Television Drama: So that's what they mean by cafe society

Jasper Rees on yet another well-acted, well-written Australian teen soap
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Soaps traditionally provide a place where its characters can gather on neutral territory. In British soaps it's usually a pub; in American ones it's the boardroom. They aren't taking any chances in , a new Australian soap which the BBC has munificently scheduled just after Neighbours and 10 minutes before Home and Away starts on ITV. is set in Sydney in a building that houses a cafe, a newspaper, a model agency and a drop-in centre for homeless kids. If the scriptwriters can't get a storyline out of that lot, then they should down tools and go and run a cafe, or a newspaper, or a model agency, etc.

There is still office space to let in the building, and my advice is that they open a drama school. The cast could drop in for lessons between takes. In the street scenes you sometimes see a couple of blokes in wetsuits trotting by with surfboards under their arm. If they wanted something flat and stiff it would be so much easier to borrow an actor. When one of the cast in Friday's instalment managed to produce some genuine tears, I almost fell off my high horse it was so out of character. Not that these actors are getting much assistance from the script. "Cappuccinos all round?" says the waitress in the (absurdly overstaffed) cafe. Cappuccinos are the only round things in the entire show.

By the end of the first week we've already had our first suicide attempt. And there was I thinking that soaps had to leave the shock tactics till after the viewing figures had slumped. Lucy is planning a beautiful death, in the bath with lots of scented candles. She's hurting inside that Alex has come back. Alex is her ex, who left her in the lurch three years ago when she was sick - or, this being Australia, a mixture of sock and suck. She has spent the first week being asked if she's OK about Alex coming back, and you had to listen to her protestations of OK-ness so often you practically wanted to join her in the bath.

There is plenty more for the connoisseur to savour. If ever becomes a hit here, French and Saunders could do a brutal parody of scenes with characters running down endless flights of stairs. Alex, meanwhile, is the bookie's favourite to do a runner and set up camp in the pop charts, though I would advise him to change his name if he has genuine stardom in his sights. He's called James Stewart. Alex is 's link with Chekhov, a character whose prodigal return from London is anticipated as endlessly as anything in the first act of The Cherry Orchard. By episode five, though, he's back, and his mother Kate suspects "there might be something wrong with him - I mean, psychologically". Nothing that couldn't be fixed by a tree surgeon.