Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'A Place to Call Home' Charms like an Australian 'Downton'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'A Place to Call Home' Charms like an Australian 'Downton'

Article excerpt

"Downton Abbey," now in the middle of its fifth season in the U.S., hits that sumptuous sweet spot for those who relish seeing how the Edwardian 1 percent coped with their luxuriant lives.

It follows in that grand tradition of the American fascination with such other British period series as "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Brideshead Revisited," which similarly whipped viewers on this side of the Atlantic into a froth of Anglophilia.

Australia, though, doesn't want to be left out of this tea party, bringing the addictive, binge-worthy "A Place to Call Home" to the festivities. The first season, which aired in Australia in 2013, is now available for streaming in the U.S. through Acorn TV, a site devoted to British (and now Australian) television.

A big, brawny blend of traditional Aussie soaps, melodramatic Hollywood films from the '50s and high-toned British drama, "A Place to Call Home" is perfect for American "Downton" fans itching for their next TV fix.

Unlike "Downton," "Home" is set in the early '50s, giving it a hint of the massive cultural shifts of the mid-20th century that were lurking around the corner.

Yet, like its English counterparts, "A Place to Call Home" revolves around an aristocratic family, the Blighs. At the head is widowed grandmother Elizabeth (a fantastic Noni Hazlehurst) who runs her New South Wales country estate/sheep ranch - Ash Park (derisively called "Cash Park" by one character) - like a well- heeled boot camp.

Everyone bows to her wishes, including debonair middle-aged son George (Brett Climo), entitled grandson James (David Berry), giddy granddaughter Anna (Abby Earl) and James' new British wife, Olivia (Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood), whom he met while attending university in England.

Of course, everyone in the nearby village of Inverness, from the town doctor Jack Duncan (Craig Hall) to the town gossip Doris (Deborah Kennedy), seems to be in her thrall.

Lives are turned upside-down when nurse Sarah Adams (a riveting Marta Dusseldorp) arrives in town with the force of an Outback thunderstorm.

An Australian who has lived in Europe for the previous 20 years - including through the horrors of World War II after converting to Judaism - she's tight-lipped about her experiences and what may have happened to her. …

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