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Fireflies is the new Australian drama, currently screening in its first
season on the ABC. It is interesting to look at this show, given that it
timeslot was moved from Sunday nights to Thursday. This is sweeping
based on realistic people and realistic situations. One thing's for
certain, it needs a 7:30pm Sunday timeslot. But lets not fault the ABc
actually encouraging fresh Australian content that is not situated around
hospital or police station.
This show is about a group of country volunteer firefighters. Primarily about three different couples, we watch as they deal with their jobs, their private lives and the issues of the local community. This is all set in the sweltering pot of a brutally hot Australian summer. We know there is going to be alot of bushfires, and we know that the characters are going to come into some serious conflict. There is some simmering sexual tension between the two leads, Jeremy Sims as Bakka, and Libby Tanner as Lill. She's moved from the city with her older husband Perry, (John Waters) and adds a sort of Seachange aspect to the mix. Bakka is married to Svetlana, a Russian woman, and they have two children.
Firstly, the countryside is breathtaking. Real bush is featured here, and the homes of the characters are frankly realistic in their humble construction. The production is of an excellent level, and the scripts aim to deal with alot of emotion without much pressure or contrived situations. Thankfully, there is not much blokiness or boofiness in the characters here, unlike Channel Seven's previous attempt at firestation drama in Fire.
The best thing about Fireflies is Jeremy Sims. Watching his acting proves just how versatile and underrated this actor is. He's got a wonderful natural delivery. He knows the laconic humour of the script, but doesn't throw it in your face with his lines. He's a great leading man, and it is a shame that more films and tv haven't used his talent to greater effect. The romance with Lill is palpatable, and audiences love to see a romance spark (no pun intended) - just look at David Wenham and Sigrid Thornton on Seachange. I loved Sims in Kangaroo Palace and Corridors of Power, "Now we're cooking with gas!" and its great to see a talented actor given some meaty material.
John Waters is tragically under-written as Perry. Waters is another legend of the Australian stage and TV. My memories of him on Playschool are taking over as Perry seems to all but fade into the background. Is he happy? Why does Lill stray from him? What does he do with his time? Let's see some more Perry.
Libby Tanner has a wonderful part as Lill. She's developing a quietness in her characters, and her looks and face convey some heavy emotion. She has real chemistry with Sims, and lets hope her relationship with Perry is fleshed out more.
It's a point of contention that we have another Australian drama set in the countryside - not the urban city. A show like Love is a Four Letter Word really tackled the issues of urban living head on, but there is something about 'bush living' that TV cannot stop pondering. Are the women on Mc Cleods Daughters 'real' Australians? I doubt it. Nevertheless, Fireflies attempts some hearty drama, without the pretentions of Australian stereotypes about identity and place.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I approached this series with high expectations. The cast includes some of the best Australian talent, fresh from successes in other places. Legends like John Waters are guaranteed to attract an audience. The location and premise could provide excitement, tension, character depth. This should have been a gem of Australian drama. So what went wrong? The series was a flop and I am not the first to say so. The actors seemed to do as well as they could in the circumstances but the end result was a series that went nowhere. John Waters came across as a one-dimensional, grumpy, inflexible character. I soon lost interest in all the characters' problems. It seemed that the writers knew very little about fire fighting or country people. These were a bunch of city people planted in what was supposed to be an isolated settlement all of 60 miles from Sydney. The personal relationships, completely irrelevant to the bush context, soon dominated and we were in front of a typical soap opera. There were few characters to admire. The "action" scenes were predictable and full or clichés. Considering the importance of what real RFS / CFA volunteers do, this series was a terrible waste of a good idea.
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