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Return to Eden


j swift

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This 1986 Aussie soap had me hook, line, and sinker last night and I was surprised to see that there was no thread devoted to it on SON.  There is something about those 1980s Aussie soaps that feeds my need for campy night time plot driven drama.

Here's a link to the complete series synopsis http://www.australiantelevision.net/return-to-eden/series1.html  it is also all on Youtube

It started as a three-part miniseries, and then went on to a 22 episode one season run.  It was cancelled at the end of the first season and a five minute wrap up was produced for syndication and foreign markets to complete the story.

The plot is an immediate banger.  Stephanie Harper is a frumpy 40-year-old mining heiress with two kids and two divorces.  After her father dies and leaves her a fortune, her third husband turns out to be a disloyal golddigger.  In the opening episode, Stephanie, her husband, and her friend/enemy go on a boat trip, but they throw Stephanie overboard to be eaten by crocodiles!  The death by the slowest moving crocodile, in the shallowest river in Australia is cinematic gold!  (scene below)

Unbeknownst to them, Stephanie survives, thanks to the work of an amazing plastic surgeon, wig maker, and personal trainer.  Then, she returns to Sydney to get her revenge.  Of course, like most 40 year old formerly frumpy women Stephanie finds success as a supermodel, after walking into an agent's office and announcing that she wants to be on the cover of Vogue within one year.

The rest of plot twists are equally outrageous.  By the end, Stephanie, her goldigger husband, and her son all find their long lost half siblings.  Stephanie returns from the dead a second time, while learning to overcome her fear of crocodiles.  And everyone finds love.

I am eager to discuss this at length with others who have memories of the series, so I encourage you to either read the synopsis or watch it as soon as possible. 

Edited by j swift
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By the way, Stephanie Harper is obviously based on Gina Rinehart, a notoriously frumpy, multi-married, mining heiress.  She became infamous for fighting her step-mother over her father's will and later being sued by her children for denying them their inheritance.

She was the basis of her own miniseries House of Hancock, which the producers later had to make a public apology for offending her, after she attempted to buy the television station that ran the movie. 

Here's miniseries

 

 

Edited by j swift
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3 hours ago, j swift said:

By the way, Stephanie Harper is obviously based on Gina Rinehart, a notoriously frumpy, multi-married, mining heiress.  She became infamous for fighting her step-mother over her father's will and later being sued by her children for denying them their inheritance.

Was she though? Hancock's father didn't die until the early 90s. And she never became a supermodel either after having her face eaten by crocodiles.

 

I thought the miniseries was great for the pure trashy value of it all. The following 22 episode series was a bit "everything and the kitchen sink"; it needed to calm down lol. With that said, it had one of the best soap cliffhangers of the 80s that I was sad to see they wrapped it up in a neat bow for international airings.

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Return to Eden got some mentions in the primetime soap thread.

The mini series was huge in Australia so the decision was made to do a spin off series.

The male lead James Reyne was the lead singer of a popular band 'Australian Crawl' and I don't think he had ever acted before. His son was on Neighbours I think years later.

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Two quibbles

(1) How does Stephanie's former lover from the Middle East recognize her when even her husband and children were unable to do so after the surgery?

(2) The writers needed to be a bit more creative with the names.  The men in the series are so generically 80s handsome that it is difficult to tell them apart.  And, they're all named Jack, John, and Joe.  They needed soapy names like Spyder, Snake, or Steele to help the audience differentiate between the characters.

16 hours ago, te. said:

Was she though? Hancock's father didn't die until the early 90s. And she never became a supermodel either after having her face eaten by crocodiles.

Maybe she was a melange of Gina Rinehart and Elle Macpherson, who, unbeknownst to most, started her modeling career after being bitten on the hip by a koala (JK)?

Edited by j swift
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12 hours ago, Paul Raven said:

The male lead James Reyne was the lead singer of a popular band 'Australian Crawl' and I don't think he had ever acted before. His son was on Neighbours I think years later.

And his brother, David, was a regular on the long-running show "The Flying Doctors" during its last years.

