Flat Chat Wrap #34 – Tall storeys: TV dramas set in apartment blocks

There’s so much doom and gloom around strata at the moment you feel you’re missing out if your apartment block isn’t on fire, falling down or both.

So we’ve decided to lighten the load in this week’s podcast with a look at TV shows that were set in apartment blocks, especially Australian shows.

And for that, there is no better person to sit at the Flat Chat microphone than producer, critic, writer, broadcaster, media podcaster and now cinema owner Andrew Mercado.

Andrew is a total Number 96 geek, not least because he produced the TV doco Number 96 … The Final Years. So, once we’ve heard about the joys of cinema ownership, that’s where we start our discussion.

It turns out that Number 96 was intended to be a vertical version of the UK’s Coronation St, which was very popular when the series was first devised by David Sale for Network 10 in 1972.

Television history will show that it went way beyond that in terms of its content, characters and shockingly liberal use of nudity (certainly for the time).

We then move on to my own show, Breakers – didn’t you know JimmyT was writing TV dramas before he ever typed a word about strata? – and how that fell foul of different censorship laws in Australia and the UK.

In Australia at the time, TV stations could show PG-rated stuff in the afternoons when kids were at school, but in the UK, it was general release stuff during the afternoons, which caused a problem with the BBC who had bought the series.

This was an issue because we had the first gay teenager as a permanent character in a teen soap (as well as the first Aboriginal kid as a permanent role).

For his efforts to push the envelope, Jimmy was exposed in his former newspaper in Scotland as “The man who wants to bring under-age gay sex to afternoon TV.”  Talk about fake news!

Moving on, we chat about how the Secret Life of Us could have been shot in Sydney … and why it wasn’t.

We look at Wonderland which Jimmy says was Breakers for grown-ups – partly because it was created by Sarah Walker, the senior writer on that show.

Andrew reckons Wonderland was “too nice”, an opinion backed up by Sarah – who, by a weird coincidence, Jimmy bumped into the next day – who confirmed the network only wanted positive stories.

Oh, and she denies it was Breakers for grown-ups; she says they were trying to make Sex and the City for Australia.

And finally, we talk about The Heights, the serial drama set in a Housing Commission apartment block which, in their wisdom, the network commissioned as half-hours then decided to run in one-hour blocks complete with two sets of titles and credits.

It’s still a very good show, Jimmy and Andrew agree, and they love the fact that you can binge on the whole series on iView.

Having rambled on about TV for way too long, Andrew and Jimmy’s chat about the movies and American TV shows set in apartments will have to wait till next week.

You can also hear Andrew talking about television and movies on his Mediaweek podcast HERE.


Jimmy Thomson’s website

Sue Williams website

Jimmy’s Australian Financial Review columns

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