‘Boys’ Hits Big Smoke at Last – The Age (02/12/93)

Boys’ Hits Big Smoke At Last
News; Arts
Philippa Hawker
02 December 1993
The AgeĀ 

`THE Boys from the Bush’ (Channel 7, 8.30pm) has been a long time coming to the screen: it is more than three years since it was made and British viewers have already seen this comedy co-production. It’s not really harmed by the delay – it’s scarcely a topical show, and it seems no more out of date than re-runs of `Minder’.

Like one of its main characters, whinging Pom Reg (Tim Healy), `The Boys from the Bush’ has a fondness for the past, for the comedy style on which `Minder’ drew so successfully. It also has a nostalgia for the days when Qantas flight attendants walked down the aisle with fumigating sprays.

For Reg, nostalgia is even more deeply rooted in the past: nothing can exceed the joys of the 1967 League Cup Final when Rodney Marsh starred for Queens Park Rangers against West Brom, but he is well aware those glory days are over.

Reg and his partner Dennis (Chris Haywood) run Melbourne Confidential: “introductions and investigations, verifications, conciliations, negotiations and specialised private transport” … a detective agency that also specialises in arranged marriages. Reg has been in “bloody Melbourne” for 20 years and can’t wait to get back to Shepherds Bush: Dennis is a country boy trying to make it in the big city. He is trying to satisfy the physical and domestic demands of his young girlfriend, Maria (Gia Carides), but is also convinced that his life has gone downhill since he left his wife.

In the first episode of this 10-part series, Reg and Dennis are called upon in both their Melbourne Confidential capacities. Dennis goes to the airport to pick up a Filipino bride for his mate Robb from Boggy Boggy Creek, while Reg is hired by an old acquaintance from his early days at the migrant hostel, for a mysterious job that involves buying an expensive stuffed platypus, a task that sees his introduction to the work of Graham Baxter, the Rembrandt of taxidermists. Reg, taken with the creature, buys a much cheaper copy, with complications that have ramifications for virtually everyone.

British scriptwriter Douglas Livingstone weaves in several other characters: there’s Reg’s long-suffering wife Doris (Pat Thomson), who seeks consolation in all the attractions the bowls club can offer; their grumpy daughter Arlene (Nadine Garner), looking for a man, or at least an alternative to a supermarket career path; and Reg’s English relative Leslie (Mark Haddigan), an unassuming chap who has come to Australia to recover from the shock of his wife walking out and taking the cat.

Dennis and Reg have an office next door to a brothel: its owner Delilah (Kris McQuade) is an amiable businesswoman who helps out the boys when they need advice or assistance, and they return the compliment.

In later episodes Dennis’s ex-wife, Corrie (Kirsty Child), reappears, creating various complications in his personal and professional life.

Livingstone shuffles around these characters efficiently, in a plot that interweaves their actions and expectations. Local references and sights – trams, cheesecakes from Myer, bowls clubs, Kerry Packer, talkback radio, old-fashioned pub interiors and nature strips – are incorporated without too much ostentation.

`The Boys from the Bush’ is successful enough in that it succeeds in doing something that has been done before, creating a simplified version of something that is already fairly simplified: a minor Melbourne `Minder’, a tried and tested style of comedy that isn’t exactly brimming with the shock of the new. A future episode features Bert Newton as a talk-show host: if that doesn’t make you nostalgic, nothing will.

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