Sunday, June 23, 2019

"Five Mile Creek" (1983-85)

When I was growing up in the late ‘80s, my family would rent a VCR and a VHS tape from the local video store once in a while. Yes, we had to rent the VCR too – we couldn’t afford to buy one, but renting one cost about the same as renting the video, so we could manage that now and then. At that tiny video store in the thumb of Michigan, my parents discovered the TV show Five Mile Creek.


At first, our store only had the first season, two episodes to a tape, but later they acquired the second and third seasons too – maybe my family rented the first season tapes so often, getting the rest seemed like a good business decision for the video store Powers That Be.

Anyway, we almost never rented anything but the next tape of Five Mile Creek, whatever came after the one we got at the last visit. Mom would make frozen pizzas for us, another treat, and we’d have a fun couple of hours joining our celluloid friends on their adventures in Australia’s version of the Wild West.

Set in the 1870s and loosely inspired by Louis L’Amour’s The Cherokee Trail, this Disney Channel original show stoked my love of all things Australia. A handful of years earlier, I’d seen The Man from Snowy River (1982) in the theater as a toddler, and that movie bestowed upon me a love for horses, cowboys, Australia, and the names “Jim” and “Jessica,” a love that lasted for my whole childhood and beyond.

Five Mile Creek chronicles the adventures of a motley assortment of characters on Australia’s frontier. Conway Madigan (Jay Kerr) comes all the way from America with a Concord stagecoach and a dream of building and running his own stageline.


He’s met in Australia by Jack Taylor (Rod Mullinar), a wheeler and dealer with endless plans for getting rich.  Together, they set up a stage line between Port Nelson and Wilga that they call the Australian Express.


Together, they borrow money from Mr. Charles Withers (Peter Carroll), a shrewd banker who doubts their ability to succeed but thinks their stagecoach and horses are excellent collateral.


Jack made arrangements with a local fellow to run their stage line’s way station to provide meals and “washing facilities” and a place to change horses. But that fellow has a fondness for drinking and gambling, and the task of running the way station falls on the shoulders of his capable sister, Kate Wallace (Liz Burch).


Jack insists Kate can’t handle the responsibility alone, but it turns out she doesn’t have to. An American woman, Maggie Scott (Louise Caire Clark), arrived on the same ship as Con and his coach.

Maggie and her daughter Hannah (Priscilla Weems) are searching for Maggie’s husband Adam, who came to Australia some time earlier in search of gold. Adam left a letter telling them to wait at Five Mile Creek, which happens to be where Kate's way station is situated.  Maggie offers to help Kate with the stage line work until Adam comes for her.


Kate employs an Irish ex-convict named Paddy Mallone (Michael Caton) to help care for the stage line’s horses.


Paddy provides most of the comic relief for the series, especially when he bickers with Ben Jones (Gus Mercurio), Con Madigan’s friend who comes over from America to help wrangle their horses.


And Kate takes in an orphan called Sam (Martin Lewis).  As a kid, I always preferred Sam to Hannah, as she was all prim and proper, sometimes a goody-two-shoes, and Sam had more adventures.


But Con Madigan was always my favorite, being a tall Texan with a fast draw and ready smile.  Not to mention a fringed buckskin jacket -- I've been extreeemely fond of jackets like that ever since this show.



Doesn't hurt that he looks pretty good without the jacket too.  Though I appreciated that fact more when I hit my teen years.


Also, the man kisses horses.  How could he NOT be my favorite???


ANYWAY!

Together, this diverse mix of characters gradually form one of my favorite things:  a "found family."  In fact, this show was probably my introduction to that concept!  Because we watched the whole series several times during my childhood and adolescence, I came to feel like they were my imaginary family as well.  I used to make up long stories about how I ended up at the way station and joined them in new adventures -- some of the earliest "fan fiction" I ever imagined up in my head!


Over the course of three seasons, Con and Kate fall in love.  The series actually ends with them getting married and deciding to adopt Sam as their son.


Maggie's husband Adam (Jonathan Frakes) shows up briefly, but is pretty much a loser, and I don't actually remember if we later find out he died, or if he just goes his merry way.



