Mcleod's Daughters: articles

Dry blokes for daughters in the dust

When Tess, the major-domess of McLeod's Daughters (TV2, Thursday), saunters on to the verandah at Drovers Run in the first episode of the new series, she clutches a coffee mug and smiles to herself as she admires the vista of her vast property.

When we last saw Tess, she was a mess, coping with the suspected death of husband Nick who apparently met his maker in a plane crash in South America, a stunt which must have saved the producers a mint.

Tess, blessed with the mandatory Drovers just-get-on-with-it mindset, seems to have put her grieving aside, and is ready to saddle up and face another hard day at the droving office.

But when we first set eyes on her cradling her cup of coffee in her sunburnt fingers, we could be forgiven for imagining we are observing the resurrection of an instant coffee ad.

Tess has eyes bluer than a pair of faded Levis and thick blonde hair that she wears in a braid swinging down her back. We watch her swing into the saddle, plant her Akubra on top of her head and pause before giddy-upping her horse, to pat her stomach.

Lest we forget, Tess is carrying Nick's child and the viewer worries that she will take a tumble and a miscarriage will cut Tess's ties once and forever with her dead husband.

But, is he dead? News comes in that they have found Nick's "remains", which is a wake-up (or a dead-down) call for Tess who has been hoping against hope that Nick will just turn up one day, just like Ashley Wilkes did when he returned home to Melanie after the civil war was over in Gone With the Wind.

Nick's father Harry, played by Kiwi actor Marshall Napier, has to be informed. Tess asks Alex, Harry's only surviving son to deliver the grim news about the bits found in Buenos Aires, which Harry takes with customary curmudgeonly crispness.

Alex has just returned home with Fiona, a fiancee he has formed a hasty union with after the briefest four-day courtship.

If you've never watched McLeod's Daughters before, then it will be apparent by now that this saga is a soap opera acted out, or ridden out, on horses' legs and in due course we get to see all the equine lassies saddle up.

Jodi, a lanky blonde who has just found out that old man McLeod was her real father, even gets to do a spectacular two-inch jump, which is filmed in slow motion.

What irks me about McLeod's Daughters is that, while it is accepted that this is a chickcom, the men in it are terribly unfanciable. I was thrilled to hear the sad news that Nick had met his maker (watch this space) because he's got a sharp face and a hard slit of a mouth, and Alex his brother (possibly half I blame the proliferation of hay barns) is a big boring lummox of a bloke. Only the vet could be of any use as a possible pin-up boy, but he too is as dry as a bone. Advertisement Advertisement

The first episode dissipated into a squabble between Harry and Alex with the womenfolk rushing indoors to splash their boots and give the men time to settle old scores. Fiona kept elbowing Alex that: "You should talk to him (Harry)" while Harry struggled with conciliatory language.

Harry: "I want you here. You belong here."

(Long homoerotic Speights look exchanged between father and son.)

Alex: "Why?"

Harry (voice choked with he-motion: "Because you're my son."

Meanwhile, Tess has taken a leaf out of Harry's book and is not exactly thrilled to discover that Jodi is in fact her sister.

What with Nick's remains and Jodi having undertaken a dna test for parental proof, all they need is David Caruso wandering on to the spread to do a CSI and they'd be rating their hooves off.

When the humans aren't performing particularly brilliantly, what better way to save the script than have a black beauty, in the shape of a race horse, ride on to the set.

The girls and a couple of the unfanciables quickly get their feet in the stirrups and race each other to catch the escaped purebred. It was on its way to Harry's place but came a gutser in a horse float. This allows Jodi and Tess to bond as they masterfully track the horse down and slip a rope nimbly through the bridle. Later the sisters stand on the verandah and raise a glass to their new-found filiality.

Let's hope Harry or Alex will fly over to Buenos Aires to confirm once and for all that the odious Nick is truly RIP. The daughters could do with a decent male lead.

By Jane Bowron
April 21, 2006
The Dominion Post (New Zealand)