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Friday, November 14, 2014

Seachange

 

The term 'seachange' hadn't been widely heard of in Australia until the launch of the ABC television series of the same name in 1998. The premise behind 'Seachange' was deceptively simple: the highly successful but deeply unhappy lawyer, Laura Gibson, decided to leave the stress of big-city life and a disastrous marriage behind and head for the small coastal township of - no, not Nelligen! - Pearl Bay. There she became a magistrate and gradually entangled herself in the lives and loves of the local population, a colourful collection of oddballs and eccentrics who could only exist within the mind of a television scriptwriter. Laura's gradual discovery of the real meaning of personal happiness and her slow-burn romance with the mysterious Diver Dan rapidly became a national obsession. Suddenly, everyone was talking about 'doing a seachange'. Seemingly overnight, country life became cool, small-town coastal life even cooler. The sleepy Victorian town of Barwon Heads, the set for the fictitious Pearl Bay, enjoyed a tourism and real estate renaissance. For a time, there was even talk of the town changing its name to Pearl Bay. Even today, many years after the final episode, coastal areas seeking to attract residents from the major cities will often term themselves 'seachange towns' as a way of summing up their appeal.

Despite being very well written and boasting an attractive cast, the real credit for the show's phenomenal success should probably go to its timing. Put simply, Seachange captured the zeitgeist. Every week, as audiences watched Laura slowly shrug off her big-city hang-ups and embrace a simpler life, many discovered they had a yearning to do the same. The series cleverly captured a national undercurrent of dissatisfaction. 'There must be more to life than this', we had been collectively moaning for years. Laura & Co. assured us that there was.

Either that or they had watched me move to "Riverbend" in 1993, five years earlier ☺