Whoever has to review McLeod’s Daughters must have really pissed someone off... oh wait, that reviewer is me...
Yeah, I’m blushing.
Admittedly, I actually enjoyed this. GASP! Yeah, I hear ya. But as you may know if you’ve read other things written by yours truly, I'm a bit of a sucker for those emotional heartstrings and boy golly this series knew just how to twang them. Shot entirely in South Australia on a property just outside of Gawler, this reviewer’s beautiful home state (ah yes, I can be a Tourism SA ad too!), McLeod’s Daughters captures a powerful main story between two half-sisters and introduces a range of colourful characters that all combine together to create well-planned and executed series.
With one Silver Logie down and numerous nominations, the public sure like it, and after all, without them it wouldn’t still be here. Uh, the public that is – Logies can’t watch television... well actually, you never know what they get up to when you turn your back...
Anyway, enough about possessed Logies. After the death of Jack McLeod, Drover’s Run is left to be managed by Claire (Lisa Chappell), Jack’s daughter. However, half-sister Tess, through a second marriage, has been left half of Drover’s Run. So Tess treks up from Adelaide to visit her half sister and to discuss selling her half of the property. However, when she arrives she is swept up in the hectic nature of farm work and her motives change from wanting to sell to moving her roots and entering on a more personal journey. The following synopses give you a bit of a run down on what to expect with this series, and do contain serious plot spoilers. If you want to skip these, head down to the Video section of this review.
This is the Nine Network’s highest rating telemovie ever, and stars Jack Thompson, Kim Wilson and Tammy McIntosh in the lead roles, setting up the premise of the series. Large differences quickly come into the light when you start to watch the series, such as Jack already having passed by the time Tess arrives in the series, the reason she returns too. Still, this is the concept, kind of like a pilot, and worth a watch.
Episode 1: Welcome Home
After the passing of her father, Jack McLeod, Tess Silverman returns to Drover’s Run to see her half-sister, Claire, also a daughter of Jack McLeod, after learning she has been left half of the property in Jack’s will. However, this city girl is quickly shown out of place after Tess makes a crucial mistake, yet uncovers corruption on Drover’s Run. Also living on the farm is Meg and her daughter Jodi, who recently completed year 12.
Episode 2: Ducks on the Pond
Three new shearers are on Drover’s to help the ladies meet a wool order, however rumours have it that one of them is a murderer. After an altercation between Claire and one of the new shearers, they leave, forcing the ladies to do all the work. However, the suspect of the murderer returns during the nice with a very queer surprise up his sleeve.
Episode 3: Don’t Mess with the Girls
Ah the local rodeo. Neighbouring farmers Alex and Nick Ryan both start competing for the new blonde meat on Drover’s Run, a.k.a. Tess. Claire and Tess do start to form a bridge between their two worlds, however that night, Becky is in desperate need of help and the two sisters band together to help her out. Becky, accusing her boss, Brian, of rape, is taken onto Drover’s Run and given accommodation to let things cool down.
Episode 4: Who’s the Boss?
They’ve just made some money and Claire goes and blows half of it on undernourished sheep, something that infuriates Tess, forcing her to question Claire’s judgement. On the way back to Drover’s, the truck breaks down, and the ladies band together to muster them the whole way home. Jodi, still waiting for her year 12 results, her HSC’s, even thought she’s in South Australia which does the SACE (South Australian Certificate of Education), gets curious and looks her results up on the Internet and gets quite a surprise.
Episode 5: Taking the Reins
Tess quickly loses her riding confidence after falling from her horse, Oscar, while mustering cattle. Claire’s horse, and Jack’s old horse, Sirocco becomes ill, and it is discovered that there is a tumour. Meanwhile Becky takes Jodi out on one of her late night adventures to watch a train whiz past and then steal a dart board from the Gungellan hotel, her old place of work and Brian’s pub. Upon their return, Meg confronts Becky about her actions and illustrates her concerns for Jodi. Just a word of warning, keep the tissues handy for this one – brilliant Australian drama.
Episode 6: Reality Bites
The entrance of Becky’s mother sees Becky heading to the family truck stop to work, allowing Claire and Meg to learn more about her troubled past. While cleaning, Tess finds some birthday cards from Jack that Tess’s mother, Ruth, returned to sender, making Claire feel threatened that Jack loved Tess.
Episode 7: Pride and Joy
Madonna is purchased by Tess, and no, not the blonde version but a milking cow named Madonna, leading to an oversupply of milk. It is also discovered that Meg and Jack McLeod had an affair while he was alive, surprising Meg with Claire’s knowledge of these events. Meanwhile Jodi and Becky are out to catch a bull that is causing havoc, and financial and sentimental feuds grow between the Ryan’s and the McLeod’s with some tricky business work.
Episode 8: Stir Crazy
Everyone’s gone loopy, starting with Claire who risks her life against a big stallion who is trying to get with her prize mare. Meanwhile, Meg’s secret lover is revealed, shocking Jodi. In the evening, Tess invites the Ryan boys around for a BBQ and a tennis game, only to see, well smell rather, Claire with perfume on and a big overdose of testosterone with the two men competing for Tess’s attention yet again.
Episode 9: Into the Woods
When Roy the cattle dog is attacked by a wild boar, named Hannibal of all names, everyone is on edge sending Nick, Alex and Claire off in one direction, Becky and Brick (Brett) in another direction and Meg and Terry alone with Jodi out in the shearers’ quarters. However, at the house, Roy disappears, forcing Tess to try to find him in the night with Hannibal on the loose and the pig hunter Vladamir.
Episode 10: Haunted
Ruth’s belongings arrive at Drover’s Run, forcing all of the ladies to dig up past memories. On the way to Killarney, the Ryan’s farm, Tess and Claire come across a car accident. Tess runs to Killarney for help, leaving Claire with the victims, one of which is still stuck in the wrecked car. This is one episode where everyone is being haunted by the past and the present.
