This morning some of us probably woke up thinking, no it can’t be the end, not yet, we’re not ready, we want to see Zoe walking and talking, and going off to kinder. We need to know if Neens and Leo will make a go of their relationship and if Zara will be able to juggle med school and family life. Will Jimmy’s taco empire keep growing? Will Darcy and Cherie and Clegg & Co. find neighbouring houses for their not-quite-commune? And Billie, will she be okay? So many things still to explore, yet it is quite possible that Offspring left us last night, for the final time.
I am an unabashed fan of Offspring, and I know I’m not the only one. The exploits of the Proudman clan have entertained, amused and devastated viewers for five seasons. We have loved Nina and the crazy goings on at the hospital, Nina and the fashion, Nina and those boots – which would NEVER survive a shift delivering babies, Nina’s love life, Nina and Billie, Nina and Patrick, oh Patrick, and Nina as a mum. So much to love. Le sigh.
After the brilliant season finale last night – which was badly disrespected by that stupid Wonderland promo between the final scene and the credits – sorry Wonderland, but Offspring fans aren’t going to fall into bed with you just because of your funky setting and relentlessly ‘saucy’ promos… I’d almost rather watch The Bachelor – okay, I wouldn’t rather watch that shite, but you get the drift, I got to thinking about why I love shows like Offspring so much. (Side note, that could be the longest run-on sentence I’ve ever written, but look it’s an emotional subject, so let’s just roll with it. Oops I did it again.)
So, my thinking went like this… I love Offspring, therefore, Enid Blyton. See, yep, you get it.
No? Okay, let me explain.
When I was a kid, I loved reading. LOVED it. I remember excursions to the local book store to add another Enid Blyton title to my collection. I was obsessed with the Famous Five, and the tales of adventure that Julian, Dick and Anne, George and Timmy the dog had on Kirrin Island. The language in those books evokes such feel-good memories for me – lashings of ginger beer, jolly good, and the smell of the hard backs that belonged to my aunt and are now mine… heaven.
Whether it was the Famous Five scampering about Kirrin Island, or eating picnic lunches featuring tongue sandwiches, or the girls of Mallory Towers indulging in midnight feasts or dormitory shenanigans, there was one constant – they were in it together, they were a family, a team, and the sun always came up the next day. I still adore these stories, though I feel a bit ripped off for poor Anne who was often relegated to the role of dutiful housekeeper because she wasn’t a boy like her brothers, or a tomboy like cousin George.
The books spoke to something I longed for (even if I couldn’t articulate it at the time) – a sense of family, togetherness, the thrill of it being us against the world. When I think about the TV shows I’ve loved, as a kid and an adult, those themes shine through, sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes more subtly. These shows include The Brady Bunch where even when things got fractious, boys against girls, or the Marcia, Marcia, Marcia moments, when push came to shove they were united – the family that sings and dances together, and stars in laundry powder commercials together, and ends up in jail together, stays together!
Then there was Friends, which when I look back on now, I don’t really see in the same light, but at the time, it was the Offspring of its day. We went gaga for those six crazy kids living in NYC – the romances, the tensions and triumphs, the marrying, divorcing, marrying, divorcing (sorry Ross), naked guy, Central Perk, Gunther’s undying unrequited love for Rachel. Even as the series came to an end and they went their separate ways, you knew they were a family. I read somewhere recently that Monica and Chandler’s twins would be university aged by now, say it isn’t so!!
Here comes the unexpected show in the mix, Star Trek Voyager. I know, right! Blame/credit an old boyfriend, who played a mean bass guitar and got me hooked on that show, like a baby on gin soaked rusks. That show had all the things I love, just set in space – camaraderie, teamwork, a sense of purpose, the sexual tension between Captain Kathryn Janeway (she of the unmoving hair and limited facial expressions) and her tattooed Commander Chakotay. I loved it, I love it still. Not quite a Trekkie, but hello, have you seen Seven of Nine?? Hawt!!
The Famous Five, Mallory Towers… The Brady Bunch, Friends, Star Trek Voyager – and then there was, The West Wing.
I could wax lyrical about my love for The West Wing until the internet is a forgotten dinosaur. I’m not joking. The genius of Aaron Sorkin’s writing, the fact the show was pitched at a meeting he wasn’t even prepared for and then became such a hit, a show about politics, the cast…. oh, sweet Lord, Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn. Bam! That’s what I’m talking about.
Seriously, I’m getting flustered, I can’t sound like anything but a raving fan because that is what I am. Sure, season 5 went a bit wonky, but they got that train back on the track and President Bartlet still gets my vote every time. And can we talk about Allison Janney’s BRILLIANCE as Press Secretary then Chief of Staff CJ Cregg for a minute? Or the stellar Martin Sheen, or the late, great John Spencer. That show happened at just the right time to get the cast of a lifetime together.
Here’s what it is in a nutshell:
President Bartlet (promoting Will to the inner circle of West Wing staff): There’s a promise that I ask everyone who works here to make: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Do you know why?
Will Bailey: Because it’s the only thing that ever has.
And the episode that Sorkin wrote in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was utterly brilliant. A one-act play that spoke to the shock, anger and brokenness that America was feeling at the time. Nuanced, human, complex – it set the tone for a season where terrorism was an ever-present menace, a threat which tested the Bartlet administration’s idealism against the realities of the world we live in.
Somehow, out of his imagination, Aaron Sorkin crafted these idealistic yet deeply flawed, passionate, me on my best day characters – people who were willing to work day and night, year after year, towards an amazing goal – literally changing the course of history. I’ve never had a job where the future of the free world was at stake. Have you?
Which brings me back to Offspring.
Nina wasn’t changing the course of history, but she was definitely forging a path through life, in all its beauty and sorrow.
Sometimes she got it so, so right, sometimes not, just like us. That’s the power of the brilliant writers behind the show. To them I say a heartfelt thank you.
Whether Nina and the Proudman clan return to our TV screens or not, they’ve certainly won a place in the hearts of the people who send Twitter into a meltdown with every plot twist and stolen moment on what I’m now dubbing ‘the balcony of truth‘.
We might not share Nina’s boho style and love of scarves, or have a family quite as raucous and entangled as the Proudmans, but I think the success of the show rests on the way it speaks to our deepest human need – connectedness, and unconditional love, with a massive dash of shenanigans thrown in for good measure.
I love you, you crazy Proudmans. I’ll miss you.
Good luck Neens.