SeaChange: articles

SeaChange has lesson for ABC, says co-writer

The ABC had to preserve limited-run series, fantastic ideas and experimentation, SeaChange co-writer Andrew Knight said yesterday.

The show's finale on Sunday attracted 2.4 million viewers across Australia.

“The ABC is one of the few domains left for the writer,” Knight said. “It should not be driven by time-slots or demographics or ratings, but by the substantiveness of the idea.

“What I think the ABC has no business doing is setting out to slavishly mimic what is on the commercial networks. It is not there to win a ratings war, which doesn't mean it shouldn't do good-quality programs that attract a large audience.”

SeaChange did not have a problem doing that. Before Sunday's figures, a record for the program, the first series was the top ABC-TV program nationally for eight out of 13 weeks. Series two was the top-rating program across all networks for five of the 13 weeks, and was the number-one program on the ABC for all 13 weeks.

Apart from ABC-TV's coverage of the opening and closing ceremony of the Paralympics, in 2000 SeaChange was again the ABC's top program.

A survey reported in Saturday's Australian Financial Review revealed that last year 40 per cent of workers did not take a holiday and only 18 per cent of the workforce took their full entitlements. Is SeaChange regarded as a simulated holiday for overworked stress-heads?

“Go and live this, don't just watch it,” Knight said. “We are living in a country whose people have allowed themselves to become economic constructs, so we are living a functional life, as in `This is where you are in the food chain'. We are assuming roles, people are playing performances.

“So SeaChange comes along and for all its faults, it talks to a need and people have responded to it. People should get out and have that life. Change the vision.”

Knight spent yesterday in Melbourne with Byron Bay-based co-writer Deb Cox, with whom he has formed a new company called Cox Knight, plotting a new series. Details? “Still about relationships, more difficult terrain, a later time-slot.”

How did it feel to watch the last episode? “It's the first one I've watched on TV in real time (instead of in production),” he said. “Not a relaxing experience for me. If I have written something funny and my gorgeous partner doesn't laugh, it's tough.”

He felt the last episode was “a bit overcooked”.

“We overdelivered a little,” he said. There were plot options: they could have split up Laura and Max; there were, he said, “any number of permutations”.

But stressed SeaChange addicts, short of actually relaxing a little in their real lives, can hold out hope that the folk of Pearl Bay are not lost forever. Knight says the door is “a little bit open” on a new series. “I want to work with all these people again,” he said.

By Peter Wilmoth
December 12, 2000
The Age