 1.07
Sunday, August 13, 2000
Directed by Peter Andrikidis

It’s been a bad day for Liz. Her childcare workers haven’t received their payout cheques, there’s an angry parent who claims that his daughter has been corrupted while on work experience, and Greg is threatening to cut her staff down even more.

Liz can’t leave the office until she’s been able to deliver the payout cheques to the farewell for her childcare workers. The cheques should have been delivered hours ago and Liz is worried that the delay has been caused by Greg who has discovered that she has been more than generous in the calculation of her workers’ payout figures.

On top of that, two furniture removalists turn up, demanding the workers’ office furniture. And, a grim looking man arrives, wanting to know who is responsible for the corruption of his school age daughter. It’s almost the last straw when she finds Helen, crying in the women’s because Biddy has been nasty to her.

Liz knows that only Col can help her find the childcare cheques. She goes to see him but finds that his door is locked and his phone is on Do Not Disturb and there doesn’t seem to be any way that he can be contacted.

Inside his office, Col is enjoying time off the treadmill, talking to Karin about life as a local politician. Unaware of the growing queue of people who are waiting outside his office to see him, Col takes Karin’s playful teasing as an indicator of her liking him and feels encouraged to tell her his feelings. The news is a shock to Karin who leaves his office in a hurry, passing George, Greg, Janice, Helen, and Liz. Col would like to escape, but there’s a TV news crew outside, a delegation of angry parents to see him, and the childcare farewell to attend.

Col’s last action of the day is to point the angry father in Greg’s direction. And feels he can at last get away.

Guest Cast: John Brumpton as Mr Bain, Michael Craig as Gordon Mahon, Judi Farr as Janice Cornigillo, Sandy Gore as Dr Salwah Mandikis, Richard Healy as Mike Le Moignon, Kellie Jones as Sue, Elizabeth Maywald as Kate, Brian Meegan as Garrick, Arkie Michael as Des, Tiriel Mora as David, Matthew Newton as Derek Garner, Nicholas Papademetriou as Victor Trujillo, Leah Tansey as Jay (Jennifer) Bain, Leah Vandenberg as Meera, John Tutt as Ferris, Richard White as Itzak the Security Guard

2000 Australian Film Institute Awards
Nominee: Best Episode in a Television Drama Series
Nominee: Best Screenplay in a TV Drama (Geoffrey Atherden)
Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, TV Drama Series (Geoff Morrell)
Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, TV Drama Series (Rhonda Findleton)

The Whole Year

Episode 1.08
Sunday, August 20, 2000
Written by Geoffrey Atherden
Directed by Peter Andrikidis

Col spends most of the year working in secret with property tycoon, Morgan Bartok (John Gregg) to prepare a visionary plan for the development of a scrubby, neglected headland. This is his vision, his dream, and wouldn’t he be the last person to let something tawdry like politics get in the way?

With George’s encouragement, Col enters into a secret arrangement with property tycoon, Morgan Bartok to come up with an innovative scheme which will be presented to Council.

Meanwhile, Biddy blames Helen for her failure to be elected mayor. She challenges Helen in a confrontation and provokes her into swearing at her. Immediately, Biddy demands a public apology.

Despite the secrecy surrounding the headland development, word leaks out and local community groups form in opposition to any development. Biddy does her best to fuel the protests, despite the rest of her faction being very pro development.

Col battles on. His promises to Morgan Bartok may have been unwise, but he genuinely believes in the Cemetery Point project. However his own faction desert him and he will only be able to get the development proposal through council with the support of Biddy’s faction and Biddy herself.

The big meeting starts badly. Harry speaks out of order and makes an impassioned appeal for the preservation of the headland. Col has to make up his mind quickly on tactics for the Cemetery Point proposal. He makes a rousing speech about going out on a limb for something he believes in. And what he believes in is… the preservation of the headland. He delights the gallery and his faction and surprises everyone else and shocks Morgan and George when he describes the proposal as the work of a greedy developer.

Guest Cast: Tony Barry as Drew Leonard, John Brumpton as Mr Bain, Peter Carroll as Peter Summerhaze, Pauline Chan as Irene Cheung, Michael Craig as Gordon Mahon, Maggie Dence as Ellen Leonard, Judi Farr as Janice Corniglio, Sandy Gore as Dr Salwah Mandikis, John Gregg as Morgan Martok, Richard Healy as Mike Le Moignon, Melissa Jaffer as Fran Smith, Kellie Jones as Sue, Stan Kouros as Aldo, Toulla Lavithis as Geraldine, Mark McCann as Barry Cunningham, Matthew Newton as Derek Garner, Nicholas Papademetriou as Victor Trujillo, Rachel Szalay as Judith, Leah Tansey as Jay (Jennifer) Bain, Brad Peterson as Lars Jorgenson, Richard White as Itzak the Security Guard

2000 Australian Film Institute Awards
Winner: Best Episode in a Television Drama Series
Winner: Best Direction in a TV Drama (Peter Andrikidis)
Winner: Best Screenplay in a TV Drama (Geoffrey Atherden)
Winner: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, TV Drama Series (Geoff Morrell)
Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, TV Drama Series (Sophie Heathcote)
2001 Australian Writers Guild Awards:
Nominee: Grass Roots: The Whole Year (Geoffrey Atherden)