Offspring creator slams Ten's 'tabloid approach'
Producer John Edwards says the network's promo ads were "underminding of the drama" in the death of a key Offspring character, which was meant to be a surprise.PT1M47S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ri9p 620 349 August 8, 2013
The death of a TV character is best served cold. It should be random, sudden, unexpected, immutable. An irreversible punctuation mark that delineates the show’s past from present. A heightened dramatic moment where the audience pauses to reflect on their own mortality.
The issue of mortality was new and we thought we should do it.
John Edwards and Imogen Banks, the producers and co-creators of Ten’s dramedy hit Offspring, knew they were taking an enormous risk when they decided to kill off one of the show’s most popular characters.
Questionable: The show's creators say they were unhappy with the way the show was promoted, with ads taking away some of the shock value. Photo: Ten screengrab
Heart-throb and father-to-be Patrick (Matthew Le Nevez) died in Wednesday night’s highly promoted episode after being hit by a car; initially, he seemed to be okay, but not long after the show’s heroine Nina (Asher Keddie) arrived at the hospital his condition became critical.
Between them, Edwards and Banks have a long and distinguished history of killing their on-screen babies, literally so in one instance. In their acclaimed series Tangle, they dispatched one of the show’s most difficult and bruising characters (played by Ben Mendelsohn) in the opening scene of the second season.
Even more audaciously, in one of the most shocking TV deaths of all time, the beloved, seven-year-old daughter of Claudia Karvan’s character Frankie died suddenly in Love My Way, which Edwards co-produced.
When Le Nevez signed up for Offspring, his growing profile in the US meant that his commitment to Offspring would “always be a minute-to-minute thing”, says Banks. “We had to lure him back. He’s been prolonging his time here. It’s not so much that his profile grew and he left. It’s more that we’ve been living on borrowed time throughout the whole process and we’re lucky we’ve had as much of him as we have.”
Consequently, an exit plan was always on the books.
Initially, Edwards, Banks, Keddie and Le Nevez were the only ones privy to episode 12’s dramatic turning point, the penultimate episode in a season that has focused on Nina and Patrick sorting out their hitherto messy relationship after Nina discovers she is pregnant to Patrick.
Offspring creators say they were lucky to keep Matthew Le Nevez, left, as long as they did.
So in place of the expectedly funny and jubilant scene in the labour ward where the overwhelmed couple and the eccentric Proudman clan would celebrate the birth of the newest member of the family, Nina watches Patrick slip away.
Edwards says that one of the rules they set for themselves when they created Offspring was to not repeat themselves or rely on standard genre conventions.
“We’ve tried to go forward with stories that might be unconventional in a romantic comedy story. For example, going ahead with the pregnancy, normally that wouldn’t happen in a rom-com. We deliberately wanted to go into new territory, just go where the characters would take us. The issue of mortality was new and we thought we should do it.”
Nor did they exploit the tragedy as a cliffhanger. “We did debate a lot when we’d do it in the series,” says Banks, “and we decided that, firstly, we wanted to settle the relationship and, secondly, we wanted it to be before the birth, not after the birth, partly because in character terms we wanted Nina to have something … we wanted to end the season on a complicated but hopeful note.”
Regrettably, many in the audience won’t have been blindsided by Patrick’s death last night, courtesy of Ten’s questionable promo which teasingly signalled that one of Patrick or Nina’s siblings Billie (Kat Stewart) and Jimmy (Richard Davies) wouldn’t make it to the end of the episode.
Edwards, who is arguably the country’s most prolific and successful drama producer, damns the network’s promotion of last night’s episode.
“It would have come as a surprise if it hadn’t been promo-ed,” says Edwards. “The intention was it would be completely surprising and shocking. Unfortunately, that’s been taken out of our hands.
“I think the fact that a guessing game is being encouraged is very, very unfortunate. I’ve been involved six times in series where we’ve done a similar thing. This is the first time it’s been promoted like this. I can only say that I think it’s extremely disappointing and not something we are happy with at all.”
Banks isn’t downplaying the risks involved in killing off Patrick Reid, even if Edwards teasingly adds “there’s a lot more to explore with Matt’s character, as you’ll see.” (He would not elaborate.)
“There’s always risks in change,” says Banks. “I think at the end of season one there was the risk of Don Hany (who played Chris Havel, Nina’s first Offspring love affair) not coming back. There’s the risk of having Nina pregnant. There have been risks all along the series but as John said before we’re determined to progress and not tread water. So far the audience has come with us, and hopefully that will continue. I think people will be devastated because he’s such a loved character. It was hard for us. We doubted it all the way through the process. We kept going back to the reasons we were doing it … There was a lot of debate and emotion over it. It wasn’t an easy thing to do.”
For now, however, it’s Vale Patrick Reid – anaesthetist, lover, heart-throb, dad-to-be and, according to a fan site, “massive spunk”.
Mercifully, however, he won’t be returning as a ghost. Nor, for the time being, are there plans to bring back old flame Chris Havel.
“Funny, everyone keeps asking that”, says Banks of Havel’s return. “I’m not giving anything away. But don’t keep your hopes up.”