Episode 11: Who’s a Big Girl Now?
It’s Jodi’s 18th birthday party and Troy the super cool party man DJ comes to town with some romantic eyes for Jodi. As an aside, why is it that DJ’s always have that ‘tude? Anyway, while at the party, Meg has trouble watching this flirting, and struggles to come to terms with her baby’s maturing. This is one steamy party, forcing Tess to get some fresh air, only to be stalked by Alex where the pair end up “talking” for 40 minutes, leaving Claire and Nick rather curious.
Episode 12: Pandora’s Box
At a dinner at the Ryan’s, Tess asks questions about Nick’s accident, making the country folk show yet another example of country people not sharing their feelings and bottling them up inside. Becky becomes sick, with Meg and Jodi nursing her through, something she is not really used to. Jodi finds out that Becky can’t read, and takes this as an opportunity to teach her. The rivalry between the Ryan brothers continues and the truth about Nick’s accident is revealed.
Episode 13: Love of my Life
The other neighbour of the McLeod’s, Bill Tilson, packs up and has sold his property. After the garage sale, fire could be seen at Bill’s place, and the McLeod’s head over to investigate and arrive just in time to save Bill from a burning shed where he had locked himself in a car. It is then revealed that when Tess was 7, her mother tried to commit suicide and she blames herself.
Episode 14: Dirty Pool
Something dirty is happening around Gungellan. Cattle duffers are on the prowl, stealing cattle from all of the properties. Tess comes across Sid who lives in a tin shed on Drover’s Run who said that he saw the fired stockmen from Episode 1 fixing the fence line. The ladies camp out overnight and catch them in the act the next morning. Meanwhile, Becky is in Gungellan and tries to warn Kimmy, the new girl at the pub, of Brian’s wandering pecker, only to be given the cold shoulder by her and then accosted in the toilets by Brian, who threatens to rape her again.
Episode 15: If the Boot Fits
With the present of a new pair of boots, and Claire away at a seminar, Tess takes the role of manager. While trying to work too hard, Jodi gets injured, counting Meg and Jodi out of action, and Becky is heading into town with the mailman Bob. Becky and Bob come across Becky’s two brothers, the older of which was in jail, and they find them dumping poison into the creek, contaminating the water. Becky rings Tess, forcing Tess to go solo and muster all of the cattle from the paddocks, much to everyone’s surprise. While at the seminar, Claire and Alex meet Peter, and instantly sparks (or firework?) are there, fuelling debate and other such things.
Episode 16: Playing to Win
With the death of a local farmer, Harry Ryan is concerned for his longevity and works extra hard however has a serious accident while at work, making Mrs. Ryan spill the beans to Tess about the past. The Annual Hay Bale race takes place too, showing just exactly how to play to win, and suspicions arise when Meg is given a rooster from the dead farmer.
Episode 17: Girls Night Out
After making a 400% profit on the sheep that Claire bought earlier, the girls have a night out in Gungellan and try to entrap Brian after it is found out that Kimmy, the new barmaid, is succumbing to the same abuse from Brian.
Episode 18: More than one Way
Claire is ultimately frustrated by the relationship between Alex and Tess, and makes it quite clear that if her dreams of horse breeding go awry, there will be no need for her here and that her dream of owning a café could become a reality. However, Claire’s injury creates some problems for her dream.
Episode 19: The Italian Stallion
After Jodi is saved by two bulls by an Italian backpacker, she falls hopelessly in love with him. However, Meg, while doing his washing, finds his passport and also discovers that he is an illegal immigrant. However, Jodi and Alberto come up with the idea of marriage to keep him in the country, as they are quite obviously in love. However, the other ladies on Drover’s are a bit hesitant and Becky, being a good friend, tries to seduce Alberto to find that he doesn’t advance on Becky, saying that he loves Jodi. However, Jodi sees the pair leave Becky’s home, both putting their clothes back on, which at this moment Jodi rings the immigration department.
Episode 20: Lover Come Back
Lovers just keep coming back, from the bull that Claire sold to Nick, from Alex and Tess having a tiff and from letters from Alberto, which are making Jodi obsessed. This obsession though is driving Becky nuts, causing a big conflict and huge fireworks between Meg, Jodi and Becky, forcing Claire to choose who is to stay.
Episode 21: Friends Like These
The surprise arrival of two of Tess’s city friends quickly becomes a ticket out of Drover’s Run, with a lease on a café. However, problems arise at a party when one of Tess’s friends, an old flame, makes a move on her and Alex walks in. Not to mention some pill-popping fun by Briony, Tess’s other friend, and Jodi, resulting in some digestive pyrotechnics and some hasty decisions.
Episode 22: Deep Water
While Jodi is preparing for a bush polo match on Drover’s Run for the Miss Gungellan pageant, Meg and Claire come across Brian’s body floating in the dam. While Jodi is out practicing, she comes across Brian’s ute, abandoned in the middle of a paddock. Thinking that Becky had murdered Brian, Meg and Claire move the body to make it look like an accident in the national park. However, as per usual, there is also more than it seems.
There’s just a couple of general comments about the series, the first of which is that these girls really don’t have any luck – fire, theft, death, infidelity, sex, maturity, competition, murder and lovely sibling rivalry. That’s just the personal lives, too. Some of these stories do become a little far fetched, yet the quality of others brings things back down to earth. The biggest niggle though is when watching the series, especially the first few episodes, they nearly all finish with Tess and Claire reuniting and having a good old cackle. And yes cackle, not laugh. That just seemed a bit chummy and unrealistic, but maybe that’s just my cynicism...