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We're all devastated about Patrick, but you shouldn't give up on Offspring. Here's why.

Nina with Zoe.

CAN WE BREATHE YET?

It’s been a long six months for Offspring fans and finally it’s over. The first episode of Season 5 has aired – Nina has gone back to work and the Proudman gang are back in all their amazing glory, and we want to know what you thought.

But first, I want to share this with you.

This week I had a chat with Debra Oswald, who is the creator and head writer for Offspring, about the incredible show that is Offspring, what’s next for Nina and THAT adorable baby.

Here’s what Debra had to say:

LO: The question everyone wants to know – why did Patrick have to die?

DO: Well, we loved having Matt le Nevez on the show and we wanted to write story lines for his character for as long as we could be sure he would be here working in Australia. Once we knew we would have to consider the future scripts without Matt, we discussed what direction the story would take. We felt that there was no way he would leave Nina. If the Nina/Patrick relationship crumbled into some sort of miserable unhappy marriage, it wouldn’t be true to the spirit of the show and their relationship. And we didn’t feel it would be credible for him to abandon her and the baby.

Patrick. Oh.

We also felt that by the end of the fourth series, the show could accommodate something like a big death. And actually, we found in the process of writing series five that it was the best thing that could have happened in terms of giving us new territory to explore and making the whole show deeper.

A tragedy like Patrick’s death makes new demands on so many characters and we hoped that the audience would be interested to go on that journey, even if it’s painful in many ways. We found – and I hope viewers will find this too – that the fun and the sexiness and the joy in the show are even more powerful now. Everything matters more.

LO: Were you worried about people’s reaction? Did you take them seriously when they said they were resigning from the show?

DO: We were astonished by the strength of the reaction. I guess you don’t want to think people are going to stop watching the show. My hunch is that if people felt that strongly, then maybe they’re committed enough to our characters to continue watching the show. I hope they will. Our job is to honour people’s commitment to the characters, to treat the story with proper weight. That doesn’t mean that it has to be all sombre and serious and grim either.

I think there is a small band of people who feel we’ve made a terrible mistake and will turn their backs on the show, but so be it. I don’t think it will be many.

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LO: There’s a lot riding on this episode; a lot of people who are nervous about what will happen. How did you want viewers to walk away after watching the show?

DO: We jumped six months. Nina’s been in hibernation, with the family supporting her, but today is the day to step back into the world. So the series is stepping back into the world, and so is Nina.

A central idea in the first episode – hopefully in a way which isn’t too trite – is that life goes on. The family has been supportive, Nina and Billie have this great little household happening and the baby is okay.

(It was really important to me that people not worry about the baby; that they feel that that baby is well looked after.)

Nina’s state of mind is not a simple matter. There’s a speech she says to the family towards the end of the episode – explaining that what she wants from people changes all the time. Sometimes she wants to be coddled, sometimes she wants to pretend that it hasn’t happened and so on. This contradictory mix of feelings.

Nina with Zoe.

There’s pressure on people who’ve suffered a tragic loss – pressure on young widows in particular – to make certain policy decisions about their love lives. Everyone has an opinion about it. The other characters in our world have opinions about what Nina should do and so will many people in the audience. The first episode sets up that pressure and that question head-on.

Nina is anxious to go back to work, nervous about going back to work and perfectly capable. What she’s not ready to do is get involved with anyone else. Patrick was her great love and may be the only one she ever has but that doesn’t mean that her sexuality is dead.

So I guess I wanted to say a lot of things in this first episode! And I also wanted to say to the audience ‘you don’t have to pretend that it isn’t sad, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t also laugh.’ That joy and playfulness can exist alongside sadness.

Oh, and I love that beautiful pre-credit sequence that Emma Freeman (our director) and John Brawley (our DOP) achieved. It’s that beautiful, sweeping, time-passing shot. We talked endlessly and felt we needed to give people a sense of those six months passing. Emma and John came up with that motion control shot. And then I wrote a scene to fit.

LO: On the subject of Nina’s sexuality not being dead. I have to say that I never expected to be laughing about an orgasm party in this episode. But that’s Offspring – you nail the balance between humour and emotion.

