At a superficial level, the comedy-drama Offspring is like an Australian mash-up of Grey’s Anatomy and Brothers And Sisters, combining frame narrative voiceovers and tumultuous family relationships. Plus, as a bloke, I can actually relate to its characters! It’s also cleverer and funnier than its more conventional Australian counterpart, Packed To The Rafters.
The setting and characters of Offspring are familiar enough: the life of a newly single careered women, the love interests in various stages of growth and decay, the family in which everyone is slightly and endearingly mad. According to the website,
Following the Proudman family’s adventures searching for love, fulfillment and balance in the chaos of modern life, Offspring is about the life forces that drive us all: love, sex, babies, food and music. This life affirming series provides food for the soul as it examines the curses and the blessings that come with intricate family connections.
This is where Offspring gets interesting. There are curses. Amidst all the joie de vivre, Offspring contains a sober perspective on the points at which life breaks down. One curse looms large: Nina, the protagonist, has drunken sex with Mick, her sister’s love interest. The shit doesn’t hit the fan immediately, but instead becomes the narrative driving force of season one’s climax. “Never, never, never”, say Nina and Mick to one another, but Billie will find out at some point. When that finally happens, the family cannot simply fight and move on as if nothing has happened. Shit sticks.
When it comes to blessings and curses, Offspring’s take on sex is significant. While Grey’s Anatomy and Brothers And Sisters both seem to revel in the excitement of casual sex, Offspring takes a darker and more complex view. At the end of season one, along with the baggage of Mick, Nina has not yet had sex with her own love interest, Chris. It’s not that they don’t want to, and it’s not that they don’t believe they’re able to, but they seem acutely aware of the power of sex to bind and divide. By contrast, the characters of Grey’s Anatomy sometimes seem oblivious to the consequences of their actions. Somehow, for all the gymnastics in Seattle Grace Hospital, it is in Offspring that sex really seems to matter. It’s not as if Offspring’s characters are better behaved or more self-aware, but the narrative takes a real focus on the ways in which their actions impact their relationships — especially when things go wrong. There is no such thing as an individual decision. The only baggage that matters is the baggage involving other people. People never just make mistakes; people hurt other people.
There’s certainly plenty of fun in Offspring, and there’s also forgiveness and healing to be found amidst the mess. Yet there’s a unique focus on our responsibilities towards others. We’re not just islands, free to drift, looking out for our own rights. We live in community. Others matter.
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.