Published on August 8th, 2012 | by Dan Barrett0
A TV show based on Puberty Blues is a great idea. Especially for Channel Ten. Beach locations, teens discovering sex and relationships (often in that order), a raw sense of Australiana, and a healthy dose of nudity. Everything about this show should work an absolute treat. It has great ambition, looks great, and a pretty wonderful cast. And yet, it’s about as appealing as a five hour-old Chiko roll.
When Ten announced that they were launching a TV series based on Puberty Blues, I was immediately on board. It was easy to see what a great opportunity this was. Puberty Blues is told from the perspective of two teenage girls who live along the beaches of the Sutherland Shire in Sydney. While the film was a somewhat sanitised version of the book, both were a raw depiction of teenage girls in the late 70′s who were ignorantly embracing the freedoms of feminism while still adhering to the gender-based conventions of the era. They’re unapologetically obsessed with boys, sex, and freedom.
What does that mean for a 2012 TV show? It means sex-focussed teenagers, gorgeous beach locations, a scantily clad cast, young bodies to be perved on, and the wonderful blanket of the now-distant 1970′s to wrap it all within. Being a period piece allows its more salacious aspects to be brushed aside at a faux-intellectual distance and allows the voyeuristic perve factor on the show quaint. Bless it.
Being about teenagers also means that the young Ten audience have a direct connection with the content in the show, with adults being able to reminisce about being a teenager themselves. And with many of these adults having read the book or seen the film as well, the Puberty Blues series offers a very firm touchstone for these viewers to connect with.
Sex, tight bodies, nostalgia. It should be a winner.
Where Puberty Blues goes slightly off-track is the decision to amp up the role that the adults play in the series. It’s notable in the film just how absent the adult characters are. While they had a dominating presence in the lives of the teens in the film, they were only really present as an (financial, emotional, and physical) obstacle to their activities. TV’s Puberty Blues has the adults taking just as active a role in the show as the teen girls. In fact, with so many adults in the series, there’s not really a whole lot of screen time given to the girls at all.
The series is gorgeous to look at. The cinematography is lush and the cast are all very attractive. What made the movie work so well is how raw and honest the production felt. It wasn’t glossy. The actors were okay-looking, but not your typical on-screen spunk-rats. The gloss given to the TV show is certainly pleasant, but it feels like it is hiding the honesty that a text like this should thrive on.
Puberty Blues the TV show is NOT Puberty Blues the movie. Nor should it be. If the TV series is to stand on it’s own right and craft a story that spans the eight season one episodes, the show needs to use the movie and book as a foundation and build upon it. Which they have. The problem is that for a TV series that is about the pains of being a teen (it’s right there in the title, people), the first episode spends a whole lot of time with the adults and neglects building the teenage girls as the lead characters that they need to be for the premise of the show to work.
Based off the first episode, Puberty Blues is a perfectly fine hour of television that will leave you entertained enough to be satisfied by it. The show does feel wonky. It’s structure doesn’t support the show that it purports to be and has instead developed into something that is at conflict with the spirit of Puberty Blues.
Puberty Blues launches 8:30pm August 15 on Channel 10.