Sea Patrol: articles

Let's join the navy

SYDNEY last week, Tuesday, June 26. Approaching 1.15pm, to be precise.

Channel 9 executive Jeff Browne stuns those gathered for the launch of series one of Sea Patrol by announcing that, so strongly does his network believe in the new drama, it has commissioned a second series of the $15 million, 13-episode show before the first series has screened.

The afternoon chill immediately forgotten, cast and crew break into smiles and applause all round. As did Sea Patrol's husband and wife creators and executive producers, Hal and Di McElroy.

Other investors gathered on the rain and wind-swept deck of the naval patrol boat look a shade nonplussed. They, like the rest of us, appear to be hearing the news for the first time.

News, current affairs and drama: television's "big-three" pots of gold.

Successful news and current affairs operations bring credibility to a network, but it is local drama that brings the gloss and glamour.

If your network has one or more successful dramas on screen, viewers perceive the network to be successful, irrespective of where it genuinely sits in the ratings battle.

Tomorrow night, Nine premieres Sea Patrol, the Lisa McCune/Ian Stenlake drama the network hopes will spearhead its recovery.

Not that the local ratings battle is a one-horse race. Though Seven is winning, the truth is there is little between the two networks. In Melbourne Seven has won each of the past three weeks by less than a point.

If Sea Patrol proves a hit and Nine snares an additional point or two in news and current affairs, we're back to throat-slashing time.

Sea Patrol is the most expensive local TV drama series to hit our screens. If it works, it will go a long way toward encouraging networks to invest more heavily in local drama.

So will Sea Patrol prove to be the drama that helps Nine lift? After seeing the first six episodes, I have no doubt it will, though many within Nine and the industry have doubts.

We all want Aussie TV drama to succeed -- this one in particular because it is pitched unashamedly at the family market.

Sea Patrol is an action/adventure series that the family can enjoy together. Originally for 7.30pm, it will now screen at 8.30.

Some critics says Tony Morphett's scripts are a "little dated, unsophisticated" and at times over-simplistic. "Cliched" has been used.

In parts, yes, Sea Patrol can be a little of all that, but it doesn't pretend to be what it's not. It's a local drama tailored to appeal to the broadest market.

McLeod's Daughters at sea? Not quite but like McLeod's, the series remains true to itself.

Lisa McCune is excellent as Lieutenant Kate McGregor, second-in-command of HMAS Hammersley, a Royal Australian Navy patrol boat protecting the coast.

Former Stingers regular Ian Stenlake, though lacking aggression at times and a shade wooden, will settle into his role of commanding officer Lieutenant-Commander Mike Flynn.

Stenlake's low-key approach fits perfectly with McCune's natural, underplayed performance, but a little more action and less talk would help Flynn a good deal.

Stick with Sea Patrol for its opening four weeks or so. You will find yourself becoming more and more involved with the characters and their storylines as the series unfolds.

Enjoy it.

By Robert Fidgeon
July 04, 2007
Herald Sun