Sue (Brenna Harding) & Debbie (Ashleigh Cummings)

Channel 10’s decision to translate a much loved book (& movie) to a TV series is a big risk. So many people reflect on the story and remember their youth, both the good and bad, and how it shaped them. After seeing a preview of the entire first episode of Puberty Blues last week they need not worry – it’s bloody fantastic.

While Cronulla may have copped a beating of late for it’s association with other shows or the memories of some ugly behaviour in the name of “patriotism”, what we’re presented with is a much more innocent Sutherland Shire. Kids are free to roam the streets during the day, everyone meets at the Club on Friday nights for dinner and the kids entertain themselves in the car park while their parents get on the drink, and it’s all about what’s happening down the beach. It looks spectacular, and the attention to detail shown in the shot selection, make up (especially hair/moustache styling) and costuming transports you back to a time of Sunny Boys, Splices & 70’s Aussie music blaring out of the back of panel vans. There are however darker secrets to these sunny suburbs that form the heart of this deliciously Australian story.

The casting of Cummings (Debbie Vickers) & Harding (Sue Knight) is spot on and the girls reflect the innocence of the time, as well as portray a great camaraderie on screen. Their parents – Jeremy Lindsay Taylor (Martin Vickers), Claudia Karvan (Judy Vickers), Dan Wyllie (Roger Knight) & Susie Porter (Pam Knight) – look amazing in costume and establish their characters and mirror the sexual tension bubbling throughout the 70’s note perfect. Lindsay Taylor again proves himself to be a chameleonic actor of note in his portrayal of the buttoned-down, straight-laced Martin, while Porter is divine as the Wife & Mother seeking to redefine herself and engage with her sexuality at a time when everything around her is changing. Rodger Corser as Ferris Hennessey shines as an absent dad engrossed in work up in Sydney (among other things) that renders one of the atypical father figures many will relate to, and at the centre of Gary Hennessey’s (Sean Keenan) rebellion.

While there’s no graphic nudity in the first episode (a couple of naked bums from Wyllie & Porter as they run into the sea one night for a skinny dip), the content reflects the coming of age story. Debbie & Sue want to be part of the ‘cool kids’ gang and are willing to do almost anything to gain acceptance from the group. They’re seeing boys and forming relationships (as well as ceasing them – “You’re dropped”), and despite the loving attention from their parents in its various forms are seeking to establish their individual identities as a part of the unique time and culture they’re living in.

If all eight episodes are as engaging and enveloping as the first episode of Puberty Blues then the Australian drama-loving public will flock to the series as seagulls to a discarded chip at the beach, and deservedly so.
Puberty Blues – Wed 15/08 8:30pm, Ch10.