In this age of austerity, the latest British sitcoms all seem depressingly domestic and dreary, leaving me longing for the likes of Supernova (2005), which starred ace Welsh actor Rob Brydon as an astronomer who leaves his stuffy academic position (and suffocating relationship) behind after accepting a job at the Royal Australian Observatory, where he finds himself struggling to adjust to the natural perils of the outback, and the curious habits of his new colleagues. Besides the absolutely stunning “scorched earth” landscapes, the series also boasted a talented cast, and an eclectic sense of humour that ran the gamut from old-school double entendre and physical comedy, to more highbrow scientific references and existential anxiety brought on by contemplating the eventual demise of the known universe. Fun!
Although I tend to think of it as a BBC show, it was written by an Australian fella (Harry Cripps), and featured an overwhelmingly Aussie cast… in fact, the very first image you see on screen is a pre-titles sequence of Aboriginal dancers doing their thing around a campfire, accompanied by the sound of didgeridoos! Meanwhile, the modern face of Aborigine culture is represented by Damion Hunter, who plays ‘Bill’, a local mechanic and toy-boy of the observatory’s husky head, ‘Professor Pip Cartwright’, played by Kris McQuade. Not to get too hung up on ethnicity, but I have read an interview with Hollie Andrew – who plays super-cute hippie-genius ‘Dr Jude Wardlaw’ here – in which she admits that she doesn’t know exactly what her provenance is (because her mother was adopted), but she’s happy to be claimed by any minority group that wants her! Bless. Rounding out the female side of things is Brydon’s unrequited love-interest ‘Dr Rachel Mann’, played by Kat Stewart, who (quite rightly) received several award nominations for her performance here. Although she’s occasionally objectified in swimwear (for comic effect), Hunter and fellow hunk Tim Draxl – who plays ex-model/prodigy ‘Professor Mike French’ – are also seen shirtless several times, so the exploitation seems pretty even-handed.
I’ve watched the first season to death by this point, so I can’t be quite as rhapsodic about it as I would have been the first time around… but there are still plenty laughs to be had, even though I know most of the jokes by heart. Sadly, the Beeb hasn’t bothered releasing the second series on DVD yet (or posting it to their “iPlayer” widget), so I can’t really remember much about that… besides feeling jealous of Jude’s boyfriend that is! Damn him.
Fun fact: Stewart went on to win an AFI award for her portrayal of real-life “gangster’s moll” Roberta Williams in a crime drama called Underbelly (2009)… and when she was unable to return to the role for a recent sequel (Fat Tony & Co.), they drafted in Andrew as her substitute!
P.S. Earlier this year, Channel 5 started showing Mr & Mrs Murder (2013), a comical murder-mystery series co-starring Stewart as a crime-scene cleaner who moonlights as an amateur sleuth, along with her husband (co-creator Shaun Micallef)… but they dropped it from their schedule after the third episode, and have no plans to continue it any time soon. Pesky!