This is the best. No exaggeration. Puberty Blues is one of the greatest Aussie dramas ever made. Think Sex Education with traces of Pen 15, except set in and around Cronulla in 1979.
Sue (Brenna Harding) and Debbie (Ashleigh Cummings) – teenage girls, inseparable best friends – are boy-obsessed and desperate to get in with the popular group – a group of girls who smoke in the toilets and hang out with the surfer boys – a group of boys who get drunk in their panel vans and treat girls as sexual objects.
At the same time, the families of these teenagers – also wayward in their own ways – are fumbling along on their own journeys. From Judy (Dancing With The Stars' Claudia Karvan) and Martin’s (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor) sexually-strained marriage, to Pam (Susie Porter) and Roger’s (Dan Wyllie’s) overtly sexual one.
Yep. Sex plays a major role in this show. It’s practically its own character. And while both Puberty Blues and Sex Education explore the sexual experiences of everyone from teenagers to their parents, and while both shows a have a great deal of comedy woven throughout, Puberty Blues is grittier. Sometimes straight up confronting.
The ‘surfie saga’ first came about as a largely autobiographical novel written by Cathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey in 1979. And boy was it controversial. Mostly with adults who were disturbed and scandalised by its uncompromising portrayal of teenage life – booze, drugs, awkward sexual encounters, sexism, sexual assault, sex, sex, sex. Teenagers, at the time, inhaled it.
Perhaps one of the best insights into the impact Puberty Blues had on Aussies can be gleaned from the “Industry Reviews” on online sellers’ pages. One from renowned (and controversial) feminist and academic Germaine Greer, another from international pop sensation (and former Neighbours star) Kylie Minogue.
Anyone who’s been a teenager in the last 40 years will find it hard not to relate, laugh and cringe at the antics of the teenage characters – turns out not much about the teenage experience has changed in the past four decades.
While adults will get a kick out of the portrayal of 70s Aussie life – from driving while absolutely sloshed, to getting out the Margaret Fulton cookbook – and no doubt connect with storylines revolving around balancing kids, careers, marital requirements and personal needs.
But aside from a stellar cast, thought-provoking subject matter, exploration of friendship and journey from adolescence to womanhood – the other standout element of Puberty Blues is the language. It’s impossible not to laugh at molls and Chiko rolls, pashing off and going round with each other. Sensational stuff.
This would be a good show for parents and teenagers to watch together, if they wanted to try openly communicating about sex, drugs and drinking.
It would also be an awkward-as-hell few hours in front of the telly together.
Binge watch Puberty Blues on 10 play