8th February 1986
It’s all glamor as Return To Eden comes back, but treachery is never far away.
IT’S unashamedly flamboyant, glamorous, sexy and bitchy. Return to Eden the series – Australia’s version of the super-soap – premieres this week around the country on Network 10.
Inspired by the internationally successful mini-series of the same name, the series picks up the storyline seven years after Stephanie Harper (played by Rebecca Gilling) survived the attempt on her life and a horrible mauling by crocodile.
Stephanie is enjoying an idyllic life and is still as beautiful as ever – thanks to the plastic surgery administered by handsome Dan Marshall (James Smillie), who is now her husband.
One of Australia’s wealthiest women, she is running the vast Harper Mining empire and Tara, her fashion and beauty company. She is ensconced in Eden, her waterfront home and living the life of a happy wife and mother of two children, Dennis (Peter Cousens) and Sarah (Nicky Paull).
But now Jilly Stewart, the woman imprisoned for Stephanie’s attempted murder, is released from prison and is intent on revenge. Originally played by Wendy Hughes, Jilly – who is set to become Australia’s super-bitch in true Hollywood style – is played by Peta Toppano in the sequel series.
Return To Eden unfolds the story of the battle between these two beautiful women – Jilly, who uses passion, lies and treachery to get her revenge, and Stephanie, who loses everything that is important in her life and has to begin the fight to reach the top again.
Produced by McElroy and McElroy, Return to Eden is probably the most ambitions and expensive series produced in Australia, with a budget of $8 million.
More than $2 million of that money was spent on the lavish sets, a string of imported cars and designer clothes.
Comparisons will no doubt be made between this Australian series and the American “escape to riches” soaps – Dallas and Dynasty. But while the sets, clothes and overall look of Return To Eden will be just as exotic, the scripts will have very much a down-to-earth and Australian flavour.
“The whole thrust of the show is very much Australian,” producer Tim Sanders explained.
“Ours is a totally original idea that developed here locally. The only similarities that one would draw are the common denominators of wealth, glamour, power, big business – the ones that are implicit to the story.
“When we set this up it was as a new series, not as just a sequel to the mini-series. It was very much planned in its own right and we consider to be unique because it didn’t follow any previous patterns of other series here.
“Where the others shoot two hours a week on their budgets, we were included to shoot 30 minutes a week. Elements like music, with the whole show originally scored by Brian May, and the wardrobe and sets all had priority and we spent a lot of money on them.
“We bought our own luxury cars so we didn’t have taxi arrivals or obvious hire cars … the whole thing was conceptually geared to produce what audiences would expect from a world such as this.
“It will stand on its own as a high quality series in Australia.”
Also appearing in the 22 episodes are Daniel Abineri, Megan Williams, Warren Blondell, Angelo D’Angelo and Power Gwynne.
Top designer Larry Eastwood, whose credits include Phar Lap, The Last Bastion and A Town Like Alice, created the 10 different sets used in the series.
Already some American audiences have viewed Return to Eden and reaction has been highly favourable.
Story: Prue MacSween
Photos: Ross Coffey
Original content copyright TV Week.