1 9 8 0 (Australia)
1 x 150 minute episode
7 x 60 minute episodes
Set in Australia between the two World Wars, the nine-and-a-half hour miniseries Water Under The Bridge (based on a 1977 novel by Sumner Locke Elliott) covered a 40-year sweep through Australian history in a melodramatic story about a showgirl, her adopted son who becomes an actor and the woman journalist who falls in love with him.
Robyn Nevin starred as Shasta Davies, a teenage Melbourne chorus girl who sacrifices her career to raise her best friend’s son Neil (played as a child by Bryan McQueen-Mason) who is orphaned when his mother – and Shasta’s close friend – Uke (Peta Toppano) and his father Pete Atkins (Sean Scully) die during a flu epidemic in 1919.
Shasta tries to cope with seemingly selfish regrets for her lost career while struggling as a single parent.
Some 40 years later she suffers a stroke and ends up a bitter and lonely old woman in penury in Sydney’s Kings Cross, too proud to ask for help from her friends or from Neil (played as an adult by David Cameron), who has become a successful actor in London.
She finally sinks into a quagmire of depression and regret as she realises that Neil is not prepared to sacrifice his career for her.
Other main characters included Maggie McGhee (Jacki Weaver), a journalist who befriends Neil; wealthy Luigi Mazzini (Frank Galacher), the great love of Shasta’s life and victim of a horrific murder; Clare Mazzini (Briony Behets), the beautiful and icy woman that Luigi chose to marry instead of Shasta; Don Brandywine (screen tough guy Rod Mullinar), a tormented singer with an embarrassing secret; Archie Evers (John Howard), a self-centred friend of Don’s; TC Shallicott (Peter Whitford), Neil’s romantic rival who is later involved with Maggie; Honor Mazzini (Rowena Wallace) who strives to have TC marry her younger sister, Carrie (Judy Davis); and Hamish Menzies (Tommy Dysart), the rogue Scot who brings romance into Shasta’s life and then a cruel disappointment.
Many of the cast were required to age several decades throughout the miniseries, which they achieved with makeup (thanks to Sally Gordon and Bob McCarron) and some strategically placed padding. Episodes were shot on 16mm film rather than videotape.
The series was produced for Network 10 by Shotton productions and aired from 24 September 1980.
Neil Atkins as a child