IT'S A DOWN UNDER DOWNTON
It may be set in the 1950s rather than the post-Edwardian period, but A Place Called Home could almost be seen as Australia's answer to Downton Abbey. What we have here is the juicy tale of a large aristocratic family who live in a rural area, and have a lot on their plate. These are the Blighs, a dynasty with a long history, bound by strict social etiquette but having to slowly and reluctantly adapt to a changing world. And, just as Downton had an outsider's point of view with the arrival of middle-class chap Matthew Crawley, A Place Called Home has Sarah Adams, a non-posh person who meets the family while on board a ship from Europe to Australia, and quickly becomes embroiled in the secrets and intrigues of the Blighs. Before she knows it, her fate becomes bound up with theirs.
IT'S GOT A MARVELLOUS MATRIARCH
If you thought Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess was a force to be reckoned with in Downton Abbey, just wait until you meet Elizabeth Bligh, your new favourite matriarch. Played by the brilliant Noni Hazlehurst, Elizabeth is the fearsome queen of the Blight clan, and a woman who'll pull no punches when it comes to preserving the honour and prestige of her family. So, unsurprisingly, she doesn't take it too well when Sarah Adams stumbles across a hidden secret of the Blighs which could shatter their reputation. Elizabeth will do whatever it takes to keep Sarah in check, and you'll find yourself gasping at just how cunning and ruthless this queen bee can be. Simply delicious.
IT'S GOT HEROES YOU'LL ROOT FOR
As well having its share of boo-hiss villains you'll love to hate, A Place Called Home also has the kinds of heroes you'll swoon for. Sarah Adams is that rare thing: the lead character in a drama who happens to be a mature, single woman who is rediscovering the world on her own terms. She left Australia behind decades ago, and is now returning in the wake of the war, with secrets stored away in the back of her mind. When she makes a sudden, sparkling connection with George Bligh, who is as good-hearted as he is handsome (and wealthy), you'll instantly be egging both of them on, no matter what hurdles they face.
IT'S LIKE A CLASSIC MELODRAMA
With its unashamedly racy, salacious and intensely emotional sub-plots, A Place Called Home is a callback to the classic melodramas of old, which were created to push the audience's buttons and have them reaching for the hankies. The show's creator, Bevan Lee, was inspired by the great romantic melodramas of director Douglas Sirk, whose movies included All That Heaven Allows, starring Rock Hudson and told the story of a forbidden romance between a widow and her hunky gardener. It's partly why Lee chose to set his story in the 50s, when the rigid social conventions caused so much internal conflict. "I want to fight the rise of melodrama being viewed as a somehow lesser form," Lee says. "To me a good melodrama is a big plum pudding of a show, full of fruit, flavour and the odd surprise threepence."
IT TAKES ON THE BIGGEST THEMES
It's not just the scurrilous intrigue of the Bligh family which makes A Place Called Home so compelling. The show is also unafraid to tackle the biggest social themes. Like the anti-Semitism and casual racial bigotry of the time, which we see through the story of a romance between people from different sides of the race barrier. Hidden sexuality is another big subject of the show, while we also delve into the emotional trauma of World War Two, especially when it comes to Sarah Adams, whose life was turned upside down by the conflict. And there are revelations from those blood-soaked days which will come back to haunt her.
IT'S A NOSTALGIA FEST
A Place Called Home may have complex characters, epic sub-plots and provide a poignant look at frustrating 50s conventions, but it also provides a more simple pleasure: pure nostalgia. And that's even if you weren't around in the 50s. The wealth of beautiful clothes, classic cars and unspoilt rustic scenery makes the show a lovely thing to look at - whether it reminds you of your childhood or you just have a love of all things retro and vintage.