The West

Melbourne the star
Wayne Hope and Robyn Butler at work shooting Upper Middle Bogan for the ABC in Melbourne. Picture: Supplied.

It has been a bumper time for Melbourne television production in recent months with three major new ABC series shooting in and around the city simultaneously, two with strong connections to Perth.

The Time of Our Lives has been filming since June at locations including the ABC studios in Elsternwick and a swanky townhouse in Port Melbourne.

The 13-part drama is from Perth-born Secret Life of Us co-creator Amanda Higgs and writer Judi McCrossin.

It explores the changing and challenging dynamics of the Tivolli family, starring William McInnes and Shane Jacobson as brothers Matt and Luce and Claudia Karvan and Justine Clarke as their respective wives, Caroline and Bernadette.

Matt and Caroline have a five-year-old son she believes is gifted, while Luce and Bernadette have young twins and shared custody of Luce's teenage daughter from a previous relationship.

Film and TV favourite Stephen Curry plays Herb, a friend of Matt and Luce's since childhood.

"In the story Herb, my character, has been raised by the Tivolli family," Curry explained in Melbourne earlier this week.

"He's a builder who is sick of building and doesn't like it, is sick of the splinters and wants to be a comedian. So Luce and Herb start up a comedy room and basically he starts on his path to try to make a living out of it. They realise as they go along it is not quite as easy as all that."

Curry, whose wife, Naadein, is expecting their first child on September 29, is a realist and suspects he won't be able to use his tickets to that day's AFL Grand Final. He also fears his beloved Collingwood will be knocked out of contention by West Coast tomorrow.

While his LA-based brother, Bernard, will soon be seen on Seven hosting a new season of Beauty and the Geek and has lined up a role as an Aussie bad guy in NCIS, Curry will be seen later this year as a police officer in the ABC's gritty urban drama series Redfern Now, which he shot in Sydney.

There is Perth power in front of and behind the cameras for Paper Giants: Magazine Wars, the sequel to last year's Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo, which has two weeks left of filming in Melbourne.

The miniseries is directed by Perth-born WA Academy of Performing Arts graduate Daina Reid, who directed the first Paper Giants and Nine's recent ratings hit Howzat! Kerry Packer's War.

It stars Perth-born Mandy McElhinney (aka Rhonda from the AAMI advertisements) and Golden Globe-winner Rachel Griffiths as colleagues turned rival magazine editors Nene King and Dulcie Boling.

Rob Carlton reprises the role of Kerry Packer for the drama set from 1987 to 1997, when women's magazines became obsessed with celebrities and gossip.

On a lighter note, comedy couple and Librarians creators Wayne Hope and Robyn Butler are busy with their new series, Upper Middle Bogan, starring Annie Maynard (Paper Giants, Spirited) as Bess Denyar, a successful doctor with a posh mother, architect husband and twins at a private school who discovers she is adopted.

Bess' real parents turn out to be the drag race-loving Wheeler family headed by Wayne and Julie, played by Glenn Robbins (Kath & Kim) and Robyn Malcolm (matriarch of the West clan in the New Zealand hit Outrageous Fortune). Their son, Kayne, is played by Rhys Mitchell, son of Robbins' former Comedy Company co-star Mark Mitchell.

The buzz of planes, buses, helicopters and leaf blowers could do little to dampen the fun vibe on set at the beautifully renovated Brighton home being used as Bess' house.

Butler said the ABC was looking for a family comedy.

"This is not a judgmental show about bogans or about class," she said. "We are kind of making fun of everybody in a way. It has a very warm heart."

In a coup, Butler and Hope have lured theatre luminary Robyn Nevin back to the small screen for the first time since Halifax F.p. in the 1990s, to play Bess' mother Margaret.

"She so fits the bill, she is just so anchored in that world without banging it on," Butler said.

All shows in production will air on the ABC next year while telemovies filmed in Melbourne earlier this year - including Jack Irish with Guy Pearce, Dangerous Remedy with Perth's Jeremy Sims and Mystery of a Hansom Cab starring John Waters - will air this year.

Other shows in production in Melbourne include the new Shaun Micallef and Kat Stewart drama Mr and Mrs Murder for Ten and Eleven's stalwart soapie Neighbours, with Nine's Underbelly: Squizzy Taylor to start filming later this month and Foxtel's Prisoner-inspired Wentworth to start next month.

_·Sue Yeap visited Melbourne as a guest of the ABC. _

'He's a builder who is sick of building and . . . wants to be a comedian. So Luce and Herb start up a comedy room and basically he starts on his path to try to make a living out of it.' STEPHEN CURRY

The West Australian

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