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Early attempt at Australian television drama

7/10
Author: JeiceWarrior from Australia
1 August 2013

I recently watched four episodes of "Autumn Affair" at the at the Australian Mediatheque in Melbourne. They were episodes #1, #10, #20, and #40.

To my knowledge, "Autumn Affair" was Australia's first regular dramatic TV series, one of the very few to have aired in the 1950s*. It was a simple soap opera about a middle-aged woman, a widow who wrote popular novels, who starts having romantic relationships again. Running from 1958 to 1959, the series featured a contemporary late-1950s setting.

The opening episode describes the main character as being in the "Autumn" of her life. Additionally, the series was set during Autumn.

In order to remind viewers what had happened in previous episodes, the series used an interesting gimmick. The episodes begin with a title card. This is followed by a shot of Julia Parrish, the main character, sitting behind a desk, writing something down (presumably for her next novel), while we hear her thoughts describing the events of the preceding episode(s). After this, there is a fade-out, and the episode itself begins.

The cast, who had little experience with TV acting, do a decent job, better than I was expecting them to. Muriel Steinbeck is the main star, playing the 43-year-old widow.

The production values are a mixed bag. The sets are decent for a 1958 soap opera, though are somewhat small. The camera work and camera angles are at times rather odd (but seem to improve as the series went on), and the incidental music which sometimes plays is often cut-off abruptly (in early episodes at least). In one of the episodes I viewed, Julia and a man (I forget which) were having a picnic, which was obviously done on a set on a sound-stage. Nevertheless, these faults are to be expected for such an early attempt at Australian television drama.

An interesting touch is that, during the closing credits, there are little drawings of autumn leaves.

The series aired in a 15-minute time-slot. The first episode runs about 11 minutes, the other episodes I viewed run about 13 to 14 minutes.

Despite its faults I found much to like about this series. I'd love to view the episodes in chronological order. Since most of the episodes still exist, I do hope it appears on DVD some day.

*Personally, I can only think of two other 1950s Australian dramatic TV series of the 1950s: hospital-set series "Emergency" (GTV-9, 1959) and a series-of-plays titled "Shell Presents" (ATN-7/GTV-9, 1959-1960).

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