As producer Sue Seeary explains, “The big note that we received from the network was ‘Don’t reinvent it. Don’t change it too much because it’s working and they loved it.’
“But definitely the second series has a larger ensemble cast, so that means more story is given to the ensemble and perhaps to a lesser degree to guest cast.
“We’ve stayed in our world of homes and schools, so the locations haven’t changed greatly.”
Nine’s newest melodrama has succeeded where recent procedural shows, and variations thereof, have failed: Cops LAC and Tricky Business in particular. While Seven had Packed to the Rafters and TEN had Offspring, Nine was lacking an equivalent.
“I think it was definitely a considered move by Nine to move away from the more-procedural shows and try and find something that was a character-based drama. House Husbands has hit a chord because it has a great group of characters that the audience can identify with,” says Seeary.
“It has a very playful nature which is very appealing.”
Now the show has a Logie Award as Most Popular Drama. But who is its audience and do the ‘Husbands’ of the title draw in elusive male viewers?
“I would imagine it’s more female but that’s not to say that there aren’t quite a few male friends I have who are enjoying it as well. It’s interesting actually. Anecdotally the demographic is really broad.
“I have young teenage boys who are enjoying it as well as aunts who are in their late 70s.
“(Nine) were looking for something that did have a broad appeal. The fact that they are such domestic stories resonates with mothers and fathers in homes all around Australia.”
The show created by Elle Beaumont and Drew Proffitt also carefully straddles a line between drama and light comedy in domestic situations. But is there a temptation to depict the males as inept, regularly scolded by wiser females?
“Not all of our men behave badly. What’s great about all of them is they’re doing what they believe to be the right thing. They all have a genuine love for their families and partners. They may have attitudinal differences but they have those between the four house husbands as well,” she explains.
“They are at times young boys being men, but aren’t most?”
One challenge for writers is to create situations for the men to appear in group scenes, especially given they neither live nor work together.
“The show really sings when the 4 husbands are in the same scene. That was definitely something that we observed and enjoyed from series one. So we’ve tried to make it an essential element of all episodes in Season Two. Obviously the bigger the number of cast on set the more complicated every element of capturing it becomes. But we think it’s worth it.
“Doing a second series gives you more freedom to play around the edges, more so than attacking the belly, because you’ve made so many of those key decisions that you’re scrambling fast to make when you’re setting up a show.
“The one department that never gets it easy on a second season is the script department who have to come up with brand new ideas.”
Season Two sees all principal cast members return, plus the addition of baby Jem for Phoebe (Georgia Flood) and new school teacher, Mr. Tuck (Rick Donald).
Seeary says gay couple Kane (Gyton Grantley) and Tom (Tim Campbell) will also welcome a foster child named Finn. Depicting a gay couple as equitable as straight couples was one of the show’s quiet achievements. As Modern Family learned when it finally included a same-sex kiss, leaving it quite late in its life-cycle created unnecessary attention. House Husbands got it out of the way in Season One during a moment of public celebration, without incident.
“There’s a few more (this season) but it’s about not making a big statement about it. It’s allowing that couple to exist as any other couple on screen. It’s not an issue,” says Seeary.
“Season Two gay marriage isn’t tackled but rights of adoptive parents is lightly touched on. But it’s not a banner-waving element of the episode in which it appears.
“The House Husbands approach is to take an emotional storyline rather than a political one.”
House Husbands airs 8:40pm Mondays on Nine.