Home & Away and Neighbours have become mainstays of Australian pop culture. Producers of such idols as the Minogues, a couple of Hemsworths, Margot Robbie and, of course, falmin’ Alf Stewart.
Despite the evident social gravitas and star power, soapies are readily snubbed by critics, be they esteemed or couch potatoes. While the programs are lauded with Logies, overtly fanatic fifty-year-old fans and large British followings, neither Summer Bay nor Ramsay Street are seen as the heights of dramatic greatness.
The Heights is hoping to both change such a mentality and play into the soap structure that have made Home & Away and Neighbours enduring survivors of the TV landscape.
A bold and surprising move by public broadcaster ABC, The Heights is a high-class soap embellished with nuggets of soap like absurdity. Launching in late-February 2019, the 30-minute drama unites the singular stories of the residents at the Arcadia Heights social housing block in a collaborative web of poignancy and heart.
Set in Perth, The Heights switches the sun-soaked and hipster-sick packed characters for flawed, diverse and engaging individuals. While The Heights may posses familiar soapie tropes (there are drug-dealers, runaway mums, young-lovers and broken families), the 30-part series is infused with a sense of reality that other such dramas lack.
At the centre of every soap is a grounding matriarch or patriarch ready to spin a yarn or stone the flamin’ crows, in The Heights that honour falls upon Marcus Graham as Pav. A father to two, an estranged husband to Leonie (Shari Sebbens), and a small-time weed dealer, Pav is the catalyst for the serial’s loop of interaction when he discovers an abandoned baby in an apartment vegie patch. At the hospital tending to the bub, he meets Claudia (Roz Hammond). A doctor new to the area, Claudia struggles as a single-parent to a teenage daughter with cerebral palsy.
The lives of Pav and Claudia act as a Trojan horse for a diverse collection of cast-members and stories that breathe a refreshing blast of reality and life into the Australian television landscape. A financially poor but people rich Muslim family shares screen time with a strict Asian mother with her young-adult son, and a brash-north of 60 female publican.
While the first quick-fire episode works hard to introduce a large cast, it expectedly falls short of providing the desired backstory for each member in addition to a cohesive plot. Pilot episode aside, investing in future episodes creates an overwhelming sense of commitment to The Heights.
From the producers of acclaimed ABC short-run series The Slap and Barracuda, The Heights is the most palatable creation for families out of the trio. Although the inclusivity of the series leaves it open to confronting a plethora of social issues, The Heights combats such problems head-on. This is a soap that will make you think with you mind, not your lustful eyes.
Employing over 100 cast and crew, The Heights deserves to be celebrated for its exploration of a city that has been ignored by previous productions with characters often shut out of popular culture.
Helmed by fine performances and a timely storyline, The Heights is ready to hit the level it proclaims in its title.