When âSeaChangeâ premiered in Australia in 1998, it became an overnight sensation and straddled that ridge for three seasons, while remaining under the radar of the rest of the world. The rest of us got a chance to check it out in 2019 when a fourth season was produced after 20 years and AcornTV picked up the whole lovely series. I am grateful because the series is now one of my favorites.
This is a typical TV setup – someone from a big city moves to the countryside to escape their life and achieve simplicity, but find that they don’t quite fit in. “SeaChange” offers enough complexity in this dynamic – and enough talent to represent it – the situation does not always determine what happens and often the clichÃ©s are subverted.
The series stars Sigrid Thornton as powerful lawyer Laura Gibson, who, following revelations about her husband, packs her bags and moves the children to Pearl Bay to take up a local magistrate’s post. Overseeing local criminal trials lends a broad scope that allows for introductions to all kinds of citizens and puts Laura at odds with her neighbors, as if her goofy personality isn’t enough.
Opposite is Bob Jelly (John Howard), the local real estate developer and chairman of the city council whose plans to bring in tourists’ money are still geared towards a possible route to his wallet. It’s a âBob’s a jerk but he’s our jerkâ situation for town and Howard plays the character with enough confusion in his arrogance that you can’t really hate him.
Among the many recurring townspeople, Kerry Armstrong stands out as Bob’s wife, Heather. She’s an apparent type of bubble-headed Stepford woman at first, but as the series progresses Armstrong really injects growth into the character while still maintaining what was funny about her, giving her a dignity and a place as one of the best characters in the series. Also noteworthy is Kate Atkinson as a local assistant determined to marry Laura’s court clerk Angus (Tom Long), despite her own confusion about it, and local trailer park owner Kevin (Kevin Harrington), a sincere but simple handyman whose spotlight It is at the end of each episode that he sits on the beach with his son and utters curious and devious words of wisdom.
The rebirth show maintains the same structure, tone, and pace as the original series, but less of the original cast does a demo, but thank goodness Thornton, Howard, Armstrong, and Harrington are all on hand. Several of the new additions live up to the spirit of the original, most notably Katrina Milosevic as a local police officer, a role miles from her impressive work on “Wentworth.”
âSeaChangeâ is uniquely adept at world-building, providing a constant flow of local lore and character stories stretching back decades in each episode, giving Pearl Bay and the people who live there a three-dimensional feel, all of it. giving a solid indication of what Laura Gibson faces as she tries to fit in. Thankfully, Thornton is so adept in the role of the overly dramatic and often self-centered lawyer that you’re not sure you ever want Laura to fit in anyway – the awkward tension and constant failure creates a compulsive spell that you wouldn’t necessarily want to live, but there is a lot of fun to watch it unfold.
John Seven is a North Adams writer who has never been satisfied with easy-to-find movies and television. He likes to dig. Find it online at johnseven.me.