1 9 9 4 – 1 9 9 9 (Australia)
210 x episodes
This teenage drama set in Hartley High School – a (fictional) rough multi-racial inner-city high school in Sydney, Australia – skilfully combined the hip and the gritty (something like an Oz version of Byker Grove).
The Network Ten series was based on a 1993 movie called The Heartbreak Kid, with Alex Dimitriades reprising his lead film role as Nick, a teen heartthrob from a Greek family who was trying to come to terms with the loss of his mother in a car accident.
Other major characters were Jodie (Abi Tucker), who came from a broken home and was a talented singer, ambitious to develop a career in the music industry; Rivers (Scott Major) – a disruptive, racist figure among the students; Nick’s car-part selling cousin Con (Salvatore Coco) who provided a comic focus; eye-brow ringed rollerblade bad-boy Drazic (Callan Mulvey); Steve (Corey Page), who found out that he was adopted and set out to find his birth mother; runaway Mai (Nina Liu); Katerina (Ada Nicodemou); and Danielle (Emma Roche) who had an affair with Nick after he broke up from a longer relationship with Jodie.
Among the teachers, the key characters were Yola Futoush (Doris Younane), the school counsellor, who helped the students overcome problems; and Bill Southgate (Tony Martin), a conservative authoritarian figure against whom the students rebelled.
In the second block of episodes, the cast was joined by Vic (Ernie Dingo), an Aboriginal teacher in media studies. Popular with the students, he taught them about more than the content of the official curriculum.
Showing teens facing universal problems – sex, love and loss – Heartbreak High took a realistic tone, often interweaving social problems such as racism, teenage pregnancy, alcohol abuse, gay-bashing, and abortion into storylines where plot points could not be neatly wrapped up at the end of each episode.
After the students graduated, the show continued to follow them, with the school setting switching to focus on the Poulos family and the Shark Pool hang out.
Heartbreak High did very well in the ratings battle down-under, attracting 70% of the youth audience in Australia. The series moved from Channel 10 to the ABC for the last two seasons, and like many Australian TV shows, a strong international audience kept it on air during its last legs.
Original music for the series was composed by Todd Hunter (sometimes in partnership with Johanna Pigott), best known as a member of rock group Dragon.
Costa ‘Con’ Bordino
Jeremy Lindsay Taylor