One of the surprises in TEN’s Puberty Blues isn’t just the marquee names of Claudia Karvan, Susie Porter, Dan Wyllie, Rodger Corser and Jeremy Lindsay-Taylor.
And it isn’t only the sensitive performances of Ashleigh Cummings and Brenna Harding.
As the series progresses viewers will be privvy to some subtle work by some of the supporting players.
Sean Keenan plays Gary, surfer son to Ferris Hennessy (Corser) and Yvonne (Susan Prior), object of Sue’s (Harding) affection.
Three families are comprise the story lines of the TEN drama, and as co-producer Imogen Banks, multiple generations, was part of the project’s appeal.
“You have these lively adults going through their own crap and experiencing the 70s in their own way, and then you’ve got the kids doing the same thing. Everyone shifts through the series,” she says.
“Gary is just trying to figure it out. He’s getting these messages from his father, and love from his mother but he can see the torture in that relationship, so he’s trying to protect her. He loves his father but he can see what he’s doing. Then he has his mates, his girlfriend, and he’s in the middle of it.”
Other supporting players will also come to the fore.
“Charlotte Best playing Cheryl comes into her own later on. She’s fabulous. Isabelle Cornish who plays Vicki on the horse, she’s a great character as well. There’s a depth in the gang which is really nice.”
Banks says there have been changes in the television series that differ from the original book by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey.
“There might be stories in the book that have been shifted to suit the 8 episode arc. There might be things that happen to a peripheral character that we might have shifted to happen to somebody else. There’s been a lot of invention to the parents, so that we’ve invented characters that didn’t exist in the book or we’ve fleshed them out,” she explains.
“From memory I don’t think Debbie had a brother in the book.
“The parents didn’t feature much either. The book is really a collection of stories and memories from when they were 13 and 14 growing up in Cronulla, that they wrote when they were 18 or 19.”
The idea to adapt the best-seller came when she was mulling ideas to adapt an Australian literary classic, with co-producer John Edwards.
“It came up in light of Cloudstreet when Showcase were looking at properties. John and I were just throwing things around and we kept thinking about the traditional idea of an Australian classic and the idea of doing something colonial,” she says.
“One of us threw it up, not quite as a joke but as a brainstorming idea of Australian novels and things that were really popular or struck a nerve somewhere. Puberty Blues came up and it sort of stuck as an idea. I think it was something we wanted to do was partly the idea of looking back at such a potent time in Australian culture, and also because we immediately saw it as a way of continuing the work with multigenerations.
“I think that we really liked working in the territory of a generation of children and parents and it seemed like such a great vehicle for that, looking at them through the prism of the 70s.
“There’s so much to mine because it was such a potent period.”
The series has quickly won rave reviews and was TEN’s strongest offering on the small screen across all of last week. It was also a bold idea given there had already been a successful adaptation for the big screen, in 1981.
Getting the adaptation rights from Lette and Carey proved to be very achievable.
“It’s been a surprisingly easy process given that there are two of them and given they both have ideas about what the book means. It was really quite a simple negotiation,” says Banks.
“They’ve been really good to work with. They’ve been really clear, really generous, and really supportive.”
Banks says the series looks at innocence lost and experience gained, through the eyes of Sue (Harding) and Debbie (Cummings).
“The girls get their wish and become part of the Greenhills Gang but it’s essentially what that ends up meaning,” she says.
“It’s about an incredibly strong female friendship and those two girls and what that friendship enables them to do.
“They have this ambition to be in the cool gang and be adults in the world, to be wanted by those boys, so they will do anything to get that. But unfortunately the culture they do that in is incredibly mysoginistic, racist and casually brutal.
“They get involved in all sorts of things.”
If success continues for the series there is a good prospect it could be renewed for a second season, potentially moving beyond the life of the original novel.
“There can always be more when you’ve got a great bunch of characters because you can always think of things for them to do.
“They’re a lively bunch and the kids are great.”
Puberty Blues airs 8:30pm Wednesdays on TEN.