First published on 12 Feb 2012. Updated on 6 Mar 2012.
TV Show: Offspring
Date: 2010 – now
Locations: Mostly Fitzroy
When it comes to iconic landmarks, Sydney has the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, and if we’re being generous maybe Centrepoint Tower. Melbourne, on the other hand, has trams. Lots of trams. The Arts Centre Spire was a valiant attempt – but if your landmarks have to light up for anyone to notice them, they’re probably trying too hard.
That’s why depicting Melbourne on TV provides a different kind of opportunity. In Offspring, soon returning for its third season, the professional and personal crises of 30-something obstetrician Nina Proudman often play out around the streets of Fitzroy. Sydney TV can seem to show the Harbour Bridge in the background of every second shot; Offspring’s chosen landmark is more likely to be the size of one of Brunswick Street’s colourful ceramic chairs.
Other shows by Southern Star Productions have also used Melbourne to their advantage. Rush, the adrenalized cop show that recently ended its four year run, wanted the city to be integral part of the show. “We put our colours up the flagpole early,” says Rush writer Christopher Lee, “by shooting the first sequence of the first episode right in the recognisable heart of the city.”
And a city’s landmarks don’t just provide the easy thrill of familiarity; they also can work as metaphors to help hold a story together. Southern Star producer John Edwards observes, “Fitzroy is just so lively and bright – and Offspring’s a show about liveliness and brightness.”
Offspring’s location shooting in Fitzroy’s streets, bars, and cafes give it an authenticity that helps keep its whimsical fantasy sequences in check. It’s also led fans to explore the area with new eyes. “It brings an area you love to life,” says the blogger known as MelbournianGirl, who admires the way It captures Melbourne's cultural identity: less slick, more grunge. “Fitzroy’s got a lot of character. It’s nice to see bars and cafes you’ve had a drink in now on the television. Surreal, but kind of cool.”
She was inspired to begin her ‘Offspring Plan’, visiting the show’s featured venues and documenting them at Melbournian Girl. Her greatest clash of TV-versus-reality: the Black Cat. Offspring showcases this Fitzroy institution’s rumpled charms as a quiet cafe during the day; they don’t show that it’s a raucous bar at night. (Remember: just because Nina and friends can always find a seat on one of their battered couches doesn’t mean you’ll have the same luck.)
MAKE THE OFFSPRING PILGRIMAGE:
The Union Club Hotel: This is ground zero for many of Offspring’s most dramatic moments. Nina’s brother Jimmy works there. Kim – spoilers! – gives birth there. And Mick, aka Shane Warne The Musical’s Eddie Perfect, regularly performs there to give episodes a musical kick. 164 Gore St, Fitzroy. 03 9417 2926.
Radio: Offspring’s used many Fitzroy cafés – De Clieu, the Black Cat, Madame Sou Sou – but Radio on Gertrude Street is most easily spotted thanks to its round window. While you’re there, pop down the road and say: “Hey, there isn’t a travel agent here! Offspring lied to us!” 79 Gertrude St, Fitzroy. 03 9417 4723.
Sonido: According to MelbournianGirl, South American cafe Sonido was the best surprise of her Offspring quest. “They use it as a generic cafe in the show – but it’s packed with life, has delicious food, and feels like something really unusual for Melbourne.” 69 Gertrude St, Fitzroy.