Love Child follows a handful of young women who are sent to Stanton House to wait out their pregnancies in order to spare their families the indignity of a public revelation of their predicament as unmarried mothers.
Monday, Nine, 8.40pm
Arguably it started in 2011 with the success of Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo. Since then, there's been a steady stream of local dramas enthusiastically mining the 20th century for stories, and the range of productions has spanned the decades from the 1920s to the '90s.
Love Child looks to the Swingin' '60s, specifically 1969, for its tale of a collision between the old ways and the new. It follows a handful of young women who are sent to Stanton House to wait out their pregnancies in order to spare their families the indignity of a public revelation of their predicament as unmarried mothers. They endure this confinement in a spartan facility attached to a hospital. The institution is ruled with an iron fist by matron Frances Bolton (Mandy McElhinney), who marches around lemon-lipped, barking orders and acidly remarking that the sexual revolution has a lot to answer for.
Into the mix, creator Sarah Lambert also introduces Joan Millar (Jessica Marais), a midwife straight off the plane from London whose progressive ideas bring her into conflict with both the matron and obstetrician Patrick McNaughton (Jonathan LaPaglia).
The hospital is in Kings Cross, a bustling hub of counter-culture activity. The suburbs, with their neat lawns, Holden sedans and asparagus mornay dinners, represent all that's conservative and stultifying. But the times are a-changin'. The Vietnam War is under way, the Apollo space program is exploring uncharted territory, the Rolling Stones are touring and some women are enjoying previously unimaginable freedom as a result of the pill.
Love Child is made by Playmaker Media, which also produces House Husbands. But while that series explores men and their experiences of modern domestic life, this eight-part drama has a decidedly female focus, though, like its stablemate, it benefits from astute casting.
Sophie Hensser radiates a rebellious vitality as Viv, the character who propels us into the story and who refuses to be shamed or tamed by her situation. Miranda Tapsell makes Martha a cheeky livewire, Gracie Gilbert is haunting as Annie, through whom we see the trauma of the adoption process, and Ella Scott Lynch lends strength and sophistication to Shirley. Marais is also terrific as a capable and compassionate woman in tune with the times but struggling to find her feet.
Love Child is unlikely to set the TV world on fire. But it uses the style, spirit and sounds of the '60s to good effect and the opening episodes offer enough appealing characters and engaging storylines to make a viewer care about these women and their battles on the home front.