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The Secret Life of Us (2001 - 2004)

Drama series
88 episodes x 60 minutes

Series synopsis:

The Secret Life of Us is an apartment-block drama about a group of 20-somethings in a beach-side inner suburb of Melbourne.

Curator’s Notes:

As a weekly relationship drama about inner-urban 20-somethings The Secret Life of Us represented something of a departure from the police, medical and legal dramas favoured by Australian commercial networks in the late ’90s to early 2000s, as did its candid approach to portraying this social milieu. Secret Life's characters swear, go to the toilet, vomit, sleep with the wrong people, drink and sometimes take drugs, not always as the main focus, but as part of the general texture of their lives.

While story-lines are largely serial, developed across multiple episodes as characters pursue the 'trifecta’ of a partner, a good place to live and a good job, each episode also hangs around a central theme. Signature audiovisual elements include a soundtrack featuring Australian contemporary popular music, St Kilda streetscapes and beach views, and set-piece party scenes in which the action fluidly shifts from character to character and story-line to story-line.

When the series aired, comparisons were made with British drama This Life (1996-97) and occasionally with US series Sex and the City (1998-2004). Reflective voice-overs from Deborah Mailman’s Kelly and in particular Samuel Johnson’s writer character Evan draw comparison with the latter series’ Carrie Bradshaw. The two shows also share a focus on lifestyle and sexuality but are nonetheless very different in style.

At the outset, Secret Life achieved something of a casting coup with Claudia Karvan, at the time better known for her work in films and initially reluctant to commit to an ongoing role in a television series. Karvan would go on to collaborate, again with producer John Edwards, on the series Love My Way (2004-07). Where Secret Life invited a new generation of viewers to Australian drama, Love My Way seemed to grow with this audience – and with Karvan. While Secret Life was about the concerns and aspirations of a group of 20-somethings, Love My Way was about a group of 30-somethings and their families.

Since the early ’90s, Network Ten had targeted the 16-39 demographic and Secret Life rated well with this audience. In Australia, the pilot episode screened straight after the high-rating season finale of the reality show Big Brother (2001-08), successfully capturing some of that show’s legion of 20-something viewers. The Secret Life of Us was in the rare position of obtaining significant backing from UK network Channel Four and as a result it debuted in the UK several weeks before screening in Australia. Locally, the series was axed after four seasons. Waning popularity prior to this prompted media speculation that changes in the production team and a high cast turnover had affected viewer loyalty.

Titles in this series

The Secret Life of Us – Now or Never 2001

The Secret Life of Us follows a group of 20-somethings living in and around the same apartment block. In this episode, Evan (Samuel Johnson) discovers he has been accepted into a two-month writer’s course in New York, just as Alex ...