Sunday, 6 August 2017

755 Return To Eden

First  viewed :  30  June  1986

Here's  a  clean  break  and  the  start  of  one  of  the  densest  parts  of  this  blog. My  university  days came  to  a close  at  the  end  of  June  1986. I  had  the  offer  of  a  place  on  an  M.A.  course  at  Leeds  but  my  efforts  to  secure  funding  for  it  were  unsuccessful  and  deservedly  so - it  would  have  been  generous  to  call  my  application  letter  half-hearted. I  kept  the  option  open  as  long  as  possible  and  attended  a  three  day  training  course  for  Executive  members  of  the  Union  in  July  but  eventually  I  had  to  decline  the  offer  and  resign  my  post  as  Communications  Officer.

I  had  no  real  option  but  to  return  home  and  start  looking  for  work. I'd  not  prepared  for  this. I'd  had  one  desultory  careers  interview  at  Leeds  but  not  acted  on  any  of  the  advice  received. I  was  reliant  on  looking  through  the  newspapers  and  sending  applications  off  and  was  kept  to  the  task  by  my  mother who  was  old-school  Tory  in  her  attitude  to  unemployment  benefit  and  thought  it  scandalous  that  I  was  "on  the  dole".  I  didn't  have  a  moment's  peace  during  the  day  but  she  did  at  least  allow  me  to  watch  the  TV  in  an  evening.

On  the  first  Monday  back  home  Return  To  Eden  started. It  followed  an  Australian  mini-series  of  the  same  title  which  had  been  screened here  in  1984. I  didn't  see  that but  it  concerned  a  plain  heiress  Stephanie  Harper  ( Rebecca  Gilling )  whose  young  husband  Greg throws  her  to  a  crocodile aided  by  her  treacherous  best  friend  Jilly. Stephanie  survives  the  mauling  and  is  taken  by  a  bushman  to  a  brilliant  plastic  surgeon  Dan  Marshall  ( James  Smillie  )  who  turns her  into  a  supermodel  and  marries  her. Her  new  wealth  and  identity  enables  her  to  turn  the  tables  on  her  foes and  at  the  end  Greg  is  killed  ( but see  below )  and  Jilly  imprisoned.

The  mini-series  was  so  successful  that  for  the  follow-up  it  was  turned  into  a  22-part  glossy  soap opera  to  compete  with  the  American  giants. The  British  critics absolutely  eviscerated  it  , the  Daily  Telegraph  accusing  it  of  "plumbing  new  depths"   in  lowbrow  entertainment  but  I  think  they  missed  the  point. Return  To  Eden  was   trashy  but  knowingly  so  and  gloriously  entertaining. It  was  Dynasty  taken  a few  notches  further  with  each  plot  twist  more   ridiculously  over  the  top  than  the  one  before  and  dialogue  so  bad  that  each  line  was a  test  of  the  actor's  ability  to  keep  a  straight  face.

It  started  seven  years  on  with  Jilly's  release  from  prison  and  the  revelation  that  she  was  actually  Stephanie's  half-sister. The  original  actress  Wendy  Hughes  was  replaced  by  the  gorgeous  Austro-Italian  actress  Peta  Toppano  who  I  was  instantly  smitten  with  despite  the  fact  that  she  was  playing  an  insanely  jealous, scheming  superbitch. Stephanie  was  remarkably  slow  to  realise  that  the  revelation  of  their  sisterhood  had  made  Jilly  worse  not  better  and  fell  prey  to  her  alliance  with  business  rival  Jake  Sanders  ( Daniel  Abineri ) who  turned  out  to  be  Greg's  half-brother  seeking  revenge  on  both  of  them  ( no  explanation  of  why  Stephanie  hadn't  met him  before  of  course ). They  knock  Stephanie  off  her  perch  and  she  has to  come  back  once  more  - this  time  in  disguise  as  an  Arab  princess  -  in  order  to  wreak  her  revenge. That  was  the  main  plot  but  there  were  many  sub-plots involving  Stephanie's  children  as  diversions.

In  the  suitably  ludicrous  final  episode  Stephanie, having  lured  Jilly  into  a  ruinous  business  hoax  and  revealed  herself  , offers  to  put  her  entire fortune on  the  outcome  of  a  horse race , her's  against  Jake's.  enabling  all  the  cast to  gather   for  the  finale  including   Jilly's  unseen  caller  who  is  obviously  going  to   be  Greg  back  from  the  dead.  Stephanie wins  the  race  but  magnanimously  lets Jake  and  Jilly  attend  her  party. Jilly  is  now  pregnant  and  pretends  to  faint  but  pulls a  gun  on  Stephanie  when  the  trio  are  upstairs. Jake  intervenes  and gets  shot  in  the  struggle. He  then  has  an  extravagant  death  scene,  staggering  around  then  falling  down  the  stairs  in  front  of   the  party  guests, some  of  whom  are  clearly  amused, before  conking  out  with  a  blood-spattered  Stephanie, having  wrested  the  gun  from  Jilly   stood   at  the  top  of  the  stairs  with  it.  Jilly  then  appears  accusing  Stephanie  of  the  deed.

It  was  a  suitable  cliffhanger  for  a  second  season  that  was  never made, ratings  in  Australia  not  being  good  enough  to  justify  the  expense. The main  players  were  subsequently  re-hired  to  shoot  ten  more  minutes  to  be tacked  on  to repeat  showings  resolving  some  of  the  threads  though  not  all; the   return  of  Greg  storyline  was  left  hanging.  The  series  had  a  late  night  repeat  here  in  1990  and  has  since  been  shown  on  satellite  channels.

No comments:

Post a Comment