Mcleod's Daughters: articles

Frill ride

IT may be time to move to Australia.

While American television seems bound and determined to set women further back every season (particularly this season), the Aussies seem to be moving in the opposite direction—or it appears that way with the Australian programming that makes its way to the States, at any rate.

And once you become fluent in the language, (“G’day mate!” “Hey, is that a gecko?” and “I’ll take a Fosters”), a whole new world opens up.

For starters, take the new show that WE has imported, “McLeod’s Daughters.”

It’s a modern day Western (or is it called a “Southern,” since it takes place Down Under?) about a ranch full of women—kind of like a female “Bonanza.”

“McLeod’s Daughters,” the most successful Australian TV series of the past four years, chronicles the lives of the daughters of a recently deceased rancher called McLeod, who bequeaths his giant spread—Drovers Run—to them.

Problem is that one daughter, Claire (Lisa Chappell), lived on the ranch with her father her whole life, while her half-sister, Tess (Bridie Carter), hasn’t been there since she was a little girl.

Tess’ mom (who was McLeod’s second wife) split years earlier, taking Tess with her to live in the city. When McLeod and his estranged wife died within weeks of one another, Tess inherits half the ranch—much to the shock and dismay of Claire.

When Tess arrives a few weeks after the deaths, she encounters not only animosity from her half-sister, but a wily bunch of male wranglers who wrongly believe they can cheat the sisters now that there’s no man in charge. Wrong.

In last week’s opening episode, Claire fired them all—leaving only the women to run the ranch with the help of housekeeper Meg Fountain (Sonia Todd), her teenage daughter Jodi (Rachel Carpini), and local Becky Howard (Jessica Napier), who comes to live and work on the ranch after a run of her own bad luck.

There are also the handsome, not to mention educated, brothers at the neighboring ranch who we find out are more inclined to the new girl (Tess) than they are towards Claire, who’s like a sister to them.

The show isn’t like anything else on American TV. And really, how refreshing to have women’s programming that actually makes female characters smart, savvy, self-sufficient survivors, instead of “Desperate Housewives,” who can’t support themselves—let alone their jewelry habits—unless they leech off men.

By Linda Stasi
October 9, 2004
New York Post