The Return of Offspring - Just because you can doesn't mean you should
Yesterday Network Ten made a lot of noise about the return of their dramedy hit OFFSPRING for season six in 2016.
As well they should.
Offspring remains the high watermark for the Network that hasn't seen anything come close since the neatly-wrapped series finale in August 2014. Not one of their subsequent Aussie drama products (PARTY TRICKS, WONDERLAND) have delivered the ratings success or audience engagement of stories of the Proudman family.
Resurrecting Offspring will only end in one of two ways - it'll be really great and the audience will lap it up, or it'll just do OK and be seen as mediocre. Either way there will be guaranteed tears.
This isn't a comment on the crew, cast, scriptwriters or anyone associated with Offspring. The production itself will be made well and with love, in the usual hope that the audience will embrace these adored characters and settle right back in with them.
But haven't we all moved on?
Season four was indeed the saddest & showed the benefit of commissioning two seasons, allowing the writers to build stories across the full compliment of eps. The death of Patrick, Nina's love and father of her child, just as things seemed to be going great. Season five was a time of rebuilding and healing and the audience lapped it up. Could Leo ever replace Patrick? No way. Could Leo be someone who Nina could love and possibly build a new life with? Absolutely.
The final party scene that rounded out season five with the Proudmans and their extended, mixed-up, incredibly complex family spoke volumes to the deft touch of Debra Oswald, Michael Lucas, et al who built life and energy into the scripts that Asher Keddie, Kat Stewart, Patrick Brammall, Eddie Perfect & the rest breathed life into. We loved this motley crew and we were glad they all seemed happy.
Then... silence from Ten. For 18 months they remained tight-lipped as to the return of the series. No confirmation it was gone but also no confirmation it was returning.
We experienced the grief of loss all over again, but it was tinged with the hope of possibility. Our favourite was gone. Eventually we had to face facts - the show was done, but at least we all got a happy ending.
So the announcement of its return from the pit of despair must be viewed cautiously.
Keddie & Stewart signed on? Check.
Everyone else? Probably (though schedules may get tight).
Same writers? Well, yesterday writers Deb Oswald & Michael Lucas tweeted this...
I'm happy with where we took the story by the end of #offspring 5, so I've chosen not to be part of S6. I hope fans enjoy the new series.— Debra Oswald (@DebraOswald1) September 20, 2015
That poses a pretty big problem when it comes to hearing the characters we've come to know and love say the things we expect them to say. This is a big concern. There's also been no mention beyond Keddie & Stewart being signed on for this new season - and that's gotta have fans at least a little nervous.
There's a whole lot of other moving parts to get in order before the first scene is shot too.
So what if the magic isn't there?
Does it become the televisual equivalent of "it's not you, Nina... it's us"?
Ten's drama cupboard is very, very bare. They must fill it with something and an additional season of Offspring looks great on paper (as long as you ignore the fact it'll be way more expensive now there's no Government subsidy available). Offspring makes sense.
It's a long-form commitment (expectation of 13 episodes) but no guarantee of a seventh season so the smart writer will encapsulate everything into those eps. The Network couldn't handle the audience backlash of a cliffhanger that was never resolved so guaranteed it'll be another "wrapped up with a bow" finish.
Offspring, a show renown for its lead character's unpredictability, could suddenly become very predictable.
There are literally hundreds of writers pitching projects to production houses, and producers with big new Australian drama ideas. Ten could have picked up any number of these and developed a new hit series. They may well be doing just that as a pigeon pair anyway.
This is critical opportunity for Ten to return to the days when they took chances on new content, backed themselves and it paid off (mostly).
What Ten risk above all else is killing all the goodwill they've established over 2015 through creative (& largely successful) programming decisions AND summarily executing the legacy they had with a neat closure to the fifth season of Offspring.
Nobody wants to see Nina & Billie faff about pointlessly. Nobody wants to see another death like Patrick's (or worse - there's kids in the mix now). Nobody wants to see a whole bunch of new cast brought just to "spice things up a bit".
Most importantly nobody wants to see Offspring season six die a slow, painful, ratings death due to the audience questioning why they ever brought the show back in the first place (especially if the theme of those questions is "It's not as good as last time, is it?").
The ball is in your court, Network Ten. We're hopeful you'll make this new season of Offspring perfect. Please don't let us down.