I normally take a month off around this time of year to drink. So I have no apologies for my absence. I like to think of the internet as my most popular yet faithful mistress, always there waiting when I return, yet with two million new friends.
During my sabbatical, I trekked to Taylor Square for a labour intesive retreat holding up a bar, I encountered a phenomenon new to my field of experience. Namely drunk strangers coming up and saying variants of the same thing: 'Are you that dude from the Chefs? That fucken sucked.' or ''Hey are you on that cooking show? I work in a kitchen, it's nothing like that.' or 'You motherfucker I watched episode one of that thing and it really fucken sucked.'
One's first impulse is to question why these people watch television, what's that thing about TV letting people into your living room you wouldn't let past the front door, and why they care so much about it (enough to wanna fuck with my night), but one forgets, firstly that these people have no choice, they're often imbecilic and have been raised watching television. And secondly, it was only a year ago I too cared somewhat.
I'd been attatched to the Cooks for about two years by the time they decided to make the series. The pilot had been deemed too adult and Ten were keen to pick up the Secret Life reins. But they stalled it's starting point for two years while they tested various waters, would Friels do it? How did one make it, ahem, 'spunkier' etc? More sex obviously, and a Sony contracted teenage soundtrack. During this time I gave up theatre gigs due to my contractual obligations, no complaint, I was getting paid, but was doin nothing.
Nick my fellow cast member was asked to drop his Indian accent, a pretty authentic one I might add, the day before we filmed. Poor bugger. The reasons were never clear, came from on high, but one can imagine the Ten boardroom mouthing the word ethnicity. Trying it on for size. For the truth of it is the old Ten share prices have NEVER looked good whenever there's been a new drama airing. Even Secret Life. I felt at that point, at the old accent drop, that we may have been on a shaky vessel. So I did what I always do in a shaky vessel, some acting.
Six months later we'd filmed the thing, but despite the lack of money towards the end (we couldn't shoot in the kitchens for lack of food) which signalled a slight mistrust by Ten, the cast itself, I still maintain as one of the highest quality bunch I've worked with, and I felt confident that AT THE VERY LEAST we had made some better than average telly. I mean it wasn't about cops and nurses and teenagers, know what I mean? Perhaps not.
Ten stalled and stalled releasing the series over 2004. Easter looked promising. Then it wasn't right to put it against the Olympics. Then they were scared to put it up against Sex in the City. Reasons? Or excuses? Ten may have not liked the product they got but they wouldn't say. I wouldn't let my kids watch it personally. I hate TV. But that's a different matter. Official word from publicity was that 'they loved it'.
Alarm bells clanged when the same publicity told us it was going on half in ratings half out, and it was up against the last eps of Sex in The City... I had my doubts. That is of course the moment they require you to juggle peices of fruit for the cover of the TV guide.
Nobody watched the first episode and Ten pulled it, stuffed it late ten thirty Thursday. Okay. Firstly, unlike many new series, which film their episodes three and four first so one has the gleam of a team that's hitting the ground running for the premiere episode, Cooks couldn't do this for big bad budget reasons. Secondly which first episdode has EVER been anything but a bit of a clunkfest, establishing UST and all that crap. And on the same theme when has a new drama series ever been judged on it's first episode? The network programmer had told a cast member at the official launch only a few weeks before when asked if he would pull the series after one episode 'No, not one'. Probably didn't forsee those ratings figures. Maybe. But one ep? Against Carrie and a baby? Or a wedding dress? Or whatever the fuck it was? Most likely he never liked the series. Probably also owns a four wheeled drive.
The Cooks had been banging around Ten for FIVE YEARS. People lost bits of their life over that thing. Only to be shelved on the starting line. I mean really. Was some of it cheesy? Totally. Cheesier than John Woods ballroom dancing? Who cares. TV audiences watch Idol in unprecedented numbers while CSI costs us twenny grand an episode to import. The Cooks cost round a hundred and fifty grand an ep to make. Do the math. If I was head programmer answering to a board I'd be staying the fuck away from new Australian drama (except that niggling little Australian content quota, what to do there? keep it cheap, foldable, storable) and importing as much cop, nurse and reality as I could.
The bitch is that it was so fun to shoot. Kissing pretty actresses. Getting paid. Cool stuff like that.
So a chapter lies bathed in broken dreams and vitriol? Hardly. I predict nobody will ever point me out from that show again.
Anyone who wasn't out drinking over summer at ten thirty on a Thursday night is only a Taylor Square tourist anyway.