1 9 9 5 – 1 9 9 6 (Australia)
26 x 44 minute episodes
With its images of fit, bronzed Aussie firefighters and sunny Brisbane, Fire clearly had its sights set on the export market, delivering to the world an impression of life Down Under that had already proved its international appeal. But beyond the look, it was a tangle of bravado, over-heated and under-cooked conflicts and gratuitous sex.
Fire – revolving around a Queensland fire station and its tightly knit platoon of firefighters – was a popular success for the Seven Network and consistently won its timeslot in 1995,
But one group it failed to charm was the United Firefighters Union who protested that the show did not present a true image of men and women who fight fires.
Georgie Parker played Morgan ‘Mad Dog’ Cartwright, the newest member of South East Fire Station and the first ever female member of the Queensland Fire Department. Much of the first series dealt with her battle with misogyny and winning acceptance in the tight-knit group of “firies”.
While the second series contained more nudie bits and a more balanced mix of comedy and drama, there was just as much shouting as in the first series. This time, instead of labouring with one (fairly lame) sub-plot through the whole season – as the hunt for the serial “pyro” among the lads of the South East Station did in the first series – the writing team, headed by Tony Cavanaugh, went for three separate story arcs that played out over several episodes.
The first story arc, entitled ‘Unity’, concerned the rogueish Repo (Andy Anderson) and his quest to become officer material and was rendered in the heavy-handed style that became familiar on Fire.
Repo endured a succession of mid-life crises; he faced death on a fireground; his dad died; he resolved to become an officer. Then he confronted the stony opposition of his hard-arse superior Spit (Wayne Pygram), fought loudly with his wife Dolores (Deborra-Lee Furness); and, finally, triumphed. Go Repo!
Every aspect of Repo’s odyssey was writ large: his tortured gazes into the camera, and his no-holds-barred shouting matches with Spit, Dolores and the other members of the new West End squad. Nothing subtle or cerebral there.
Fire was dead keen on lingering reaction shots of people looking tormented and characters were either angry, happy or horny, and rarely anything in between.
The series was more interested in flexing its plot than developing its characters and the only firie fortunate enough to be given a sustained private life was Repo, whose lusty partnership with Dolores was established at the outset and never really grew much.
The others worked with one-dimensional sketches. New recruit Tex (Totti Goldmsith) had trouble committing to relationships with men, but we never knew why this was so.
When we saw her grappling with an unplanned pregnancy and the prospect of single motherhood, her ordeal went something like this: she found out, she pondered meaningfully, she confided in Dolores, she made her decision to have an abortion, she moved on.
All we really found out about Tex along the way was that she loved being a firie, had trouble committing, and had a kinda thing going with Seldom (Damian Pike) – so named because he seldom spoke – who was cast as a standard-issue brooding hunk with a past (he was an ex-cop with an old score to settle).
But Fire didn’t want fully-fleshed characters. It wanted broadly-drawn characters, pace, action and as much T&A as it could cram into 44 minutes.
To that end we had Grievous (Tayler Kane), a hulking Italian salami who talked about himself in the third person – he was described by one of the Arson Squad detectives as having a “million-dollar body with a two-cent brain” – and whose passion for sexual conquest afforded the writers their requisite weekly quota of writhing, risque talk and bare breasts and bottoms.
When TaylerKane spoke to the media about what he perceived to be the shortcomings of the series, Fire’s producers responded by banning him from all publicity.
Disgruntled with that outcome, and frustrated by the limitations of his character, Kane quit the series.
Sex was so big in Fire that when the squad did safety inspections, they didn’t descend on a fish and chip shop, but a brothel, where we were treated to shots of scantily-clad hookers parading suggestively.
A domestic emergency here was less likely to be a cat stuck up a tree and more likely to be a naked man with his penis caught in the suction hose of a vacuum cleaner. It was that sort of show.
Raunchy, brash and exploitative, Fire stoked its superficial melodramas, turned on some speeding trucks and flames, threw in some sex, and off it went. Nee-Na Nee-Na. Boom. Crash.
John ‘Repo’ Kennedy
Quentin ‘Spit’ Jacobsen
Louis ‘Grievous’ Fazio
Danny ‘Nugget’ Hunt
David ‘Giraffe’ Simpson
Marilyn ‘Tex’ Perez
Morgan ‘Mad Dog’ Cartwright
Montgomery ‘Seldom’ Webber
Nick ‘The Boss’ Connor
Edward ‘Dinosaur’ Spence
Martin ‘Mary’ Hawthorne
Richard ‘Banjo’ Gates
Peter ‘TNT’ Thompson
Arron Wayne Cull