Still, it's really fun that Frakes was in an episode.  When I got my picture taken with him at the Star Trek convention a few years ago, I told him I'd liked him ever since Five Mile Creek, and he said, "Wow!  That takes me way back!" or something to that effect.  The truth is, I really have seen him in this more often than on Star Trek: The Next Generation because I've seen this show so many times, but only a few TNG episodes.

And he looks good in a cowboy hat.


Like, I could make up a whole book based on this image alone:


Anyway, the characters have lots and lots of adventures.  They have run-ins with bush rangers (outlaws) and corrupt soldiers, survive fires and cave-ins, and bid good-bye to a couple characters in a couple different ways.

Partway through the series, they all move away from the coast to New South Wales, where we meet up with some new characters.  I especially loved fiercely independent Annie (Nicole Kidman), a tomboyish sheepherdess with a wild mop of hair.  She's been a favorite actress of mine ever since.

(Source)

Sadly, Disney has only released the first season of Five Mile Creek to DVD.  I keep waiting and hoping for the other two seasons, but so far, nothing.  Still, my kids are old enough now that I think I'll be introducing them to the show soon -- I do own all the eps on either DVD or VHS, and my VCR hasn't died yet!


This has been my contribution to the Blizzard of Oz Blogathon hosted by Quiggy at The Midnite Drive-In this weekend!  Check out his master post for links to all the other entries, and check out my Upcoming Blog Events page here to see what kinds of cool things are coming up!  You might find something you want to join yourself.

Also, come back tomorrow for an announcement about a blog event I'll be co-hosting that you won't want to miss!

20 comments:

  1. The beard looks rougher, but that’s to be expected if he was on a Western, I guess.

    I read your post about the convention in which you met him. In 2016, I went with friends to a traveling Trek exhibition that “re-created” the world of Trek. I got to sit in the captain’s chair of a replica Enterprise-D set.

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    1. Rich, yeah, he's supposed to have been living out in the bush for a while, so he's pretty scruffy and scraggly. He cleans up almost unrecognizably well at the end of that ep.

      I heard about that cool exhibition! Didn't get to it, alas, but it looked so fun! How nice that you got to go :-)

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  2. I have loved this show for as long as I can remember, and not just because I'm Australian myself!! Unfortunately however, I'd never come across anyone outside of my parents who have even heard of it, much less watched it, so imagine my joy and surprise when I found a mention of it on your blog a few years ago!!

    While I deeply love Con and Kate (and agree with you wholeheartedly about preferring Sam to Hannah), the ship I actually rooted for the hardest was in fact Jack and Maggie, a ship which unfortunately I don't think we ever really got to see set sail.

    Paddy was also right up there on my favourite characters list; Michael Caton was the best, and in fact he went on to star in another Australian show, Packed to the Rafters, which was for the most part pretty great.

    Before I close, I'm curious if there are any other Aussie shows which have caught your interest?

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    1. Kirsty, I know! It's so hard to find other people who know this show. Though basically everyone I've encountered who has seen it liked it a lot.

      I think my mom was a Jack+Maggie shipper. And a bit of a Charlie Withers+Maggie shipper. Hmmmmmm. Me, I just loved that Con and Kate were my favorite characters AND got together.

      There's not a single main character in this series that I don't love, aside from Hannah! As a kid, I used to be annoyed by Jack because he was so, um, unpredictable, maybe? Mischievous? Unreliable? But I still love him because he's just so Jack.

      I really haven't had the opportunity to watch many other Aussie shows, but anything set there will always catch my attention. I love the Hugh Jackman/Nicole Kidman movie Australia, and I like Quigley Down Under a lot too. Visiting the Snowy River country is a bucket list item for me, as is just Australia in general.

      Do you have some recommendations of other Aussie shows I might be able to find here in the US? I especially love things set in the past, really any era, not just westerns.

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    2. It's great when the characters you love and want to be together actually do end up with each other! And I love that visiting my awesome country is a bucket list item for you!

      Absolutely do I have some recommendations!! If you're looking for one like Five Mile Creek, Wild Boys definitely comes really close, as it centers on a relatively civilised Outback town and the escapades of a group of likeable bushrangers. It only ran for one season, but is really fantastic, and ends in a very satisfying way (for me at least).

      Another suggestion is Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. This one has really taken off in popularity overseas, and for good reason (and that's not just me being biased, haha!)

      There is also The Doctor Blake Mysteries, which has a bit of a darker tone, but is just as good.

