“The Man from Snowy River – Series 1 – 4” (1994-1996)
Based on Banjo Paterson’s poem “The Man from Snowy River”
Featuring: Andrew Clarke, Wendy Hughes, Brett Climo, Hugh Jackman, Guy Pearce, Joelene Crnogorac, Sheryl Munks, Kristie Raymond, Josh Lucas, Amanda Douge and James Sherry
Jessica Harrison: “If I’d wanted your help, mate, I would’ve asked for it.”
Released this month on DVD is the early nineties Australian television series “The Man from Snowy River – Series 1 – 4” (1994-1996) which was created after the two movies that were successes in the 1980s. As much as this seems like an attractive proposition this is a series of its time with a nod to previous US dramas such as “The Waltons” (1972-1981) as well as a host off other televisions shows spun off from movies such as “The Magnificent Seven” (1998-2000). Of course because of the time it was produced there is a very standard narrative that accompanies each episode making it an easy watch from week to week and year to year, however if watching many episodes close together the weakness in storytelling becomes apparent. These kind of weaknesses are not present in the best series made today, of course it is still present in many network shows, in particular those known as procedurals.
“The Man from Snowy River” was an Australian drama television series based on Banjo Paterson’s poem The Man from Snowy River. The series follows the adventures of Matt McGregor (Andrew Clarke), a successful squatter, and his family. Matt is the hero immortalized in Paterson’s poem, the series is set 25 years after his famous ride. The first season was very much a soap opera with several story arcs, but the primary one concerns the arrival of Matt’s American nephew, who’s bent on revenge, certain Matt cheated his father out of the station Matt now owns. In subsequent seasons, there were shorter story-arcs, often featuring guest stars over a few episodes, and some episodes stood entirely on their own. This television series has no relationship to the original Australian movie “The Man from Snowy River” (1982) or the sequel The Man from Snowy River II (1988).
One of the issues that make the series confusing as well as a little muddled is that there were a myriad amount of producers all pulling the show in different directions, something that was a common element of many series that were ultimate unsuccessful. If there is one thing that has been proven time and again especially in the modern era is that truly successful and memorable shows have a single voice at the helm with support from experienced writers and creatives, unfortunately this is not the case here.
One of the benefits of filing in Australia was the prevalence of cameos and guest stars that included Andrew Clarke, Guy Pearce, Josh Lucas, Victoria Tennant, Olivia Newton John, Tracy Nelson, Lee Horsley, Dean Stockwell, Chad Lowe, Jane Badler, Wendy Hughes, Hugh Jackman, and Frances O’Connor. This is something that “The Man from Snowy River” has in common with many Australia television productions of the time, including the long running “Blue Heelers” (1994-2006) which included many of the same up and coming actors but had a small amount of creatives running it and must be held up as an example of what success looks like in adult drama.
To say all of that “The Man from Snowy River” is still a good watch and something that can still be enjoyed especially if one was a fan of the original movies and wanted something to sate an appetite that attempts to show an imagined past of Australia where some of the more distasteful elements of life are ignored. That is not to say that these events should not be ignored as they can be found in other movies and television shows. I do recommend this as it not only is good value but shows how far narrative television has come in the intervening thirty years.
The Race: The famous Matt McGregor finds himself drawn to a beautiful young widow who has returned to Australia, while at the same time a mysterious and dangerous young American lad challenges him.
Pascoe’s Principles: When the sadistic new school teacher savagely punishes his daughter Danni, Matt is forced to take action. His son and nephew, Rob and Luke play dangerous games to win the affections of the beautiful Victoria Blackwood.
Kathleen’s Choice: A competitor arrives to challenge Matt for the affections of Kathleen O’Neil until Matt and Kathleen have a romantic encounter while snowbound.
Partnerships: Their romantic affair takes a comedic turn when Rob rescues Victoria after she is stranded in the outback.
Where There’s Smoke: Seeking revenge against Matt for supposedly abandoning her, his old flame returns home to Paterson’s Ridge. Luke strikes gold and becomes a serious threat to Matt.
