Offspring co-creator and producer Imogen Banks is looking forward to a new conversation at parties.
“Whenever I meet somebody and they find out my involvement in Offspring they always have a go at me about Patrick,” says Banks. “I love how invested people are. You get endlessly asked ‘why did you kill Patrick!?’
She adds with some relief that “I haven’t had anybody seriously attack me. We were all slightly nervous when it went to air.”
The answer as to why, is simply that the show didn’t have an option to automatically extend the contract for actor Matthew Le Nevez, whose American agents were putting pressure on him to return back to the USA. “So we knew we had to write his exit from the show and obviously so much though went into it and the decision to have the death not be the end of the series.
“We were really determined that we had an episode afterwards to process some of the grief. So most people talk about the experience of going on that ride. Being absolutely devastated and angry and confused and looking for someone to blame for it. I acknowledge how disturbing it was for the audience. We went through our own grieving process in doing it.”
Patrick’s death last season, just before the birth of his and Nina’s daughter Zoe has huge ramifications for Nina in series five, which starts airing on Ten this week. As such it provides a wealth of material for the writing team. While the shows writers love their characters, it is torturing heroes such as Nina, that often delivers the best drama.
“Once it’s been prompted you start to see all of this opportunity,” says Banks. “It has been an incredibly gratifying experience. We started Offspring with Nina as this professionally competent woman, who was very unsure of her self emotionally, and couldn’t figure things out in her family. Getting her to the point now where she’s got this child and just experienced this incredible grief its this sort of maturation experience that’s been lovely to observe.
We went through our own grieving process in doing it
“Also for us its been this great start to a season where you’ve got those two sisters clinging to each other and supporting each other and living together and annoying each other and all of those wonderful things those two do.
“This is series is this slow reemergence of Nina. Who is she without Patrick and who is she as a mother and will she let love back into her life? That’s been obviously quite fun to play with. There’s a lot of enjoyment to be had in Billie’s world as well.”
While respecting the grief of both Nina and the fans, the romantic comedy roots of the series also work better if its heroine is single, and Banks promises that there will be much joy this season watching the “tentative romantic steps and all of the shenanigans and all of that silly sexy fun. That’s all back.’
Banks is producing a new series, Party Tricks, that started filming last week so probably won’t get the chance to watch the first episode as it goes to air – though she tries to whenever possible.
“I try to watch live to air because you learn so much; the noise on commercial TV with ads and the impact on the drama. Some episodes come up better as they’re broadcast. Some aren’t as good with the interruptions.”
Watching the broadcast also lets her monitor social media. “It’s really quite emotional a lot of the comments you’re getting. Offspring has an incredibly engaged and dedicated and opinionated and caring audience. There’s this overwhelming sense of care for Nina.”
Banks notices the difference between those comments and those they receive for one of her other shows, Puberty Blues.
“With Puberty Blues there’s usually more of a response to the shocks people have had or embarrassment about watching with your parents or embarrassment about watching with your children.”
Banks and her colleagues are in negotiations with Ten over new deals for both Offspring and Puberty Blues, which has recently ended its second season.
While we’ll have to wait for details of any sixth season of Offspring, “there are a lot of conversations about what we would do if there was a third season of Puberty Blues. Obviously it would be very different because Debbie and Sue are growing up and they’re now out of school. When you’ve got a group of characters like that there’s so much opportunity for story.”
Despite the ratings for both shows failing to consistently rise above the magic one million viewer mark that is considered the benchmark for success in commercial television, the fact that Ten is struggling with ratings across the board means there is a good chance both award-winning shows will return to our screens.
“There’s will in most sectors its just a logistical question really,” says Banks. “Also Puberty Blues had some incredible number of hits on TENplay [Ten’s online catch up service]. I’m sure a lot of that is teenagers not wanting to watch with parents – or teens not allowed to watch it at all!”
For now Banks will be watching the ratings – and fan response – to the new season of Offspring and with all 13 episodes already delivered, there’s no space for changes if fans rebel.
“That’s right so don’t bother complaining,” laughs Banks.
Offspring series 5 launches on Wednesday 14 May on Ten
Puberty Blues series 2 is available on Blu-ray and DVD