Out of the Blue: articles

Murder in mind on Aussie soap set

Warning: This story contains plot spoilers.

After losing Neighbours, BBC One has commissioned a new Australian soap, Out of the Blue, which hits screens on Monday.

In the back garden of a stunning harbourside residence, with the fabled Manly ferry ploughing through the waves in the background, the scene is set for that great staple of Australian soaps: the wedding.

Floral decorations and lanterns hang from the palm trees. The registrar stands poised under an ornamental gazebo, and a long-lost uncle arrives at the last minute with an outstretched hand for his soon-to-be-married nephew.

But for the film crew and cast this is far from being the happiest day of their lives. Mother Nature is refusing to play by the script.

The skies are battleship grey, it is freezing cold, and the palm trees are starting to sway a little too violently for comfort.

Cloaked in blankets to keep warm between takes, some of the cast members look like a refugees from the Crimean War. Inside the house, the bride is wearing sheepskin-lined Ugg boots.

Australian soap operas are supposed to deliver sun-kissed beaches, pristine blue skies and ludicrously healthy-looking Australians into the lounges of British viewers.

But today the cast of Out of the Blue, the BBC's new daytime soap, is struggling to keep out of the rain.

Out of the Blue is intended to fill the gap left by Neighbours, which has moved to Five.

Rather than buy in a soap opera which was already airing on Australian television, the BBC decided to commission its own from production company Southern Star Entertainment.

Set in Manly, one of Sydney's most salubrious beachfront suburbs, it offers a far more beautiful backdrop than Melbourne's Ramsay Street.

But can it pull in anywhere near the same audiences and create similar waves?

Secrets and lies

Out of the Blue follows the lives of a group of 30-somethings brought together for a reunion nine years after leaving school - a good-looking bunch with perfect teeth, blemish-free complexions and seemingly trouble-free lives.

All seems to be going well until one of them is found floating in the ocean. On closer inspection, it is discovered that the classmate was murdered.

As if that was not enough - not much happens in real-life Manly, by the way, which is one of the reasons why it is such a lovely place to live - it turns out that one of the friends is the killer.

As the pre-show blurb puts it: "The best of friends, the closest of families, an ocean of secrets, one shocking murder - out of the blue."

"It all comes together at a reunion, where secrets from the past are revealed," says Sophie Katinis, who plays Gabby, a chirpy high school PE and science teacher.

"They love and adore each other but do they really know each other? It's all about secrets in the past. Its basically a murder mystery."

Given its heavy reliance on the tried-and-tested formula of sun, sea, smiles and the occasional sensation, Out of the Blue is hardly "out of the box".

Home and Away is filmed in Palm Beach, less than an hour up the coast, but the producers hope that the whodunit plot-line will give it a new twist.

What's more, no-one in the cast yet knows who is the killer.

"They tell me nothing," says Nathaniel Buzolic, who plays Paul.

"It could be anyone. Could be me for all I know. I could be the killer. Don't think I am because Paul's a nice guy.

"But he's very athletic so if he had to kill he could. But then again I don't know. He might be really soft when it comes to those situations."

The BBC has commissioned 130 episodes for a six-month run.

So is one of these young actors about to the become the next Kylie or Jason?

"I wouldn't look good in those gold pants," says Nathaniel. "I'd rather do pantos. I'd like to, so if there are any offers out there..."

In soaps as in life, be careful what you wish for.

Out of the Blue begins on Monday 28 April on BBC One at 1415 BST.

By Nick Bryant
April 25, 2008
BBC News