A couple of weeks ago the internet went into a mini meltdown. I’m quite partial to a meltdown or two so I know one when I see one. I saw the news first appear on my Facebook feed and soon after it popped up on Instagram. Text messages followed soon after. It was going viral and I swear this is true, I even overheard the “news” just an hour later when I was at a café grabbing a quick takeaway coffee.
Offspring Season Six. Returning 2016.
Oh my giddy aunt.
Offspring first premiered in 2010 and became an instant hit with a cult following. Superbly written (Debra Oswald is truly a genius) it was a show that resonated with many. I know I connected with Nina. Her messy head, inside thoughts, ramblings, insecurities and inner monologue made me feel normal. Just when I thought I’m the only one who over thinks thinking and question everything along comes a show where this one virtue is the very reason why the main character feels like my own kindred spirit. I know I’m not alone in thinking this. There is a little bit of Nina in all of us and if you aren’t like Nina then you are almost certain to be a bit like Billie. Despite their craziness and probably because of it, I think there were times I wanted to be a Proudman.
Never mind these are fictional characters. Offspring had my heart.
The news that season six was returning made me feel a bit warm inside. That of course had me wondering what it is about a television show that had this impact on me but with nearly 250,000 Facebook likes clearly this is a show that unites.
My guess is it is first and foremost the writing. Raw and uplifting. This is no Summer Bay or Ramsay Street. The stories are relatable. Relationships, family dysfunction, family love, infidelity, work conflicts, infertility and of course grief. It is the combination of these life forces and some terrific music that is why I loved it so much and I suspect many others did as well. Why hello Nina, my old friend, it will be good to see you again.
The Proudmans’ may not necessarily have taught us anything hugely insightful, what they have done in the last five years is given a gentle reminder about some important things worth remembering. So as we prepare for season six I thought I’d reflect on some of these life lessons thanks to Nina.
Make peace with your past
Early on we learn of Nina’s first marriage. This is around the time that she falls hard for her new colleague (dishy Dr Chris Hamal) who is also carrying some baggage of his own. In order for Nina to move forward with Chris she needs to get past her past and so a visit to her ex husband ensues.
The past is just that – the past. The good thing about the past is that you can learn from it and really that’s all it is good for. Forgiveness, acceptance, mistakes – you have to give yourself permission to move forward and as the saying goes, and as Nina learnt – if you don’t make peace with your past it ends up clogging up your present and your future.
The thing about Offspring is that it is one of those shows that not only has a bit of a cult following but there are a few cult episodes. If you were to do a poll of some of the best Offspring moments then sure enough the episode when Mick (Eddie Perfect is nothing short of brilliant) sings “Six at Best”. This of course is the song he wrote about sleeping with Nina who is his girlfriend Billie’s sister (for those not following at home.) This is one of those episodes that had people talking at work the next day. The moment in the pub, the song, it all laid the way for Billie to not only forgive Mick for his indiscretion but also for Billie and Nina to restore their relationship. Forgiveness is hard. As hard as it is to swallow your pride and say sorry, it is equally hard to say I forgive you. When you have been hurt not only is it hard to forgive it is also a basic human response not to. In this instance Billie chose her relationship with Nina over the betrayal. Aside from being pure comic gold, this episode and this scene was heaven to watch.
Sometimes your parents screw up
When I was growing up, and maybe it was a generational thing but I was taught that “mum knows best”. Of course all parents make mistakes but I do think that as a child and as a teenager I had this ridiculous notion that my mum was perfect and though I didn’t always agree with her decisions it never occurred to me that she had her own insecurities to battle. As an adult I now know this to be ridiculous and I’m well aware of some of the crap she had to deal with. As a child growing up under her roof I was never really privy to her stuff – Mum was always in control and she didn’t really let her weaknesses show. Nina’s parents, Geraldine and Darcy don’t hold back and they don’t pretend that they’ve got their shit together – quite the contrary. Darcy is the charming womaniser and as we learn in series four, Geraldine has her own secrets in the closet. Needless to say, this is a marriage with a whole lot going on and it is often that we see Nina having to parent them both through their misdemeanours. Parents aren’t perfect. Pretty sure my two year old had that sussed many months ago.
Some bonds can never be broken
Of this we can be sure. Billie and Nina’s bond is what the sisterhood is all about (except of course the Nina/Mick mishap.) I love how the writers explored their relationship. It is a friendship that is mad, beautiful, feisty, difficult and truthful. It was made all the more complex when it was discovered that they were indeed half sisters (enter the extraordinary Gary McDonald playing Nina’s biological father Phillip Noonan in series three.) Some of the most poignant episodes were soon after Patrick died. Billie has always been perhaps the less responsible of the two but when Patrick died we saw her become almost like a “tiger sister” for Nina – nurturing and protective. Billie stepped up and you know sometimes in life you just need to be around people who can step it up for you when things get rough. Of course, sometimes you have to be the stepper- upperer. Life is sometimes shit and happiness and sadness can be worlds apart and sometimes they can be closely linked. You need people who can do both. When life happens we all need to have a Billie around us.
It’s not in my nature to just let go. When I became a mum I was all routine, routine, repeat. I would (and still do) envy those mums who say “Oh, I just go with the flow”. I’d love to be an easy breezy kind of person but it’s not who I am and it is certainly not Nina’s style. This could explain why, when I would watch the show, I would spend much of my time nodding in agreement and understanding of whatever it was that Nina was carrying on about. Type A personality and all that. Anyway, in one particular episode Nina’s colleagues decide that she needs a girls night out. Fearing she’d become insufferable and uptight Nina decides to use this as an opportunity to prove that she too can be fun and spontaneous. The champagne and drinks flow and the barriers come down and what follows is another one of those cult episodes. Google “offspring nina drunk/tuff muff” and you won’t be disappointed. This is Asher Keddie at her funny best. I’m not always the most sensible or responsible but I don’t like the feeling of not being in control and there is a little lesson here for all Type A’s. It’s okay to let go and if you do the sky doesn’t fall in like chicken little thought it would.
There is no right way to grieve
The episode of Patrick’s funeral will probably be forever etched in my mind because only a week earlier I had given birth to my son and so I was watching this whilst feeding him. I was on hormone highway without a license. As a new mum my heart was raw and exposed and why I thought watching this episode at this particular time was a sensible thing to do I’ve no idea but I do remember wiping the tears away from my son’s face – my tears – not his. One of the things I love about Offspring is that they take these words from a script, turn them into moments of time that are constructed so much so that you sit there nodding your head thinking ‘Oh my god that’s so true’ I recall thinking this when Nina was at Patrick’s funeral, she was having a conversation with someone she’d never met (old friend of Patrick’s) and she was making polite conversation and pretending to have it together when inside she was a crumpled, heartbroken mess. Is there a right way to act when you grieve? How many times have we heard in the media judgement about how someone in the spotlight grieved the loss of a loved on? Imagine having to deal with the awful emotion that is grief and then be criticised for the manner in which you did. I don’t know much about the process but I’m damn sure that you just do whatever you need to do to keep going. This episode of Offspring was so subtle in the way it approached the grief process. Like I said, Debra Oswald – genius.
The finale of season five was wrapped up beautifully and led many to conclude that it was the end of Offspring. Whatever it is that the Nina and her family have in store for us in 2016 I know there will be a few life lessons for us all.