There's really not much to say about the ABC Television production of Sea Change because, well... just about everyone has seen it. And all there is to say, really, is that its creator, Deb Cox, has brought us one of the most coherent and complex creations to come to Australian television.
I watched a lot of the first series, when I could - my family probably watched a bit more than half of those first 13 episodes. And it did seem to be a really pleasant, quirky exploration of life as we don't know it, but would one day like to. And it did show that the search for an idyllic lifestyle outside of the city might just carry a few dilemmas of its own - you may certainly leave one set of troubles behind, but there's always going to be a new set at the other end...
So now we have the ABC four-DVD set of Series One - 13 episodes at a bit over 50 minutes each. And how does it seem this time around, on second viewing?
Well, the result is that Sea Change no longer seems just relaxing, comfortable escapist fare. The second viewing reveals a show which is still intensely enjoyable - but a second viewing reveals far more richness and depth. It allows you to appreciate the full extent of the plot and character development throughout the series - how references are made in the first and second episodes to events which will only unfold many episodes and a couple of further series down the track. These are fully evolved characters and situations, inhabiting a very carefully structured universe. There's very little haphazard plot development during our visits to Pearl Bay; everything seems part of a grand pattern which must make this one of Australia's very finest television achievements.
That sort of claim is usually reserved for big, dramatic, powerful, epochal dramas (you probably have a few more favourite adjectives to throw in there) rather than a low-key, quirky, enigmatic show of this sort (you can throw in a few adjectives of your own here too, if you like). But its pleasing, low-key style should not obscure the very high level of creativity that has crafted this series.
Nor should it obscure the achievements of the actors - including Sigrid Thornton as Laura Gibson, John Howard as Bob Jelly, David Wenham as Diver Dan, Kerry Armstrong as Heather Jelly and Tom Long as Angus Kabiri. There are no absolutes here, every character is more or less (some a lot more than others!) flawed. But they are all so real.
The message of this sermon? If you were left cold by Sea Change first time around, rent this set - you may be pleasantly surprised. But if you really enjoyed it - buy it. It has aged very nicely. Let's hope we can say the same about ourselves!