Having a number of friends in Australia, I’m not quite sure how the TV series Offspring flew so far under my radar. Hearing it loftily described as “Aussies’ pride and joy,” I sought the opinion of my friends in Fitzroy, a suburb of Melbourne, where the series takes place. I was met with, and I quote, “OMG, it rules” and “I LOVE IT.” If that isn’t a testament to its legitimacy, let me tell you that “OMG, it rules” and “I LOVE IT” and I could hardly stop watching it long enough to recap it here for you. This is one to binge watch my friends. Think of Offspring as a Scrubs and Ally McBeal hybrid. Exactly! Get to watching.
Premiering in 2010 and having just concluded it’s fourth season, Offspring follows Dr. Nina Proudman (played by Asher Keddie), and obstetrician with a multi-dimensional family that becomes further involved with her work life at St. Francis hospital. Nina is a great lead, proficient in her career, she struggles with raging bouts of life uncertainty, illustrated through voice overs, surreal vignettes and comical daydreams. As nurse Kim describes her in the second episode of Season 4, “I don’t want to say anything because your mind runs off in every direction.”
What makes Offspring the appealing is the perfectly timed, dry and deadpan humor and it’s portrayal of an eclectic group of women. And, for me, seeing a strong and lovable lead female character with so many anxieties and romantic compulsions, that I felt as if I had found my people.
The cast of characters includes the Proudman family: Nina’s mother, Geraldine; Geraldine’s ex-partner, Darcy; Nina’s older sister, Billie, and younger brother Jimmy. Billie’s partner is Mick, who is best friends with Jimmy. Jimmy has a baby with Zara, a midwife from the hospital. Darcy had a child with Cherie, a nurse at the hospital, who is now dating Dr. Martin Clegg, the Director of Obstetrics. Saving the best for last, Offspring has a recurring lesbian character, Kim, and Eloise Ward, a lesbian registrar introduced in the fourth season.
Kim Akerholt (played by Alicia Gardiner) feels the most genuine of the characters. She not only provides the rational to Nina’s irrational, she offers comic relief and the eyes and ears of all things gossip. Kim is in a long-term relationship with her girlfriend Renee and juggles her career and caring for their daughter, Stella.
Played by Caren Pistorius, Eloise is one of my favorite lesbian characters I’ve seen portrayed on a network show in awhile. When she first arrives at the hospital, Nina finds out that Eloise and her boyfriend, Patrick seem to have a history together and like a dog with a bone, can’t let it go, convincing herself of a prior sexual hook-up. When she finds out it’s merely work related, Nina then assumes Eloise has a crush on him.
Eloise is revealed as a lesbian in episode five, awkwardly of course. Nina, fishing for some validity to her crush assumption, finds out that Eloise actually has a crush on her, which explains why Eloise squirms every time Nina’s sex life comes up. Nina, someone who “isn’t someone people have crushes on,” has absolutely no idea how to act as the object of someone’s infatuation. Let the neurosis’ begin, as well as the lesbian fantasy scenes! After being asked by Billie if she’s having lesbian day dreams about Eloise, Nina responds with a resounding no, which we know means yes. Offspring’s idea of a lesbian fantasy includes a soft focus lens, a row boat and nuzzling a rabbit. Terribly Sapphic and cliché? You bet, but funny nonetheless.
Having a crush on her boss, Eloise of course feels the need to transfer to another hospital. Nina decides to confront her because obviously the person who should provide a shoulder to cry on about your crush is your crush. Nina convinces her to stay, and opens the door for future awkward encounters and questionably homophobic situations, including Nina recoiling from what she thinks are Eloise’s romantic advances. Some of which do come off a bit offensive.
Also cringe-worthy,but in a good way, is a quick locker room scene in episode six where Nina asks herself if she should take her shirt off in front of a lesbian. What ends up happening makes the scene worth it as Nina gets stuck in her scrubs and requires Eloise’s help in order to free herself. Zara walks in on the compromising position, putting the pieces together that Eloise has a crush.
Around episode seven, St. Francis has it’s first lesbian couple admitted into a birthing suite. With Nina, Eloise, Kim and Zara in the room, they get to discussing thoroughbreds, aka, gold stars. The birth mother hasn’t been with a man, Kim admits to having a few years of delusion, she calls Nina thoroughbred straight and Zara straight but not thoroughbred before she turns to Eloise to ask how she identifies. Eloise claims that she had been with her high school boyfriend Eric.
Later in the episode, Eloise admits to Kim that she not only made Eric up because she was embarrassed about being a gold star, but asks if she can be a thoroughbred if she’s never slept with anyone. Kim reassures her that that just makes her a really pure thoroughbred. Kim promises not to tell anyone saying, “I might be loud, but I’m also discreet. I’m a fascinating contradiction.”
The peak of her story arc is in episode nine, when after telling the entire staff that she’s a virgin, she asks for help. After running off, Kim explains to everyone, “Eloise wants her first sex and we’re gonna help her get it.” They make the decision to support her and all go to a lesbian event called Lickity Split with her that evening.
With the gang all there, Eloise is encouraged to look around, dance and flirt. Kim’s partner Renee couldn’t make it, which to me seemed ominous of trouble in paradise. When asked why she isn’t dancing, considering she’s usually the “dance hall queen,” Kim simply says she’s resisting the urge to flirt. While the rest of the team is sitting in a booth, Eloise looks over before overtly kissing the girl she she’s talking to. It’s hard to tell if Kim is happy for her or a little heartbroken, but it seems to be the former. She immediately gets up to “go home to her wife.”
The next day, the nurses interrogate Eloise and she tells them that she went home with the girl, and worries that already it’s moving too fast. A love triangle as she calls it, “or maybe a pentagon.” First hook-up and she’s already budding into quite the lesbian character! While on her next date, she bumps into Billie at a bar and offers to buy Billie a drink, ditching out on a date that wasn’t going well anyway. Billie turns to Eloise and says: “You’re not trying to get me drunk so you can have twisted almost-Nina sex are you?” A few drinks later and Billie ends up drunkenly planting a big kiss on Eloise anyway. I mean, I would’ve done the same thing.
The season finale ends with a major twist and Nina going on maternity leave, having to say goodbye to the staff. Lucky for us, her goodbye with Eloise is open-ended which makes me think there’s a good chance she’ll make it in to next season. There’s still time! If I were you, I’d knock out the first four seasons in preparation, because who knows where this lady drama will go next. Only time, and Season 5, will tell.