A Place to Call Home

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TUA2NYFLPFIn spite of having been weaned on British television series, we have become addicted to this unusual Australian TV period drama which is starting its fifth season. So far, we have seen more than 30 episodes, each ending with a tantalizing cliff-hanger. The characters are well-developed and interesting, the situations dramatic, the intergenerational, political and religious conflicts striking and provocative, all leading to binge watching of episodes.

In 1953, in the small, fictional, Australian town of Inverness which still bears traces of feudal class consciousness, Elizabeth Bligh, the opinionated matriarch of the Bligh family, dominates Ash Park, their baronial estate. Since the death of her husband she has ruled without interference over George, her widowed son and heir, and James and Anna, his adult children. Fragile James has been compelled to entered into a troubled marriage with clueless Olivia, and spirited Anna, whom the family has destined for a distinguished marriage, is secretly in love with Gino, the son of Italian tillers of the soil.

Enter Sarah Adams, a beautiful nurse with a mysterious European past (but not a social peer) who, while on board the ship returning from Europe with the Bligh family, saves the life of James. As a result, she is hired by Doctor Jack, director of the local Inverness hospital and a protégé of Mrs. Bligh.

The characters who provide the spine of the story are described above, but as episodes evolve additional major players emerge: Carolyn, the rebellious daughter who had been exiled by the imperious Mrs. Bligh; Regina, the conspiratorial and ruthless sister of George’s deceased wife, with an intense and unrequited passion for George; Mrs. Collins, a sweet, curious, small-town gossip who inadvertently triggers a number of problems for Sarah and the Bligh’s; and Roy, a kindly, rough-hewn neighbor who provides Sarah with a safe haven.

Although some might view “A Place to Call Home” as an Australian combination of “Dallas” and “The Borgias,” it has been compared favorably to the highly acclaimed “Downton Abbey.” But “A Place to Call Home” has more familiar and textured characters, notwithstanding some of its improbable events. It is a particularly timely series, leading us to wonder how different our present era is from the post World War II depicted, when Communism was a bugaboo, religious, political and social differences were deemed important and people viewed strangers with concern and suspicion.

Fred Rubinstein

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