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The Sydney Morning Herald


Author: Michael Idato. Ruth Ritchie is on maternity leave.
Date: 28/06/2003
Words: 903
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Metropolitan
Page: 2
Weddings, parties and ratings, please.

Television critics cling to three curious truths. The first is that everything, ultimately, is compared to Number 96: nudity, serial killers, provocative storylines, neighbourly disputes, even kinky boyfriends snipping one's knickers (or, better yet, strangling one's flatmate with undies) ... if someone's doing it, you can be sure 96 did it better.

The second is that all programming decisions made by the Nine Network are part of a sinister plot to undermine quality television, the passion of TV critics and fans of The Sopranos. Nine, apparently, is the only television network in the world that doesn't want you to watch television. Go figure that one out.

The third, and most important, truth is that everybody loves a TV wedding. The tears. The joy. The jubilation. The ratings. You love it, we love it, the cast of Number 96 loves it, programmers love it (except those at Nine, see above) and the photo editor of TV Week definitely loves it.

When Scott and Charlene exchanged their "I Dos" on Neighbours, there wasn't a dry hanky in the house. Excusing the fact that most of us were weeping because they were playing that dreadful Angry Anderson song, it was nonetheless a moving moment.

A Country Practice's Simon and Vicky tied the knot. He was the cheeky-grinned country doctor with the good nature, she the tomboy country vet with the big-mouthed mum. Together they had sitcom written all over them, which was a shame because they were stuck in a weekly drama. In fact, things were not quite the same after the wedding, and Simon and Vicky became early Australian examples of Moonlighting Syndrome, another TV version of "burst UrST" (unresolved sexual tension).

The tradition dates back to - and we're showing our age here - the 1970s wedding of Tony and Tania on The Young Doctors. He was the Latin doctor with a devilish grin.

She was the doe-eyed nurse (and later, sister) with a thermometer of gold. TV Week took the official wedding portraits.

It was a wedding like no other. He wore polyester. She wore something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue - which, interestingly, is a mantra that would shape commercial TV programming for decades.

The point of all this - and there is one - is that last week, this rich tradition continued when the amply-bosomed Sally (Kate Ritchie) and her beau Dr Flynn (Joel McIlroy) tied the knot on Home and Away (weeknights, Seven).

As episodes go, it was rather like deja vu. Pippa (Debra Lawrance) turned up, as did Donald (Norman Coburn), which made me think Seven had mistakenly screened an old episode as I was fairly sure both of them had come to a sticky end courtesy of the show's inventive writing department. (Come on, this is the show that had the ghost of Ailsa emerge from a refrigerator!)

I immediately telephoned Seven to point out this obvious technical glitch, but was gently reassured by the switchboard operator that Pippa had not been washed away in the great flood of '95, as I had assumed.

I was told that she survived - her husband at the time, Michael, apparently did not - and went on to live a healthy and purposeful life, raising foster children and making calls on the diner's hamburger telephone for many years.

Donald, meanwhile, had not been killed when the stationery closet at Summer Bay High imploded because of poorly mixed Liquid Paper thinner. He apparently survived with only minor bruises, went on to put a generation of Australians on detention and eventually moved to the Whitsundays.

Meanwhile, another blast from the past, Sophie (Rebekah Elmaloglou) spent the wedding in her hospital bed, having come all the way from Perth to be a bridesmaid, only to go into labour. Babies and soap operas, eh, what can you do?

Sally and Leah (Ada Nicodemou) headed to the wedding on Tuesday night in a horsedrawn carriage, which seemed charming except that it looked as if it was filmed outside the local tip. Summer Bay might boast nice beaches, but the hinterland is screaming out for redevelopment. Or, at the very least, gutters.

In a Kath-and-Kim-esque twist, however, their carriage was scared by some local hoons. The horse charged, dumped its pilot and left Sally and Leah clinging on

for dear life.

Of course, love always finds a way. Even if the bride has to trudge through a bog in her wedding dress, find a farmer and plead with him to deliver her, with bridesmaid in tow, to the wedding on the back of his ute, leaving the groom convinced she's left him at the altar to run away with Larry, the stationery supply man. (Yeah, like she'd trust him after that mix-up with the thinner.)

In the end, the wedding was a washout, thanks to Dr Flynn: the deed was finally done, somewhere between casualty and renal, with the bride and groom clad in bathrobes and the bed-bound Sophie wheeled in to witness proceedings.

You can be sure of one thing: Sally and Flynn will live happily ever after. At least until next week ...

Ain't true love grand?

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