HEARTBREAK HIGH

Australian Drama Series

Heartbreak High is a new Australian drama series, aired on the Ten Network in Australia from 1994. It has also appeared on television systems in eleven other countries around the world including Britain (BBC), France, Germany, the Scandinavian countries, South Africa, Indonesia and Israel. Over a short time, the series has become highly successful, particularly in Europe.

Heartbreak High is notable for breaking with the established formula for successful Australian audio-visual exports. Unlike feature films such as The Man From Snowy River and Crocodile Dundee, or television dramas such as A Country Practice and Neighbours, the series does not work the themes of a perceived Australian innocence and harmonious community. It has emerged from an early 1990s development in Australian film and television which presents a grittier, urban, and multicultural picture of contemporary Australian life.

The series is a television spin-off of the feature film The Heartbreak Kid (1993) by the same production company (Ben Gannon Productions). Like The Heartbreak Kid, Heartbreak High is set in an ethnically diverse inner city high school and thematises the pleasures and problems of young people growing up in such an environment. It is the first Australian television drama to make a central feature of multiculturalism and so extend to television a trend developed in films such as Death in Brunswick, The Big Steal, Strictly Ballroom, as well as The Heartbreak Kid.

Set in Hartley High, a fictional school in suburban Sydney, Heartbreak High interweaves narratives based on teen romance, conflicts of young people with teachers and parents and social problems such as racism, teenage pregnancy, alcohol abuse, gay bashing and abortion. A key character in early episodes was Nick (Alex Dimitriades), an impulsive teenage "heart-throb" from a Greek family background. Nick is a central romantic interest but he must also come to terms with problems such as grief over the loss of his mother in a car accident.

Other major characters are Jodie (Abi Tucker), who comes from a broken home, and is a talented singer and is ambitious to develop a career in the music industry; Rivers (Scott Major), a "disruptive," anti-authority figure among the students; Con (Salvatore Coco), a "joker" who provides a comic focus; Steve (Corey Page), who finds that he has been adopted and sets out to find his birth mother; and Danielle (Emma Roche) who has an affair with Nick after he breaks up from a longer relationship with Jodie. Among the teachers, the key characters are Yola Futoush (Doris Younane), the school counselor, who has close involvement in helping the students overcome problems; and Bill Southgate (Tony Martin), a conservative authoritarian figure against whom the students rebel. In the second block of episodes, they are joined by Vic (Ernie Dingo), an Aboriginal teacher in media studies. Popular with the students, he teaches them about more than the content of the official curriculum.

Stylistically, Heartbreak High is a fast-paced, realist drama which employs naturalistic dialogue. While teenage romance is an important narrative element, it is structured into rapid sequences and frequently intercut with "harder" content which maintains a strong sense of immediacy and action. Similarly, the series' emphasis on contemporaneity and relevance to a youth audience is rarely openly stated or didactic. Its topicality rests more on capturing the texture of life of young people than a fictionalization of issues taken directly from news or current affairs.

In its rhythm and editing techniques, Heartbreak High takes its reference from American-produced action or situation comedy, while at the same time taking on more "serious" content generally associated with the slower-paced genres of British or more traditional Australian television drama. It might therefore be seen as a "hybrid" televisual product which has achieved commercial success while presenting a picture of an urban, multicultural Australia which has not previously had widespread international distribution.

-Mark Gibson

 


Hearbreak High
Photo courtesy of Channel 10

CAST

Ruby........................................................ Jan Adele Graham.............................................. Hugh Baldwin Lucy ...........................................Alexandra Brunning Effie .................................................Despina Caldis Con................................................. Salvadore Coco Nick............................................... Alex Dimitriades Helen............................................ Barbara Gouskos Chaka........................................... Isabella Gutierrez Rose............................................ Katherine Halliday Roberto.................................................... Ivor Kants Christina Milano .................................Sarah Lambert George.............................................. Nick Lathouris Rivers................................................... Scott Major Southgate.............................................. Tony Martin Jack...................................................... Tai Nguyen Katerina........................................... Ada Nicademou Deloraine..................................... Stephen O' Rourke Steve ....................................................Corey Page Matt.................................................... Vince Poletto Danielle.............................................. Emma Roche Stella................................................. Peta Toppano Jodie ......................................................Abi Tucker Irini....................................................... Elly Varrenti Sam..................................................... Kym Wilson Yola ..................................................Doris Younane Vic........................................................ Ernie Dingo

PRODUCERS Ben Gannon, Michael Jenkins

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

Ten Network
February 1994-May 1994                 Sunday 6:30-7:30 June 1994-November 1994         Wednesday 7:30-8:30 May 1995-November 1995                Sunday 5:30-6:30

 

See also Australian Production Companies; Australian Programming; Dingo, Ernie