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ABC tackles rivals on `Home' ground

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ABC tackles rivals on `Home' ground

The Australian

27 April 2005

WHEN the cast and crew of the new ABC teen drama Blue Water High were filming on Sydney's northern beaches earlier this year, they were often mistaken for that other television show featuring babes by the beach.

"The tourists would come past yelling, `Summer Bay, Summer Bay'," BWH actor Kate Bell said, referring to the fictional beachside town which features in Seven's popular soap Home and Away.

Blue Water High is set around an elite surfing academy and follows the lives of seven teenagers who attend its year-long residential surfing and schooling program.

The similarities between it and Home and Away are obvious: both casts are young and good-looking, both shows have a beach backdrop and both are attractive to teenaged viewers.

But the ABC's head of children's television, Claire Henderson, is adamant that the national broadcaster's new foray into teen TV is not intended to compete with Australia's #1 drama Home and Away, or Ten's internationally popular Neighbours.

She described the two commercial programs as daily "family shows" which feature dramatic, issue-based and often cliffhanger storylines. BWH, by contrast, is a weekly show specifically aimed at a younger demographic (12- to 15-year-olds) and has storylines resolved at the end of each 25-minute episode.

"It's very much about the lives of these kids. It's about school work and getting on in relationships and having enough money," Ms Henderson said. "It's not an issues program, with stalkers or bulimia. There are not dramatic events every week." BWH, which was launched last night and will air weekly next month, is the ABC's first teen-based show since Heartbreak High, which ended in 1999, and the first to revolve around surfing.

A co-production between Southern Star, the ABC and German broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk, the show also features a German actor, Mara Scherzinger, playing an exchange student.

BWH stars Australian actors Nadine Garner, Martin Lyons, Lochie Daddo and Liz Burch alongside newcomers including Bell and Tahyna Tozzi, a model who often appears at social events with swimmer Ian Thorpe.

Bell, 21, who once had a guest spot on Home and Away, said she had enjoyed working on an ABC show, even though she had to wear a bikini in almost every shot.

"I feel really privileged to be part of an ABC drama, because when they put together these sorts of series they do it so well," she said, naming SeaChange as one of her favourite shows produced by the national broadcaster.

"I did find wearing the bikinis all the time a bit hard to get used to. But imagine if this was on a commercial network -- we'd probably be in even less clothes and be wearing (skimpy, thong-style) Brazilian bikinis every day."

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