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ARMED & DANGEROUS

Author: RACHEL BROWNE
Date: 10/11/1996
Words: 400
          Publication: Sun Herald
Section: Television
Page: 5
You know what I think?" asks the cab driver after actor Martin Sacks alights in Bondi. "I think he should settle down and marry that nice young girl on the show. I think they'd be a good couple."

And it seems cabbies are not the only ones whose thoughts are occupied with the love lives of prime time's most popular characters. Ever since Constable Maggie Doyle and Detective Senior Constable PJ Hasham shared a tentative peck under the mistletoe last Christmas, Channel 7 has been inundated with phone calls and fan mail from viewers wanting to know when the two cops are going to "do it".

"The audience actually picked up on the sexual tension between Maggie and PJ before we did and started writing in about it," says Lisa McCune, who plays Maggie, with a hint of amazement.

Under the weight of so much public pressure, Channel 7 head of drama John Holmes called a summit meeting of key executives earlier this year to discuss what was to be done about Maggie and PJ.

"Will they or won't they? Should they or shouldn't they? And what will the ramifications be if they do?" Holmes posed to Blue Heelers executive producer Hal McElroy, supervising producer Ric Pellizzeri and story editor Caroline Stanton. The writers vigorously opposed having PJ and Maggie in love. They felt they had a winning formula with the existing simmering, but unresolved, sexual attraction.

And Lisa McCune and Martin Sacks, who consult the writers regularly about their characters, were uneasy about a romance if it meant turning the program into a bed-hopping soap opera.

But Holmes was adamant: "We couldn't keep teasing the audience indefinitely because that's cheating them. There has to be a pay-off for the viewers somewhere along the way."

So a compromise of sorts was arrived at. There will be no bed-hopping high jinks in Mount Thomas - instead Maggie and PJ will enjoy a slow-burn romance, peppered by rows, misunderstandings and reconciliations.

Their relationship is strained over the coming weeks as PJ recovers from the trauma of shooting a woman. Maggie offers a comforting shoulder, but he rejects her. However, they slowly acknowledge their true feelings and later this month the year's final episode ends on a romantic cliff-hanger.

Viewers will have to wait until the show returns next year to watch their passion ignite.

Martin Sacks admits he is glad about the consummation of their relationship, mainly because it will mean he no longer has to answer questions about it. It was the topic on everyone's lips at a recent public appearance by the Blue Heelers cast in Sydney and the subject of much of his mail.

"The usual comment is, 'What's wrong with you? Look at that girl! She's beautiful. Go for it!'," he says, laughing at the reaction. "The viewers get quite heated about it. They ring, they write, they get very passionate about it. It's almost like they're writing to members of their own family."

Now the pressure is on to deliver a romance which will hopefully captivate Australia's heart as much as Vicky and Simon (Penny Cook and Grant Dodwell) did on A Country Practice and Charlene and Scott (Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan) did on Neighbours.

Is Sacks suffering performance anxiety?

"When they actually do it it's going to be fireworks - I mean, they've been holding off for years!," he says enthusiastically. "I just hope it's not going to be a letdown, because the build-up has been excruciating."

Of course, it is television folklore that most series which thrive on unresolved sexual tension lose their viewer appeal when the couple get together - think of Moonlighting.

Sacks, 36, and his co-star Lisa McCune, 25, close friends off screen, agree they want to retain that spark of sexual tension which has made the characters so popular with Blue Heelers' 2.5 million viewers.

"I can't see Maggie and PJ settling down in blissful domesticity," McCune says. "I think their personalities are far too explosive. They love each other, but they get on best when they're hating each other."

Be warned, there is a rocky romantic road ahead!

* Blue Heelers airs on Tuesday at 8.30pm on Channel 7

LESSONS IN LOVE

For Blue Heelers' fans, Maggie and PJ's upcoming romance is not before time. With so many singles searching for love on the small screen these days, TV is beginning to resemble one big pick-up joint. Taking a cue from our favourite shows here is NOW's guide to dating and mating TV-style.

GET A JOB

Career advisers tell us office romances are professional suicide, but if TV is to be believed plenty of people are getting their meat where they get their bread. Let's face it, there is more bed-hopping and swapping on the medical shows than in our under-funded public hospitals. ER's Nurse Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) has gone through two doctors and has moved on to a paramedic, while Dr Sonia Kapek (Zoe Carides) sent Dr Henry King's (Steve Bisley) pulse racing on G.P. before her untimely death. On Medivac, Nurse Bree Dalrymple (Danielle Carter) is eyeing Dr Arch Craven (Grant Bowler) over grisly accident scenes. If the doctors and nurses are playing, well, doctors and nurses, the TV cops are just as busy cracking on to each other. On NYPD Blue, Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits) bedded fellow detective Diane Russell (Kim Delaney) and Greg Medavoy (Gordon Clapp) ditched his wife for a fling with Gail O'Grady. Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) proved he was a decent guy after all, by asking District Attorney Sylvia Costas (Sharon Lawrence) to be his wife. Closer to home, Water Rats' Rachel Goldstein (Catherine McClements) had a one-nighter with colleague Kevin Holloway (Jeremy Callaghan) before moving on to "Knocker" Harrison (Peter Mochrie), who turned out to be a bad seed indeed. And in Police Rescue Georgia (Sonia Todd) ends a long-running on-off relationship with Mickey (Gary Sweet) for a rock climber played by Peter Phelps.

DATE THE BOSS

If colleagues are off the cards, go straight to the top. Fran Fine (Fran Drescher) is clearly pining for wealthy blueblood boss Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy) on The Nanny, while Murphy Brown's neurotic executive producer Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud) met his match in reporter Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford). Sparks flew on the factory floor when Grace Under Fire's struggling single mum Grace (Brett Butler) teamed up with a senior executive played by Alan Autry.

PLAY DUMB

What red-blooded man can resist a damsel in distress? Not Home And Away's Donald Fisher (Norman Coburn), who fell for the dizzy blonde Marilyn (Emily Symons) when she asked for help with her evening class homework. And Savannah's Lane (Robyn Lively) got lost on the way home from her friend's wedding, but found a new beau when local cop Dean (David Gill) stopped to give directions.

ENROL IN CLASSES

Matchmakers say it is the best way to meet new people and it certainly worked for TV's students, who are studying more than just their school books. Home And Away's Curtis (Shane Ammann) is the new stud of Summer Bay High. Having dated Chloe (Kristy Wright), he is now stepping out with fellow pupil Casey (Rebecca Croft). On the other side of the Pacific, Malibu Shores' Chloe (Keri Russell) met her man at a beach party, but their romance blossomed when Zack (Tony Lucca) enrolled at her high school. This method only works for teenagers, of course. Anyone else loitering outside a school looking for love will probably be arrested.

LOCATION! LOCATION!

Living in the 'burbs won't get you a date unless you are after the girl/boy next door. What you need is a groovy pad in an apartment block which is inhabited by gorgeous single people in a hip area such as ... Melrose Avenue. If the walls of the Melrose Place apartments could talk, what steamy tales they would tell. In short, everyone who lives in this building has bonked each other bar Matt (Doug Savant), but that's only because he is gay.

 
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