Mercado on TV: RFDS proves that commercial TV can still make good Australian drama

RFDS Royal Flying Doctor Service

The cast of RFDS is a welcome mix of new faces and recognisable names led by Aussie actress Emma Hamilton

RFDS (August 11 on Seven) is about to prove that commercial television can still get it right when it comes to Australian drama. This impressive new drama is going to have broad appeal and rate well thanks to some moving scripts and believable situations and characters (and listen to our podcast with co-creator Imogen Banks here).

But first to the elephant in the room which is that this concept has already been done before on The Flying Doctors (1986 – 1993, Nine, 224 episodes). When ratings began to decline, the show was renamed R.F.D.S. and moved from Coopers Crossing to Broken Hill but it flopped.

RFDS is now back in Broken Hill and in the years since the last show was there, the outback town has gone through massive change. Having a drag queen (Trevor Ashley) in the first episode is not some scriptwriter folly, but a nod to what is now a much more progressive town which has its own Priscilla-themed festival called Broken Heels (which has just been covid postponed from September to December).



Stephen Peacocke in RFDS

The cast of RFDS is a welcome mix of new faces and recognisable names. Aussie actress Emma Hamilton fooled me into thinking she was really English as per her character, and Justine Clarke, Ash Ricardo and Kate Mulvany are superb as always. There is diversity with Rob Collins, Thomas Weatherall and Rodney Afif and Stephen Peacocke settles into yet another Aussie bloke role he was born to do.

Given TV Week’s obsession with Stephen Peacocke, he should find himself on the front cover all throughout August because he is also in the new series of Five Bedrooms which premieres on Paramount+ the same day as RFDS.

Now, why didn’t y’all tell me to watch Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)? Actually, lots of you did but I don’t like shows about sports and I have never liked Jason Sudeikis. Then Ted Lasso got 20 Emmy Award nominations and I figured a peek was in order.

So, why didn’t y’all tell me that it was set in the UK (tick) with a mostly British cast (tick tick) and that the blonde bitch character Rebecca Welton (played by Hannah Waddingham) had a Footballers Wives’ Tanya Turner (Zoe Tucker) vibe about her (tick tick tick)???

If Schitt’s Creek was the feel good lockdown show of 2020, then Ted Lasso is the must-watch show this year. Both shows are about fish-out-of-water characters moving to small towns with nutty people and both get better the longer you watch. PS I really love Jason Sudeikis now.

RFDS Podcast

Listen to Mediaweek’s Andrew Mercado and James Manning talking to RFDS co-creator and EP Imogen Banks.

Hear how Banks has been planning the series for close to five years. She also talks about the casting – in particular lead Emma Hamilton and Home and Away and Seven regular Stephen Peacocke.

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