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Newcastle Herald


Author: Ben Doherty
Date: 12/01/2001
Words: 737
          Publication: Newcastle Herald
Section: Friday Guide
Page: 5
Soap junkies rejoice!

The denizens of Summer Bay

(well, most of them) will be back

on our screens next week, writes Ben Doherty. And what better way to start a new series than with a

few time-honoured soap staples.

WHEN it comes to soaps nothing packs them in like a funeral or a wedding, and the series return of Home and Away is banking on this sound philosophy.

Last season ended with the dramatic death of Judy Nunn's beloved Ailsa Stewart and on Monday at 7pm Summer Bay goes into mourning mode.

Nunn's departure was a significant moment in the long-running show's history as she was one of only four cast members to have been with Home and Away since the soap began filming at Sydney's exclusive Palm Beach almost 14 years ago.

The three remaining foundation cast members are Norman Coburn as Donald Fisher, Ray Meagher as Alf Stewart and Kate Ritchie as Sally Fletcher.

Ritchie was just eight when the program began.

Death is, of course, the most efficient way to write a cast member out of a series and the mortality rate in Summer Bay is alarmingly high.

Ailsa's suspected heart attack represented the 19th Home and Away death.

Interestingly, four of those deaths have involved people falling off a cliff.

Next week's returning series will prove to be emotional, with Alf blaming himself for Ailsa's death.

But the melancholy mood, heightened by Ailsa's funeral, will be lightened somewhat with the news that two cast members may be about to tie the knot.

The money is on either Harry and Sally or Leah and Vinnie, but the truth may surprise.

And if a wedding does materialise, it will bring the number of Summer Bay nuptials to 11.

Internet speculation as to who will walk down the aisle has been running hot.

In fact, the Internet has been the only way fans in Australia and around the world have been able to get their fix of Summer Bay gossip.

Scores of fans' web sites have been established, and there's even a competition running for the top 20 Home and Away sites. Chat rooms are packed with overseas viewers desperate for up-to-date information from their Australian peers.

There are even rumours

of a Home and Away

spin-off series starring

ex-cast members.

Except for those who fell off a cliff.

A Greek bearing gifts

THE closest thing to a perpetual motion machine would have to be the revolving door of any given soap opera set, with new cast members replacing old ones at a rate of knots.

But anything to keep the kids happy - and new Summer Bay hunk Danny Raco should certainly do that.

As far as the girls go, anyway.

Born in Italy's beautiful Tuscany region in 1979 (he came to Australia when he was 10), Raco will play the role of a young Greek man called Alex Poulos, Leah's (Ada Nicodemou) brother.

Soapie fans may recall Raco as Marco Vialli in Heartbreak High, a smooth-talking Italian bloke obsessed with style and appearance.

Raco's first appearance on Home and Away will come on February 26 when he arrives to live with his sister.

And wouldn't you know it, he plays another smooth-talking dude - albeit this time a little more serious, as he arrives in Summer Bay with the dream of opening his own business.

But for all his slickness and bravado, Alex is actually a shy and inexperienced bloke, constantly knocked back by the beautiful babes he hits on.

Although still acquiring the nuances of his character, Raco says he's beginning to learn what makes Alex tick.

'Alex isn't very secure, even though he would like everyone to think he is,' he says.

'He comes across as the macho type and thinks that is the way to be accepted. He still has a whole lot to learn in life.'

Raco says it has been an interesting experience for an Italian to play a Greek.

'There has always been friendly rivalry between the Greeks and Italians,' he says.

'While I am very proud of my heritage, playing a Greek character has really opened my mind and given me an insight into Greek culture, thanks to Ada Nicodemou of course.

'However I'm still having trouble acquiring a taste for vine leaves,' he laughs.

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