PEOPLE LIKE US
Australia, 1980, 90 minutes, Colour.
Lucky Grills, David Aitkins, Kit Taylor.
Directed by Ian Coughlan.
People Like Us is an Australian telemovie, a television pilot for the Channel 7 Network written and produced by Michael Lawrence. It did not eventuate as a series. Lawrence was the writer of the very successful mini-series of 1983, Return to Eden. It was directed by Ian Coughlin, writer-director of the feature thriller Alison's Birthday (1979).
The film capitalises on the popularity for Australian viewers of Sydney suburban situations - the successful Number 96 in the '70s and The Sullivans and Carson's Law in the '70s and '80s. As with this film, not every series was a success in fact. A project portraying a family in Sydney's western suburbs, Kings, failed in 1983.
The film is fairly contrived, seems to have too much melodrama for one Sydney street - at least for general exhibition. A competent cast does what it can with strange and sometimes exaggerated characters.
1. The film focuses on several groups in the street:
a. Fran - the model, out of work, her relationship with Mark, the encounter with the masked bandit. Her relationship with her sister Annabelle and her nephews. Friendship with Mark after the clash with him. His training the boys in boxing. Annabelle and her separation, Jim Brooks and the attraction. Her work in the hospital - and discussions with Dawn about her pregnancy. Involvement in the problems in the street.
b. Ivy Jones and her possessive, outspoken and prudish ways. The effect on Sharon. Sharon and her diets? Mrs. Jones for bidding her daughter to see Tony Stanley? The conversations with Mrs. Johnson, suspicions that Jim Brooks was the bandit, the attack on Sharon and going to the drive-in to drag her home, Sharon's running away and her being distraught. Reporting Brooks to the police and their reaction. Everybody trying to make her learn her lesson. Sharon and her feeling that she was overweight, unattractive. Her running away from home and being assaulted. The kindly but ineffectual father in the house.
c. The Stanleys: the father and his work in the shop, heart condition, his wanting the best for Tony, especially with his football. The supportive wife. Tina and her place in the house. Tony and his training, his wanting to write music and perform, lying to his parents, not wanting to be in the shop. Taking Sharon to the drive-in and the uproar. The going to the baths. His reconciliation with his father and with the family. Suspicion that he was the bandit. Grandmother and her obsession with sex.
d. Mrs Johnson and her kindliness, her boarders. Mark and Jim on the buses, Mark and his attraction towards Fran and clashes with her, athletic type, training the boys. Jim and his being enigmatic. Being taken by the police.
attraction towards Annabelle. The fact that he was a dropout millionaire in disguise!!
e. Dawn and Ted and their return from overseas, Ted losing his job, Dawn and her gambling, the phone cut off, borrowing money from Annabelle, her being pregnant, the build-up to the clashes, the happy ending.
2. And another day ...
The possibility of the pilot being accepted as the beginning of a series. The reasons for it not being accepted by the Seven Network? The popularity of this kind of serial for Australian viewers? The picturing of life in the city? Background of social questions of the '80s e.g. unemployment, violence? Audiences identifying with characters and situations?