DAVID BIANCULLI

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ERIC GOULD

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Visit Australia in the 1950s With 'A Place to Call Home'
November 23, 2017  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments
 

Whatever sharks may lurk in the waters off Australia, the Australian period soap A Place To Call Home hasn’t jumped them yet.

The fifth season of A Place to Call Home becomes available Thursday in the States on the streaming service Acorn, and naturally, everyone on the show still battles unresolved issues.

One of the charms of the show has always been that these problems rarely feel artificially inflated. Given that it’s a soap, which means it plays by soap rules, it has stayed within the parameters of what seems logical for the characters.

That’s not faint praise. Going four or five seasons without running out of credible ideas is impressive for any show.

A Place To Call Home remains anchored by Marta Dusseldorp’s Sarah Adams (top), a nurse who must navigate tricky personal and professional situations under the rules of the 1950s, which weren’t a lot different in Australia than in the U.S.

Women were gradually moving more deeply into the professional world, where it was understood they were rarely allowed to rise past a certain line. Everything above that, like becoming a doctor at the hospital where Sarah works, was man’s work.  

A Place deals with the glass ceiling as an ongoing issue, which seems consistent with how it would have impacted Sarah and the people with whom she deals.

Because the fifth season leaps four years ahead to 1958, we see both further changes and further resistance.

At the same time, gender never comes across as the only trigger for irrational bias. Season five starts with a deceptively sharp-edged storyline involving Dr. Henry Fox (Tim Draxl) and Aborigine war veteran Frank Gibbs, played by series newcomer Aaron Pedersen.

When Gibbs is slipping into diabetic shock, Fox assumes he’s just another drunkard and walks away. Sarah recognizes the symptoms and Gibbs survives.

Ironically, Fox himself has been a victim of societal prejudice for several seasons. He’s a closeted gay man who could lose everything, including his prestigious surgical position, were his “shame” revealed.

Like almost every drama on the show, this one also ties back into the aristocratic Bligh family.

Dr. Fox’s secret love is James Bligh (David Berry), a Bligh son whose own life isn’t exactly embraced by his family.

Sarah’s at-first secret and now slightly more open love is George Bligh (Brett Climo, top), a member of Parliament and Bligh family leader whose first wife is locked up on criminal insanity grounds. Among other things, she threatened to kill Sarah.

Mild spoiler: While she may be locked up, she’s not gone.

Meanwhile, George’s sister Carolyn Bligh (Sara Wiseman, left) wants to pursue a professional link to Gibbs, which causes some trouble, and Carolyn’s daughter Anna struggles with her second novel.

Part of the struggle involves her traumatic memories of her impulsive and ill-fated marriage to a farmer named Gino.

Family matriarch Elizabeth Bligh (Noni Hazlehurst) has mellowed a bit over the years, though she still has no shortage of opinions.

Like Downton Abbey, A Place to Call Home doesn’t rely on villains. We see some bad people doing bad things, but the real adversaries here, in many ways, are human nature and the changing world.

Doctors are trying to update hospital systems. Teenagers are trying to duck away from their elders.

A Place To Call Home tackles life’s ordinary and ongoing issues, which is what soaps do and why the good ones can keep going.

 
 
 
 
 
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2 Comments
 
 
MAS
George Bligh's first wife died years before the story started. The second wife Regina, who was locked up at the end of season 4, is the sister of the first.
Nov 23, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Roseann Milano
I'm only up to Season 2 on PBS and I'm shocked with what I've read here. Well, not shocked really - it is a soap opera. But I do love it.
Nov 23, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
 
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