A Triumph for Optimism SMH – (01/06/87)

The Guide; Reviews
Deidre Macpherson
01 June 1987
Sydney Morning Herald

IT IS the strong message of optimism in adversity that makes The Henderson Kids II a potential winner for Channel 10.

Steve and Tamara Henderson and their friends “Brains” and “Vinnie” have stepped from the initial, slower-moving series into a more potent and contemporary drama.

Instead of exploring the cliche of teenagers rebelling against their parents’ authority, HKII reverses the roles. Steve and Tam patronise the illusions of success clung to by their immature father, Wall. Again, he abandons them, leaving them to survive the discomforts of the lives of the disadvantaged.


Not only do they have to merge into a new environment – the working class society of Westport – but they have to be accepted at the local high school, cope with hunger, the absence of money, lack of credibility and the constant depredations of corrupt men.


It may sound melodramatic, and certainly the screenplay doesn’t have the same depth of In Between, another Melbourne show about teenagers (screened on SBS), but the 12-episode production has the stamp of quality on it.


Last year, Nadine Garner won a Logie for the best newcomer for her earlier role as Tamara. With this second series she has matured in the character, resembling, at times, a she-cat. Despite her pert appearance, she rears up fiercely to defend her friends and fight for survival.


Paul Smith as Steve manages to reveal his dichotomy of roles … that of a normal young guy who wants to have romance and fun while wrestling with the onerous responsibility of keeping an eye on Tam and maintaining the vulnerable family concept.


The Henderson Kids II premieres next Saturday night at 7.30pm.


“It’s a courageous move but it’s to be applauded,” said Hector Crawford, head of Crawford Productions, commenting on the programming time.

“It’s not just a children’s program, it’s a family program, really. But I hope they get support for the decision.”


Mr Crawford said that the first series of The Henderson Kids, which won a Penguin Award last year for the best children’s drama, has sold well to interesting markets overseas. They include Swaziland, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Poland, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Turkey, Iceland and the Netherlands. Sales to Britain and America are both in negotiation.


“The show’s penetration of new markets is really enormously significant,” he said.


At the moment, production of material for children’s television by Crawford’s accounts for 15 per cent of their total output.


“But success will stimulate further production for children,” he said. “We need to establish that children’s programming is necessary, desirable and wanted. I think this is happening. At present in Australia, I see a surprising consciousness of the need to do something about children’s television -the networks’ attitude has changed. They are seeking out children’s programs more than they used to some years ago,” he said.


“Our company is starting to look at the third series of The Henderson Kids. We’re happy and confident with it,” he said.


Tom Warne, programmer for the Channel 10 network, believes that an effort should be made to play “C classification” dramas in prime time. But once a good series has finished, he says he has difficulty in getting good family material to continue on in the same time slot.


Whether it is an Australian characteristic or not, he has found that television audiences like familiarity and continuity. For this reason he may later combine The Henderson Kids I and II and repeat them as a complete series.

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