Tracks of Gold: Kathleen feels rejected by Matt and decides to end the relationship while Danni and Michael are lost in the mountains.
Plans of Poison: Matt stands by Kathleen when the rest of the town turns against her.
Stepping Out: Luke accuses Matt of stealing Langara from his father, but also finds himself falling in love with Anita.
The Bushranger: As Matt goes to save Kathleen who he finds is being held hostage, a tragic accident occurs involving Anita and her brother.
The Rustlers: Danni experiences the heartbreak of first love as Colin and Emily get married.
The Loneliness of Luke McGregor: Luke asks for Victoria’s hand in marriage with shocking results.
Love Finds a Way: Luke’s entire world collapses around him when he loses Victoria and his gold.
The Stampede: Matt stands to lose everything he owns, including Langara.
The Hostage: Colin speaks out against alcohol after a teenager is found drunk. The bootleggers in turn set light to the church. At the same time, Grady Hocking and his two sons, George and Greg, have come to town.
The Savage Land: Matt and Oliver become lost in the desert while returning to Paterson’s Ridge from buying stock. Matt accepts the help of an Aboriginal and his wife, but Oliver refuses.
The Railroad: Poor railroad workers live in deplorable conditions, and Kathleen sets out to help them and their families.
Fathers and Sons: Victoria returns from England with her fiancé, Baron Hugh Trevalyan, in tow. However, friction is caused in the Blackwood house when it emerges that Hugh is not as gallant as he seems. Meanwhile, Rob takes on a contract to supply the British army.
The Manly Art: The arrival of a travelling boxing troupe in Paterson’s Ridge, led by “Dandy” Jim O’Rourke, has the community, including the McGregors, ready to try their hand. A visiting pianist is suspected of being a con man.
The Dry Argument: A drought causes a flood of hostility between the McGregors and the Blackwoods over a shared boundary creek when Frank changes the course of the stream.
Servant of the People: Matt and Kathleen fight a land-grabbing politician’s scheme to drive the farmers from the high-country after news breaks that their high-country grazing leases are about to expire.
The Search: A trapper wanders into town with news about Joanna’s father.
The Lost Child: Joanna Walker is determined to find her half-brother and Kathleen O’Neil agrees to accompany her in the search.
The Foundling: While going to fish one day, Colin and Rob discover the stagecoach, which tumbled down a cliff. The only survivors are a woman and a baby. The woman, Ruth Whitney, claims that the baby is not hers, but nobody in Paterson’s Ridge believes her.
The Long Arm of the Law: Edward Dengate is the new constable in Paterson’s Ridge, which he hates because he would rather be a farmer. Matt convinces Edward’s father that he cannot choose his son’s life for him, and Edward leaves to fulfill his dream.
The Recruit: The British army comes to town and attempts to recruit the locals using some dubious methods. Much to Matt’s dismay, Rob is tempted to enlist. However, Rob finds himself conflicted about leaving because of his growing feelings for Ruth.
The Reilly Gang: The notorious Reilly gang turns up in Paterson’s Ridge in an attempt to evade being captured by the state troopers. While Matt and Rob are away mustering, the Reillys arrive at Langara and take Colin, Emily and Danni captive.
The Choice: Ruth is forced to make a difficult decision after she is offered a position with the Associated Press in America. Ruth’s article on the founding father of Paterson’s Ridge threatens to unearth a Blackwood family secret.
Man and Boy: A young aboriginal boy must choose between his heritage and an education when his father arrives in Paterson’s Ridge.
Flight of Fancy: The residents of Paterson’s Ridge are given a look into the future when a hot-air balloon crashes. The pilot charms the townspeople – especially Michael, who is inspired to build a glider.
Code of Ethics: Kathleen’s exposure of a government scandal surrounding a new railway line threatens Matt’s position as the town’s parliamentary representative and puts their relationship to the test.
The Cutting Edge: Matt and Kathleen intervene and devise a plan to save the town’s sawmill from bankruptcy.
