PUBERTY BLUES Episode 1 Review

Mature, beautifully shot and well acted, PUBERTY BLUES has the potential to develop into a very interesting and engaging piece of television, something NETWORK10 currently is in very VERY short supply of. Based on the 1979 book of the same name by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey, Puberty Blues is a coming of age story detailing the lives of a handful of middle class families living by the beach. Focusing on lives of the parents just as much as the high-schooler kids, the premiere episode has gone to great extents to established a fully fleshed out world.

However, while the adult cast features some of Australian TVs most talented and highly awarded, such as Claudia Karvan, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Susie Porter, Dan Wyllie, and Rodger Corser, you never get the impression that they are doing the heavy lifting. Both Brenna Harding‘s Sue and Sean Keenan‘s Gary are both introduced with stories that have the potential to arc season long, working through issues with their parents and their behaviour and how that shapes and affects them and their identity.

If there was any show that Puberty Blues reminded me of it would be the ye ole truthful and heartfelt classic My So-Called Life. Unlike most recent fair like UK’s melodrama in overdrive Skins, Puberty Blues presents the child-parent relationship equally. While the younger cast will most definitely be the stars, and the focus of the majority of the storylines, the parents are still given their own issues and problems to work through. And much like real child-parent relationships these issues will trickle down and effect the child. The major hint in the pilot being Corser‘s Ferris Hennessey inevitable affair discovery by his son Gary.

My So-Called Life



The 1970s setting also looks as though it will allow for exploring gender roles, roles of the domestic space and the objectification of women. I guess a point of this will be to say that maybe these issues still exist some 40 years later. But I hope they at least confront them rather than just bring them up to establish the time and setting and then drop them. Because at the moment there isn’t exactly a clear purpose as to why this needed to be set in the 70s and just couldn’t be moved to a modern time. I mean of course there are many benefits, but it is inspired by a book, and the show will have to invent a whole lot of more story lines, characters, etc. I just hope that they utilise their setting and period. And some naff outfits, and dorky home decoration isn’t really going to cut it (although in saying that I must admit I do still enjoy some of that general goofiness).

Now with all this jibber-jabber on my part, I have left out the best part of the show. Firstly, I thought they show was really well shot. The stary-night, and those gorgeous surfing shots were totally engrossing and lush, while also getting you into a mindset of the characters. And yet there was also a griminess and a texture to those parking lot and bathroom scenes. I found this to really captured these dichotomies of youth. The endlessness of  discovering who you are, and the flip side; the utter desperation and need to be surrounded by others. In going through puberty we are constantly surrounded by a want for escape and acceptance, and the unknowingness of where life will take us. When we are 16 there is total chance of becoming anything and everything good, bad and in-between.

However, while this is great and all, the shining beacon, the absolute findof Puberty Blues would have to be, without a doubt, the performances of Ashleigh Cummings and Brenna Harding as Debbie Vickers and Sue Knight, respectively. The charisma of these two performers is so obvious that there is no doubt of their friendship. They play off each other so well that it makes every comedic moment land. You are interested in these characters and you want to root for the, which is exactly what is being asked of them.

Overall, Puberty Blues’ premiere does exactly what it needs to do. It sets up the world, as well as allowing glimpses into the attitudes and issues that will confront the cast. While also well shot, the show is grounded by a marvellous central cast of established, and up-and-coming Australian talent.

All will do it good to help given the current landscape of Network 10‘s original programing of low rent ‘reality’ TV series like; The Shire and Being Lara Bingle,but also set it apart, and push it to the top of Australia’s original programming as a whole.


Words by Luke Letourneau.