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The budget of the 6-hour 1983 mini-series, 'Return To Eden' was $2.5 million - "the largest of any series made in Australia (at that time) and channel Ten has paid the highest price to screen it." In 1984, producer Hal McElroy sold 'Return To Eden' to Worldvision and Paramount for international distribution for close to $4 million. In 1985, the mini-series was turned into a weekly series, budgeted at $8 million. 'Return To Eden' the series was then pre-sold to the U.S. and U.K. markets before it went on air in Australia.
 
Daniel Abineri appeared in the 22 episodes observed, "I think they really go for all that 'Dynasty' stuff in Britain and 'Return To Eden' was just like 'Dynasty.'" When it was shown in the U.S. in September 1985, "some American audiences have viewed 'Return To Eden' and reaction has been highly favorable." Hal McElroy maintained, "We didn't set out to make 'Dynasty' or 'Dallas' per se. We could never emulate them, because they spend $1 million an hour - 4 or 5 times more than we have to spend. But it's prime time, adult-oriented melodrama, so, necessarily, it will have the same sort of qualities."
 
The playground of the high-living super rich and multi-million dollar mining empire did not appeal to many Australians. Ratings in Australia for the weekly series were lackluster. However 'Return To Eden' "has been immensely successful overseas, especially in Britain." Wardrobe supervisor Miv Brewer believed, "In 'Return To Eden' we have the ideal vehicle to put real glamor on Australian television. It also gives us the opportunity to expose some of our talented young designers who are well and truly up to the standard of Europe's best." 
 
Casting director Liz Mullinar picked Peta Toppano to play Jilly. Peta made known, "I incorporated my fiery Italian background into the role. I never really watched 'Dynasty' very much and I don't watch 'Sons and Daughters' so I wasn't drawing from anything. Jilly's my invention. I didn't think ... 'I'll take a bit of Joan Collins, a bit of Pat the Rat and a bit of this one and that one,' because I don't watch them. The wonderful thing about playing Jilly is that nobody recognizes me from 'Return To Eden'. In the show I had bright red hair, high heels and slinky dresses. At home I wear jeans and T-shirts. I've never done anything as glamorous as this before. I'd arrive at the studio in a track suit and by 6:00am I'd be decked out in tiaras and sequins."
 
Daniel Abineri remembered, "About halfway through it got really silly, and, for an actor, as soon as you can't take something seriously it becomes very hard to play it with a straight face. Keeping a straight face for the last 10 episodes of 'Return To Eden' was unbelievably hard for all of us on the show. We were getting the scripts a day or 2 before shooting and pearls of laughter would ring out from all the actors." 
 
Of the scenes in the final episode, "I wanted to die with a smile on my face but they wouldn't let me. They really worried that I never had it done up tight like a real business tycoon. So, just for a little revenge, I had a scene where I had to throw Jilly around the bedroom and my tie came loose. I made a point of staring right down the lens of the camera and straightening my tie. The producers were cool though. They knew what I was up to. They put a big dramatic, orchestral sting in, a big 'bu-bomp' just as I straightened my tie - made it much more dramatic."

Peta confessed, "I wanted this role more than anything in the world. I think people will be surprised and my mother will have a heart attack!" Out of jail and hellbent on revenge, Jilly re-entered the life of Harper Mining shareholder Phillip Stewart (played by John Lee). Peta recounted, "Jilly's been stringing Phillip along like a fish on a line for a while now. She's been manipulating him and conning him and telling him how much she loves him, how much she's changed and how trustworthy she's going to be from now on.

"Yet all the time she's been seeing Jake, sleeping with him, and then coming home to Phillip and telling him what a wonderful man he is! He really loves her but she's playing this double-handed game and deceiving Phillip right down the line - destroying him. I think she hates him; she despises him for being weak and loving her so much. She sees Phillip as somebody to step on and destroy. He's just a pawn in her masterplan to get everything that Stephanie Harper (played by Rebecca Gilling) has.

"Jilly marries Phillip for the money and the power. She also marries him to get back on the social ladder again because she is hurt at having been ostracized by both his family and friends and by the Harpers. She sees her marriage to Phillip as a way back into the money and social sphere she used to know. I'm starting to find out who Jilly is and delving into areas of my own personality I feel are appropriate for her. I think there's a bit of Jilly in every woman. For Jilly I'm calling on a side of myself I've never had to call upon as an actress before - it's a side of me that I don't like. I have been typecast as a sweet, girl-next-door type. That's why I was so grateful to be given the chance to play a conniving character."
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