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Forgotten gems ... Remembering Going Home

The Sydney Morning Hearld
By Greg Hassall
December 4, 2011

What was it?

Going Home was an unusual drama/comedy/reality hybrid that aired on weeknights at 7pm on SBS for two four-month seasons in 2000 and 2001 - a total of 130 episodes. Produced by Hal and Di McElroy, it followed a group of train commuters on their way home from work. Written, shot and edited on the day it aired, it wove the day's news events into the storylines. Viewers were also asked to contribute suggested storylines to the show's website and these would often be incorporated, with the contributions acknowledged in the credits.

The cast improvised much of the dialogue and the show was shot reality-style with hand-held cameras. As well as responding to news events, the show was also able to respond to bad reviews. The day after a particularly brutal review appeared, two characters quoted extracts from it and debated the merits of reviewing.

The show was axed after two seasons, although the format was sold to Canada, France and Italy. In 2002, the McElroys developed another interactive drama for SBS, TwentyFourSeven. Set in a magazine office, it was written on a Monday, shot on a Tuesday and aired Wednesday, allowing viewers to contribute storylines. After that, they returned to safer, more familiar ground with Sea Patrol.

Why is it worth remembering?

Although the show could be stilted and clunky - a product of the tight turnaround and improvisation - it represented a rare attempt to try something new in drama. The risk was all the greater given the McElroys had just suffered two humiliating flops in Dog's Head Bay and Above the Law. In many ways, Going Home was ahead of its time, more suited to the world of smartphones and Twitter than the early noughties. Its attempt to engage with the news cycle and embrace the interconnectivity of the internet was revolutionary and it's remarkable how little innovation drama has seen since.

Can I still see it?

Given its topicality, Going Home didn't lend itself to DVD release and there appear to be no clips from the show on YouTube. A short promotional reel that gives a good indication of the show's unique flavour is on the McElroys' website.

Photo: Quentin Jones