Claudia Karvan (left) and Ashleigh Cummings star in Puberty Blues.
Actor Stephen Curry grins as he recalls showing up to work on the wrong set. Currently shooting the second season of the ABC drama The Time of Our Lives, Curry was driving to the designated location in Melbourne's southern suburbs and spotted the unmistakable signs of a unit base - a line of vans and a marquee to accommodate the cast and crew as they eat their meals at trestle tables. He arrived only to realise that these were not his people.
Curry's experience is an indication of just how much local production is under way, and that mini-boom is evident most nights on our TVs. Through the first block of the ratings year - which stretches from early February to Easter - four of the five free-to-air networks have had at least one local drama series in prime time. Some have more, and many of these shows have substantial and consistent audiences.
The ABC has screened Rake, The Doctor Blake Mysteries and Janet King. Nine has Fat Tony & Co and Love Child. Seven has Winners & Losers, and Ten has Secrets & Lies and Puberty Blues.
But wait, there's more. As this batch wraps, there are new productions waiting in the wings and others poised to return. The ABC is set to launch The Gods of Wheat Street and the third Jack Irish telemovie; Ten has Offspring returning for its fifth season; and Seven has A Place to Call Home starting its second season. On pay TV, Foxtel has the second season of Wentworth set for May.
Overall, with the strong debut of Seven's Resurrection aside, imported drama series are no longer the drawcards that they once were. So while it might not exactly be a golden age for local drama - because that could be an exaggeration or a cliche - it's unquestionably a purple patch, a period of unprecedented diversity and abundance. And that's worth celebrating. This is a time when Australians are able to enjoy homegrown stories - the buzz of seeing our own cities on screen and streets that we might recognise, of hearing our own accents in an array of productions, from contemporary crime and domestic dramas to period pieces.
One of the pleasures of this proliferation is the opportunity it offers to see so many fine ensembles at work and to realise the depth and quality of the pool of acting talent available here.
Robert Mammone, originally cast as Tony Mokbel in the first season of Underbelly in 2008, found his character there relegated to a fleeting presence due to legal action.
Now, on Fat Tony & Co, he is front and centre and making a meal of the part, playing the drug lord with a compelling combination of ferocity and cunning, and balancing that with his duties as an attentive family man.
On Love Child, Ella Scott Lynch and Ryan Corr, as Shirley and Johnny, the troubled lovers and worried parents, have invested their characters with affecting depth and poignancy.
Then there's the magnificent Claudia Karvan, who'll be seen again as lawyer and discarded wife Caroline in The Time of Our Lives, but is currently on-screen working her magic as Judy Vickers, the wife, mother and school principal in Puberty Blues.
Karvan excels at playing not-especially-likeable characters - brittle, uptight, slightly smug and even cold women whose fragile shells crack before our eyes. Gradually, she allows her characters to reveal their vulnerability and humanity, encouraging us to understand and even empathise with them. The development of Judy's relationship with the wayward, needy and sometimes malicious Cheryl (Charlotte Best) - another beautifully drawn character - has been one of the more surprising and intriguing developments of the show's impressive second season.
Karvan is a standout, but Puberty Blues features a uniformly impressive cast.
Rodger Corser, as the demanding and philandering Ferris, presents a perfectly executed portrait of male frustration and rage.
Meanwhile, Sean Keenan, as his wounded son Gary, is a wrenching study of the consequences of growing up in the shadow of such troubled masculinity.
With this show, singling any of the actors out for special mention seems like a disservice to the others, as it offers a range of satisfyingly complex characters, and the well-chosen cast brings them to full-blooded life.
Vividly depicting a community scarred by quiet desperation and what director Glendyn Ivin has described as ''casual brutality'', it's a shining light at a time when the local drama scene is looking particularly bright.