ACCORDING to the come on that Ten has been pumping across its screens in
recent weeks, Echo Point is "one address, a million secrets". There is the
positive promise that Australia's latest soap opera is ready, as one
particularly stupid prediction has it, to "annihilate" the seven-year-old colony
of Summer Bay, sweeping viewers a short bus ride down the coast and swapping
one set of beaches for another.
But, as even the most casual viewer will soon detect, Echo Point is only the
same old address and its style of production holds few secrets.
Home and Away supporters who are drawn to have a look at the new program - it
will be most unenterprising if they do not at some time do so - will find a
string of similarities.
Who is the tray-carrying giant in the baker's shop at Echo Point where
everybody gathers when they're not downing veggie-burgers at the cafe? It could
almost be Home And Away's Alf, the crusty shopkeeper with a heart of nuggets,
played so wonderfully well by Ray Meagher. There is the same wisdom, same
gruffness, same everything, but in fact it's grumpy old Maurie, played by
another stalwart, John Clayton. Watch him. He'll hold the thing together.
There is the villain, or what John Holmes, the original producer of Home and
Away and now executive producer of Seven Network drama, describes as the
standard black hat. In Home and Away, it was Mr Fisher, the vile headmaster. You
won't miss Echo Point's black hat, because he's dressed from neck to toe in,
well, black. That's Daniel Blake (Philip Gordon), once a suspected axe murderer
(has somebody remembered Ten's own E Street?) and still assumed guilty by the
Home and Away has always been strong on warmth, light and shade. So far, Echo
Point is steeped in shade, though there is humour aimed at Maurie towards the
end of the first week.
Echo Point can improve from poor beginnings. It is, with the exception of
some clumsily designed sets, well-filmed. It has a bountiful supply of those the
industry calls pretties, the young spunks and dollies, each one bulging from
their denim seams.
An 18-strong core cast, headed by Martin Henderson as the rebellious but
likable Mark Brennan, allows Ten to push the show in almost any direction it
chooses. Henderson has been brought in from New Zealand, where in 1993 he won
Best Male Dramatic Performance in the NZ Television and Film Awards for his role
in the country's most popular serial, Shortland Street.
Echo Point mirrors an old-fashioned concept of life in a chummy, easygoing
beach community, essentially closer to the city than Summer Bay. It appears that
the producers, Southern Star Xanadu, are content to open a number of doors on a
variety of relationships and minor intrigues to see which work best.
Two cafes, The Shed and Grumpy Barnard's Bakery, are the favoured meeting
places, while the return of Daniel Blake is the town's greatest unresolved
mystery. Holly Winton (played by Kimberley Davenport), Carol O'Connor (Roxanne
Wilson), Dave Campbell (Tom Long), Frannie Loman (Rebecca Murphy) and Maurie
Barnard (John Clayton) seem the best-drawn characters, but this is soap and
The main fault with Echo Point - and it is likely to prove unforgivable - is
that it has been slotted in at 7 pm, Monday to Friday, bang up against Home and
Both shows will initially suffer from this act of crass stupidity, while Sale
of the Century could benefit enormously as the audience divides.
Holmes, who worked at Ten before Echo Point came on to the drawing board,
wishes no ill upon his new rival, but there is no doubt Home and Away has been
considerably strengthened to meet the challenge.
Bootleg copies of Echo Point have been flying round rival networks since the
final cut. Even then it was not known what time the show would go to air.
Home and Away will be tough to beat, though that is not to say it cannot be
done. Ten is already tweaking away at Echo Point. At least one cast change has
been ordered, with the cafe the target area as a major character is written out.
In some areas, Echo Point moves too fast. Other story editors, for instance,
would have strung out the drama of the pearl earclip in this week's episode.
Some scenes are quite long, though none as lengthy as Holmes recently allowed
in Home and Away, when actors Dianne Craig and Justin Rosniak played out a
confrontation that lasted an unprecedented six minutes, 50 seconds, taking an
entire segment between commercial breaks, but gaining strong dramatic impact by
the fact that others were trapped into being witnesses to the row. In another
episode, the story required 44 scenes, an unusually high number.
"Young bodies are one thing," says Holmes. "You can shoot through muslin, you
can shoot through rose-coloured filters, but in the end you have to have
"If the stories fail, it sets off the bullshit meter."
SHOW: Echo Point
TIME: Ten, 7 pm
DURATION: Half hour