Mcleod's Daughters: articles

Bridie Carter and Simmone Jade Mackinnon

GUTSY WOMEN: McLeod's Daughters is a girly romance telly show featuring gutsy women that's quite appealing viewing.

An Outback woman's work is never done

McLeod’s Daughters (TV2, Thursday) is a bit like Captain Cook’s axe: two new heads and four new handles, but it’s essentially the same axe. McLeod himself has long gone, and now there’s only one daughter left.

Last night’s series finale [episode 4.14, which is not the series finale just a midseries break] brought the bundling-off of another core cast member, Meg the housekeeper.

The neighbouring cattle baron has seen off one wife and acquired another, and there’s been a revolving door of other love interests every series.

But how else could you keep it going? Because, if you can abandon yourself to what is fundamentally a girly romance series, McLeod’s Daughters is well worth keeping going.

There’s something appealing about gutsy young women galloping about amid all that red dust, doing blokes’ work at their ranch, Drovers, and doing it well. It’s a usefully light, restful watch on a Thursday night.

It’s even made tolerable for male viewers by the skimpiness of the women’s T-shirts. The only stressful thing about McLeod’s Daughters—save the occasionally sudden fly-swatting movements the characters make—has been wondering how on earth they can keep the stories going with a fixed dynamic of two gorgeous, gutsy sisters, and two gorgeous gutsy brothers, plus a limited number of hangers-on.

Naturally, each sister fell in love with a brother, and not even the same brother. Their respective romantic near-misses kept the series going for ages, the path of true love littered with other hunky suitors and skimpy T-shirted babes, prising the siblings apart just when you thought they’d succumbed to Cupid.

But in the end, each couple had to admit to true love. The near-misses were growing tedious. (Any bloke watching would start bellowing, “For God’s sakes, give her one!”) But then, if they’d all lived happily ever after, it would have become dull.

So drastic measures were deemed due, and last series, they killed off Claire McLeod, the older, stronger, grumpier sister. This was risky, as she provided a very necessary anchovy on the otherwise bland pizza of Drovers.

Could the show survive as McLeod’s Daughter? Specially as the remaining daughter, Tess, was so unavoidably nice. They couldn’t callous Tess up and make her a loveable sourpuss like Claire.

But these are clever shlock writers, and their nifty substitution of Claire’s old school chum, Stevie, the former rodeo star and woman of mystery, kicked this series along nicely. It’s formulaic stuff, but it works every time: bring in the bad girl with the heart of gold.

Initially, we thought Stevie was obnoxious and untrustworthy. She got offside with everyone, especially Tess. But over time, we learned she was a softy underneath, and a new stout defender of Drovers’ honour.

She also gets to take up where Claire left off, in fighting her growing attraction for one of the brothers, Alex. (Permission to make retching gestures at this point, but this is chick-television and you need your Mills and Boon quotient.)

As a new treat, last night brought a new farmhand, the driven career girl Kate—played by Michala Banas, who was so enjoyable as Marissa in Always Greener. She’s ambitious, uptight and brittle, and has an embarrassing Career Flow Chart on the wall of her bedroom.

The message implicit in last night’s farewell was: stay tuned for the next series when the folk of Drovers find ways to loosen Kate up and teach her valuable lessons about what life’s all about. (More retching might be appropriate here, but you’ll find it’s no trouble at all to look forward to another undemanding series of McLeod’s Daughters).

By Jane Clifton
June 04, 2004