      Finally, ANZAC Girls is more of a miniseries, but still worth checking out.

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    3. Thanks, Kirsty! I'd not hears of Wild Boys or The Doctor Blake Mysteries, so I'll look around for those. Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries is actually on my want-to-watch list already, as I keep hearing great things about it. Same for ANZAC Girls, though I've heard a lot less about it than MFMM. Thanks!

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  3. We watched this growing up too, though we've only seen four or so episodes. VHS's are so awesome... and so cheap nowadays!!! My Dad always joked about the name calling it "6 mile river" or "12 inch stream"! Ahhh, good times!

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    1. Grace, how cool you got to see it too! Yes, VHS tapes are very cheap now... but VCRs are not. I'm slowly replacing my VHS tapes with DVDs as I find cheap/used copies... but I can't do that for seasons 2 and 3 of Five Mile Creek, so have to hold onto my VCR as long as I can!

      And lol, your dad sounds silly :-) In a good way.

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  4. Hamlette, this post brought back lots of great memories. Those Friday nights were so much fun. I even remember making some pizzas from scratch occasionally :-) Think I'll dredge up the FMC's and watch them for awhile this week...

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    1. Mom, yup, such fun. Homemade pizza once in a while, but mostly I just remember Tony's. And popcorn!

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  5. How interesting! I wasn't familiar with that series yet, and thinking about having only two episodes per tape is crazy, considering the streaming we have now. We never rented series on VHS when I was little, but I remember some movies having to be separated in two tapes.
    As for the Flynn biopic, it's more enjoyable if you think of the lead as just someone, now Errol Flynn. I'm not an expert in his life, but many things sound out of place - also, there is a lot of sex scenes and a lot of bad luck situations in the film.
    Thanks for the kind comment! Kisses!

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    1. Le, I know! Two episodes per tape. Some TV shows just had one ep per tape! And now DVDs have 4 or more, and you can stream stuff almost nonstop... how things have changed. Oh, and yeah, some long movies were on two tapes -- in fact, we called them "two-tape-ers" in my family :-)

      That makes sense about the Flynn biopic. Thanks for the info! I'll probably not seek it out, though if it randomly crosses my path some day, I might give it a try.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. PRISCILLA WEEMS was on DESIGNING WOMEN, the comedy with DELTA BURKE, DIXIE CARTER, ANNIE POTTS and JEAN SMART. She did 11 episodes as CLAUDIA, the daughter of MARY JO SHIVELY(played by POTTS). She won a Young Artist Award for her part on FIVE MILE CREEK. Classic TV Fan

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    1. Classic TV Fan, I've never gotten big into Designing Women, but I've seen a handful of eps. Never saw the ones with Weems in them, tho!

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  7. Did you ever see the TV series LITTLE MEN that was on PAX around 1999? Also the CBS series PARADISE? It was a western starring LEE HORSLEY. A boy BRIAN LANDO was on it. He also was the TV brother of PRISCILLA WEEMS on DESIGNING WOMEN. Paradise ran for 3 seasons(1988-91) but the final season the title was changed to GUNS OF PARADISE. The show also co-starred the woman who had been in the movie THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER. I believe her name is SIGRID THORNTON. Classic TV Fan

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    1. Classic TV Fan, nope, didn't see that version of Little Men. I love the book so much that I'm hesitant to see movie versions, tbh.

      But I HAVE seen half a dozen eps of Paradise! I watched it for Sigrid Thornton, since she starred in Man from Snowy River, my favorite film of all time. And in turn, the show made me a Lee Horsley fan, though I haven't seen him in many other things, I'm afraid.

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  8. Love when you find a show like that. My sister and I used to be obsessed with Little House on the Prairie.

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    1. Skye, I know. TV shows are a little superior to movies sometimes in that you generally have a lot more time you can spend with those characters in that world :-)

      My mom loooooooves Little House on the Prairie, so I've seen dozens of episodes :-)

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  9. Can you tell me what happens to Hanna at the end of season two, that causes her to not be in season 3, as far as the storyline goes? Thanks.

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    1. SeaMist09, yes, I can! A group of teachers and girls from a boarding school come through the way station toward the end of season two and Hannah feels dowdy and awkward compared to them. She begs Maggie to let her go to that school too, and Maggie ends up agreeing and letting her travel on with them to their school.

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