Claudia Karvan and Jeremy Lindsay Taylor in a scene from the season finale of Puberty Blues.
Ten, Wednesday, 8.30pm
What's it all about?
The finale in a superb eight-part Aussie drama series set in 1970s Cronulla. There were more highs and lows in this single episode than in an entire season of The Shire.
Sue (Brenna Harding) and Debbie (Ashleigh Cummings) are the heart of Puberty Blues.
It's nostalgia, Jim, but not as we know it. The art direction is superb, the colour palette suitably ochre-tinged Ocker and the outfits straight off the $5 rack at the local Vinnies. (Did they really make collars that big back in the day? There were times when Claudia Karvan looked as though she was being cleared for take-off on runway two.)
But there were no rose-coloured glasses in use here – no Mateus-coloured ones, even. Puberty Blues didn't revel in the image in the rear-view mirror so much as quietly rebel against it. And in the finale, all that push finally came to shove.
Dirtbag dentist Ferris Hennessey (Rodger Corser) finally decided he needed way more than a day off, and disappeared into the ether (or was it novocaine?), leaving his mousey, downtrodden wife Yvonne (Susan Prior) to finally throw off the shackles, and her dress, on the local nudist beach. Meanwhile, their son Gary (Sean Keenan) put the pedal to the metal in his inevitable slide into smack addiction.
Roger Knight (Dan Wyllie) overcame his fears and joined the big league, signing with a city ad agency and finding his first client was one he thought he'd happily seen the last of, Capt'n Crab.
On the other side of the faultline of sexual liberation, Martin Vickers (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor) beat his desire for co-worker Annie (Annie Maynard) back into a bucket, threatening to slam on a lid labelled "official complaint" if she didn't get the message. Score: marriage 1; decency 0.
But it's friends Debbie (Ashleigh Cummings) and Sue (Brenna Harding) who are the heart of everything in this show, and so it was fitting that the biggest moments were theirs. First, Sue finally freed herself from her dependency and her emotional cripple of a boyfriend, with the 1970s equivalent of the text-message dumping – "You're dropped" – in front of all his mates. Brilliant. Then came the sister-liberation moment when they rescued friendless Frieda (Eleanor Munro) from group sex in a panel van with the simple question "Do you want this?" Double brilliant. Then came the coup de grace – the girls swanning down to the beach, past the group from which they had once again been excluded, and launching into the waves on a surfboard of their own – thus boldly going where no moll has gone before. Triple brilliant.
You could complain, with some justice, that all this resolution was a bit too upbeat given the darkness that had preceded it — and that the Gary plotline clearly signals a whole other possible trajectory should the deserved second series be commissioned. But for mine, it was fine. What kind of beachside drama would it be if the sun never did shine?
In a sentence
To hell with the ratings, give us a second season.