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DO: We were a bit nervous!

We always love it when the tone turns really suddenly. So the fantasies Nina’s having are funny and then it’s incredibly sexy and then it’s incredibly sad. So we love shifting very fast between tones because that’s what life is like! And we also have an ensemble of actors who can do it.

LO: On the decision to cut six months out of the plot, how did that come about?

Nina and Billie

DO: We wanted Nina to be able to go back to work part-time. So six months made sense. And we wanted to feel that the audience would understand she’d done a lot of grieving but that we had permission to move on (to some extent). Obviously she hasn’t stopped grieving, but the most intense part of the grief had happened so the audience can honour Patrick’s loss but allow Nina to move on. And also because a six-month-old baby is easier – newborns are hard to shoot with!

LO: The saying ‘life goes on’ that’s used by Channel 10 in the promo – did it come from anywhere in particular? Did you speak to women who had gone through similar experiences to Nina?

DO: I did talk to a few people. Plus, one of the great things about the internet is that there are all these online support groups, which strike me as one of the wonderful things about the net. There are support groups for young widows, for example.

People lose loved ones all the time. I suppose it’s unusual to lose your partner just before you give birth – that’s a particularly heightened version of it. But the experience of loss is a shared human experience we can explore in this series. For example, the idea of Patrick appearing to Nina in the first few episodes. I don’t think that’s a weird thing. I think anyone who’s lost someone they’re close to is likely to understand that. I personally imagine conversations with my father – I think it’s a really common experience to conjure up that person in your imagination.

LO: There’s one part of the episode where Nina suggests that she might never find another partner. Is that something again that came from real life?

DO: I can’t remember where that came from but I think that was probably my attitude. Nina says, ‘I’ve got my daughter, I’ve got my work, I’ve got my family’ – all those things are important parts of who she is and possibly that’s enough for her. Then again, she’s also a strong active sexual woman who is hardly going to give up on the world of romance entirely.

In the first episode, it is as if we let her toy with the idea of romance in her head and then she thinks ‘no’. And I suppose that probably mirrors the audience’s reaction. That we’re all torn between ‘we want to see it. But we actually don’t.’ It’s too soon.

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LO: When you started the show, did you ever imagine that Nina would end up as a widowed mother?

DO: No! But we never thought we’d get five series so…

A lot of the time with the story line, we writers are responding to things that happen. You know – when Kat Stewart was pregnant we had to write Billie out for a few episodes; when the dog got arthritis, we had to kill Rocket. We’re all the time responding to external factors. But we’re trying to do that in a way that’s an authentic part of our world. Sometimes these things can seem like problems but they are actually opportunities. Once you’ve established the world of these people and all this juicy life happening, when something is thrown at us like the dog having to be written out, we think ‘how can we use that?’ And it might sound ruthless but that’s what writers do. Just as long as doing in it a way that’s respectful and interesting.

Debra Oswald

We often talked about if and when Nina would get pregnant, because that seemed like an obvious way the show would progress and change. We always wanted every season to move forward. It’s not a show where our world is static. If you think about it, Nina’s changed a lot. By the end of series two, she’d committed to a man where she felt that ‘yes this was it’, at the end of series three she was pregnant, and at the end of series four she’d lost her partner and had a baby. So she’s a very different woman. She’s obviously the same personality, but she’s changing and maturing and absorbing these things we do to her.

I don’t think we knew from the very beginning that she was going to be a widowed mother. But once we were in the process of story-lining series four and five together, we always planned to end up where we did.

LO: Was Nina’s baby always going to be a girl?

DO: These are all discussions that happened in the writer’s room and I can’t entirely remember. I think we felt that because Alfie was a boy and Ray was a boy, it was time we had a Proudman girl. Also, it felt pleasing that it should be a Mini Nina; that it should be another Proudman female entering the world. I think that was the idea.

And the name. We battered around a few names. Zoe is the Greek word for ‘life’, which felt appropriate in terms of the death of her father and in terms of the whole idea of the show. Because the show is about life force, so it felt right that the baby should be called that. And also it’s a nice name!

I’m sure everyone will have opinions about it.

What did you think of the first episode of Offspring Season 5?

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