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Straight up, I have a problem: I never watched 30 Rock, which is, I understand, the immediate correct answer to this question. I mean, I like Tina Fey and all, she seems like a cool lady, but I just never got into it. I never watched Seinfeld or Friends or Arrested Development ... or any of those. I got through as much of Community as I could with my brother and sister-in-law, but ... no. Unless we're counting the Dean in one of his outfits, but even then ... still no. Once upon a long time ago, I used to watch M*A*S*H and Dad's Army, and Blackadder on and off, and Red Dwarf, but unless I want to wax poetical about Hot Lips, Queenie, Nursie, Kochanski or Holly (I don't), this doesn't very much address my problem.

I briefly considered Sue Sylvester, because if Glee is anything other than a comedy I will pull my blanket over my head and cry quietly for some time, and when I left off around S2 she was still pretty awesome. Anyone who makes Shuester constantly pretty miserable is A-OK by me, but I think she (and maybe the whole show) caught secondary boring from him and eh. *fizzle sound*

Day Eight: [not-quite-strictly-speaking] Favorite female character in a [kind-of] comedy show

Heather Jelly of SeaChange.

So SeaChange is Australia's version of the ubiquitous big-city person moves to small remote town and quirky hilarity ensues story. Think Northern Exposure, only slightly broader in scope and set in a small coastal town. It's more comedic than dramatic, but it's a nice blend of both. It features Laura Gibson as the fish out of water, a neurotic, tough, high-flying corporate lawyer just shy of 40, whose personal life comes completely crashing down in a single day, prompting her to take a job offer as the local magistrate for Pearl Bay and move there with her two kids. (Also features David Wenham in his Most Triumphant role ever, for my money. Mmmmm, Diver Dan.)

And for the record, I love the whole town. It's hard not to. (Strictly speaking, I think maybe Elena is my favourite character on the show, but we get so little of her that it's hard to write about it.) The reason I pick Heather is I think I love her arc over the whole show the most. It's certainly one of the most dynamic ones, much more so in the end than Laura's. Heather Jelly is essentially the First Lady of Pearl Bay, wife of "big man around town", mayor and, uh, visionary businessman Bob Jelly. Just as neurotic as Laura, but twittery and conservative wife-and-mother type, where Laura is steely and liberal career-oriented. She and her smarmy, scheming husband are the chief opposing force to Laura in the town, especially to begin with, although they never stray into villain territory – for all his shady wheeling and dealing for his own ends, Bob also sincerely wants what's best for the town, he just has radically different ideas of what that looks like than everyone else.

It's easy to dismiss Heather to begin with. She's shallow and silly and considers Laura "not feminine" for having a career, and her clothing is ... well, honestly, I adore her clothing in a boobs-and-legs Laura Ashley sort of way, it makes me giggle. And then, as the series progresses, the various developments slowly make her do some serious soul-searching, and she starts to assert more control over her life. She questions her values. She stops enabling her man under the name of "supporting". She stands up to him. She discovers things she's good at and ends up running the business. And we slowly come to see that her early behaviour is that of a woman trying to find satisfaction in the things she's been taught she should find satisfaction in; trying far too hard to cover the fact that it's failing. And by the end, she is a confident, secure woman satisfied in herself and the place she's made in the world.

What I really love about her process of self-discovery is that it at no point involves just throwing everything to the wind and running off to "find herself" (other characters do take that path, though); she stays where she is. She doesn't reject everything of the traditional values she's been brought up with, she just winnows and keeps what is valuable, and lets go of the rest. She doesn't set out to radically reinvent herself, she just becomes willing to try new things and her life shifts shape in consequence. Not that any of this was deliberate on the part of the character, but from a storytelling point, I just love this slow, mostly-quiet revolution in herself, her life, her family and her marriage.

And of course Kerry Armstrong and John Howard playing these characters are wonderfully fun to watch, their comedic and dramatic chops are bang-on.

... And OH MY GOD IT'S ON YOUTUBE. ALL THREE SEASONS. \o/ (The first episode is mostly set-up, it takes until the last ten minutes to actually get to Pearl Bay, but from then on the town completely takes over.) If you ever get time, and have any interest at all in David Wenham Australian humour and culture, watch it. Waaatch iiiiit. (I really hope there's no funky regional issues meaning people outside Australia or whatever can't watch it. That would make me very sad.)

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January 2016
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