Trouble at the Rafters’
In a year that was meant to be a happier year for the Rafters mob after the tragic death of Melissa Rafter (and the earlier exit of Sammy Rafter) in 2010, there is to be at least one Rafters leaving the fold in 2011.
Jessica Marais, who plays Rachel Rafter in Seven’s astronomically popular Packed to the Rafters, has signalled her intention to leave the show to try her luck in the US.
And who can really blame her, with Zoe Ventoura and Jessica McNamee leaving to do the same. It also seems to be as good a time as ever for Aussies to audition in the US, just take a look at this incomplete list of the current crop of young Aussies kicking big goals at the moment.
However, the team at Channel Seven must be getting slightly concerned at these exits.
Let’s compare Packed to the Rafters with McLeods Daughters for a second.
McLeod’s Daughters, like Packed to the Rafters, based itself around a family. It began with Lisa Chappell (who played Claire McLeod) and Bride Carter (as Tess McLeod) as the two “daughters”. They shared the same father, but not the same mother.
However, at the end of Season 3, Claire died in a car accident, however , her baby daughter, Charlotte, was left behind with Tess, technically still making the title true.
Then followed a number of exits including Tess herself, as well as a number of “daughters” seemingly appearing out of nowhere. For example, Jodi Fountain, the daughter of Meg Rivers-Dodge, Jack McLeod’s Housekeeper, later became Jodi Fountain-McLeod after discovering that her mother had a relationship with Jack. (She even later became Jodi Fountain McLeod-Bosnich).
To cope with the exit of even Jodi, Regan McLeod (Zoe Naylor), Grace McLeod (Abi Tucker) and Jasmine McLeod (played by Anna Torv and Edwina Ritchard), all cousins of Tess McLeod.
However, with these introductions and exits, ratings declined- first a minimal decline after Claire’s death, then a sharper drop after Season five, until it petered out in Seasons seven and eight.
Packed to the Rafters, similarly has had very strong ratings in its first three season with ratings rarely dropping blow 1.6 million viewers, and regularly hovering around the 1.8 million mark.
McLeod’s ratings for its first three seasons stayed around 1.85 million, 1.84 million and 1.82 million.
Rafters have had to endure the losses of characters including Sammy Rafter and Melissa Rafter- both core characters there from episode 1. And, both Rafters.
Though, what makes Marais’ exit all the more significant is that she is one of the three Rafters daughters.
And now just wait for the criticism to start.
And this season, and particularly some of last season, Rafters has suffered some less than positive reviews, or at least, less than what is was used to.
It has copped flak for its one-dimension character Nick “Carbo” Karandonis, played by George Houvardas, for its stereotypical portrait of a Greek man- the only ethnic character in the cast- by a mile.
Some have even expressed disappointment at its over-focus on more depressing storylines, namely, Dave Rafter’s bout of depression, as well as Melissa’s death.
Ryan Corr, who plays the rough-around-the-edges Coby Jennings, has joined the recurring cast this season, however, his character, while not terrible, has not exactly rejuvenated the show.
Then there’s Loretta “Retta” Schembri, Carbo’s girlfriend, who- perhaps fittingly – is as one-dimensional as Carbo.
John Howard’s inclusion as the fierce Tom Jennings could be a great source of conflict- if he was released from jail.
However, back to Marais’ exit. James Stewart, who plays her boyfriend, Jake Barton, has stated he will stay on the show. However, what they will do with his character is anyone’s guess.
One would think the ideal situation is for the couple to ride off into the sunset after a 2 million viewer grabbing wedding, but it seems not to be the case.
And producers have stated that Marais’ character will not be killed off, so either a nasty break-up is on the cards (unlikely, because why would Rachel leave her family and a similar exit was executed with Sammy Rafter) or Rachel gets a huge promotion- more likely, given that she is the high-flyer in the family.
Rebecca Gibney also may exit the show, what with her developing a show of her own. TV Tonight also states that it will “advance following a fifth series“.
This would leave the Rafters’ household very empty, and the media to keep thinking up headlines like “Not so Packed as Jess quits Rafters“, which could lead viewers to switch off in droves- as we all know that viewers watch TV for the characters.
However, this is not to say that it is a bad show, or even a mediocre one, by any stretch. It still has quite intriguing storylines at times, and especially when it aims to combine many elements together.
Melissa’s death was also well executed and very tactful, without being too soppy or over-the-top.
And Channel Seven isn’t likely to axe it any time soon, especially with the ratings it is getting. It is now up to producers to keep the show interesting, and viewers watching.