Mcleod's Daughters: articles

Where everything is relative

About a decade ago, when a group of television executives were finalising a new drama set on an Australian farm, they tossed around a couple of possible names.

Should the show be called Drovers Run after the name of the property where all the action would take place? Or perhaps McLeod's Daughters, after the women who would be running the place?

Eventually they settled on the latter and one of Australia's best-loved screen sagas was born.

Things might have been a lot easier for them lately if they'd gone with option one.

As of this week, the last of the original eponymous daughters of Jack McLeod leaves the show when Bridie Carter, aka Tess McLeod, packs up her swag and shuffles off into the sunset.

And to replace her, the producers have had to resort to that most venerable of soap-style tricks, the long-lost relative.

In a revelation worthy of The Da Vinci Code, it seems there's a secret branch of McLeods, from Jack's liaison with Drovers Run housekeeper Meg Fountain (played by Sonia Todd).

Quiet little Jodi Fountain (Rachael Carpani) is in fact Jodi Fountain-McLeod and there's even DNA tests to prove it!

It's a big risk, concedes series creator and executive producer Posie Graeme-Evans, to kill off characters, bring them back from the dead or introduce long-lost relatives.

"You can jump the shark," she said, referring to a TV industry term for the moment a program loses its credibility and named after the Happy Days episode when Fonzie jumped over a shark enclosure on a pair of waterskis.

"And this is the line you have to walk. When you do something big and bravura you have to test it and think about it because the audience will not forgive you if you throw something onto the screen that you can't justify."

Jodi's newfound status as a McLeod, she said, could easily be justified.

Graeme-Evans points to a number of hints in past episodes that Jodi might have been Jack's daughter.

It was well-known on Drovers Run that an affair had taken place, it was known Jack had paid for Jodi's schooling, there was even a scene where Jodi finds a small crown Jack had made for her as a child - a possible nod to her impending coronation?

"One of the delights of a big, long-running series is that while we are grounded in reality, you can give yourself licence," Graeme-Evans said.

"And when you are plotting this, you are wise to surrender to the momentum and let the thing sometimes tell itself. I'm on record as saying, 'While McLeod's [the series] lasts there'll always be a McLeod [the daughters] at Drovers Run', and there will.

"Now the challenge for us is to let the story enchant us and take us with it and to keep faithful to that premise without straining stories past credibility and without letting plot dominate."

The woman at the centre of things, Carpani, agreed. "I didn't actually think about it as something ending and something else beginning, it was just a natural progression.

"The central theme has remained. It's still women trying to compete and make it in a man's world and now it has evolved to where it's not so much about the name [McLeod].

"Originally it was the city daughter and the country daughter coming together and trying to work out what they're going to do with the farm and now it's kind of moved away from that. It's much more of an ensemble piece now.

"And within that, the departure of Tess and Jodi's discovery about her past is is a good fit."

Plot machinations aside and even if the only McLeods in the show were those in the McSky, there's little doubt the series would go on.

An audience favourite and strong ratings winner, McLeod's Daughters was recently signed to another year of production by new Channel Nine CEO Eddie McGuire.

"It's great for the network to commit to a new series of McLeod's because in Australian terms it's an expensive series to make," Graeme-Evans said.

"It has performed very well overseas [but] that money takes a while to come back, so this is a big vote of confidence."

McLeod's Daughters, Channel Nine, Wednesday, 7.30pm.

By Scott Ellis
May 1, 2006
The Sun-Herald