It no longer worries William McInnes that people keep insulting him – even when one of those people is his mother. He’s been able to benefit from his tendency to annoy people who have never met him by taking on roles such as Matt, the nearest thing to a villain in The Time of Our Lives.
“People seem to think they have permission to give me a serve,” he laments. “I was on a golf course a couple of years ago and a bloke came up to me and said, ‘You’re William McInnes?’ I said, ‘Yes I am’. He said, ‘You’re a shithouse actor’.
“I did this TV show about bird watching, which I thought was a lot of fun, and this woman afterwards said, ‘I almost liked you on that show, you were almost nice, but there’s something about your eyes I don’t like.’
“And then our neighbour, a poor old lady from Northern Ireland, said, ‘Christ, look at you, you look like John Wayne just before he died’. I googled John Wayne just before he died and he looked like an exploded potato with a toupee on it.”
McInnes sought advice from his mother, asking why total strangers were giving him “both barrels”. His mother said: “Well, look at you. You’re six foot four, you’re moderately successful, and you look quite smug.” When McInnes said: “Oh thanks, ma”, she said: “Suck it up!”
And so he did, and embraced Matt, husband of Claudia Karvan’s obsessive Caroline in The Time of Our Lives, whose second season begins tonight on ABC1. This is how McInnes describes Matt: “He’s one of those guys who is eminently successful, had a couple of careers, very competitive, suddenly works out that what he had wasn’t what he really wanted. He’s probably a lovely bloke to know at first, but then he’s selfish and narrow-minded.”
Apart from the opportunity to work with Karvan (“You forget how great she always is”), McInnes enjoys playing “the cad” who betrays Caroline with a younger woman, because he has more “room to move” than he did with the handsome heroes in Blue Heelers and SeaChange. “I don’t know if I’m that good at being a goodie-goodie,” he reflects.
So does Matt get his comeuppance this season? “Sort of. Matt and Caroline, they are of their times. Former generations lived through a Depression and the Second World War and the uncertainty of the Cold War, the turmoil of the '60s, and they maintained a generosity of spirit. Now we’re not as grounded as my parents’ generation, but we feel more entitled, and we complain about every little thing. The show reflects that.
“Some people said about the first series that it was just middle-class claptrap and a show about nothing. There are no car chases or great deceits or Machiavellian schemes. But I like in the second series that the ideas of mortality and the complexity of these people’s lives actually impact on their sense of entitlement in their little bubble world. These people, as much as they can change, they do. There’s a definite journey for them both.”
So after the changes Matt goes through, will people come up to McInnes and say nice things? He laughs. “No, I don’t think they are ever going to end up liking me.”
Axe murder mystery
Channel Seven has set a new standard in programming ruthlessness with its decision to stop production on A Place To Call Home. Last Monday, Seven issued a press release headed “A Place To Call Home - 1.583 Million”, boasting that the show had drawn 968,000 viewers in the mainland capitals and 616,000 in the regional areas. Timeshift data suggested a further 283,000 had recorded it.
Simultaneously Seven revealed that it would not be filming a third season of the show. When this column asked why, Seven emailed this response: “The decision to end a series is complex and difficult and is made after much thoughtful consideration”. I then sent these questions:
1. Why was APTCH cancelled, when it was totaling more than a million viewers? 2. Was it because the audience was skewing too old – ie more suitable to the ABC? 3. Was it because one of the key actors had to leave? 4. Was it because the production values were too costly? 5. Is the audience figure for APTCH now the benchmark Seven will apply when deciding whether to renew or cancel other dramas?
A Seven publicist phoned to say they would not be answering those questions, and repeating that the decision was “not taken lightly”. So Seven’s rationale remains as mysterious as Sarah Adams’ past.
The shows that might …
The US TV networks have just unveiled 56 new series to be launched for what’s called “the fall 2014-15 season”. Within six months, more than half the new shows will be axed because of low ratings, but that won’t stop Australian networks promoting them as the hot new thing. Here are a few that seem likely to survive a little longer, based on the big names involved:
Jacki Weaver will be one of the stars of Gracepoint, about the murder of a young boy in a California seaside town. If the plot sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the US remake of Britain’s Broadchurch, and David Tennant repeats his role.
Steve Carell is the co-writer and producer of Angie Tribeca, about “a lone-wolf detective of the Really Heinous Crimes Unit who isn't happy when her boss makes her work with a partner”. The star is Rashida Jones (of Parks and Recreation), who doubles her chances of survival next season by being executive producer of A to Z, a sitcom about an online dating company starring How I Met Your Mother's Cristin Milioti and Mad Men's Ben Feldman.
Juliette Lewis is also doubly busy, as a detective in the US remake of Secrets and Lies - an Australian concept that flopped inexplicably on Ten earlier this year - and as a bartender in Wayward Pines, a thriller from director M. Night Shyamalan which also stars Matt Dillon.
David Duchovny (The X-Files and Californication) stars in Aquarius as a Los Angeles detective in the late 1960s tracking a small-time crook who turns out to be Charles Manson.
Matthew Perry (Friends) stars as sloppy Oscar in a remake of The Odd Couple (which he is co-writing with Frasier’s Joe Keenan).
Ellen DeGeneres is executive producer of One Big Happy, about a beautiful lesbian (Elisha Cuthbert) who decides to have a baby with her straight best friend, who then falls in love with someone else. Sitcoms have come a long way from the days when DeGeneres had to pretend to be straight.
For a daily update, see smh.com.au/entertainment/blog/the-tribal-mind