House of Worship: The arrival of a family of Russian refugees in Paterson’s Ridge creates friction with the locals, just as the completion of Colin’s new church is uniting the community.
A Sea of Troubles: Matt is held responsible by an angry landowner when the government decides to take his land to dam the valley.
Rough Passage: Rob and Michael have an accident while taking the old printing machine to get the new one – resulting in Rob’s leg becoming pinned under the cart. Meanwhile, Matt and Colin tackle a stubborn tree stump.
The Grand Wedding: Matt and Kathleen’s wedding day is marked, and could be marred, by a woman who appears at the church and wants to buy a horse from Matt. Matt finds a riderless horse and goes off to investigate, without telling anyone.
Montana Territory: Montana’s new horse is stolen by rustler Seb Holgate after she bests him in a shooting competition. Montana sets out after him and is joined by Kathleen.
High Country Justice: McGregor takes a stand between an aboriginal man who is accused of the murder of a teenager, and the victim’s father and two brothers who want revenge.
The Question of Danni: Danni and her father Matt argue after he tells her he wants her to go to a ladies finishing school. Objecting, Danni runs away to the cabin and spends the night, only telling Michael where she was going.
The Prodigal Father: Part 1: Kathleen’s husband, who was thought to have perished eight years ago, returns to make amends with Kathleen and Michael for his deceit.
The Prodigal Father: Part 2: Emily is still ill from drinking water from the river and it turns out someone has built a dam. Matt makes the decision to get rid of the dam by using dynamite, but one person is killed in the explosion.
Fire Boy: Josh is found in the woods but refuses to talk to anyone. Two graves are found, of his parents, so Emily and Colin take him in. But then people come to take Josh away – will he talk and tell the truth in time to stay?
Blind Faith: Matt is blinded in a mining explosion and is aided by Kathleen and the family as he struggles to regain his sight. Meanwhile, Colin reveals a dark secret from his childhood.
Shoshoni Dreaming: A man who claims to have been wounded by outlaws recuperates in Paterson’s Ridge – at the same time that Montana’s ranch comes under a succession of attacks.
The Trial of Hetti Lewis: Montana is charged with the murder of Sam Taylor’s father and scheduled to be extradited to America. But Matt and Kathleen get her a hearing in Paterson’s Ridge with Matt as her defender.
Toy Soldiers: When Matt allows visiting soldiers to camp on his land, Michael and Josh get swept up in the romanticism of the military – and Josh sets his sights on carrying a gun.
A Mid-Winter Nights Dream: Danni falls in love with a stranger who arrives in Paterson’s Ridge. His presence seems to have an encouraging effect on all the romances in town but his gift to make others happy masks his own unhappiness.
In Duty Bound: When Matt and his family visit Melbourne, they become embroiled in a political plot between English and Russian royalty.
The Lion and the Lamb: During Paterson Ridge’s charity sale, a book belonging to Mr. Elliott is accidentally sold. Kathleen finds – and publishes – a love poem that falls from the book but who is the lady of Herbert’s dreams?
Broken Hearts: A fair is held in aid of church funds and members of Patterson Ridge all make donations. When a hand-written love poem is found in a second hand book, gossip around town is rife as everyone tries to work out who wrote the poem.
Deliverance: Mr Gleeson and Kathleen travel to Mansfield to collect an old friend who has travelled from England to visit him. When their carriage skids down an embankment, they find themselves stranded and injured in the bush.
A New Life: Part 1: A friend of Emily’s arrives in Paterson’s Ridge with her newborn child in search of a fresh start but her abusive husband soon follows to take her with him.
A New Life: Part 2: Macalister tries to persuade his wife to return by destroying the economy of Paterson’s Ridge, but Matt finds a weak spot in his plans.
Comeback: Duncan Jones, an old friend of Rob’s turns up while Rob is away. Danni is suspicious of him though as he seems nervous. The Race is being re-run and none of the McGregor’s are going to be competing.
The Grand Opening: Miss Hannah Kirov opens a Russian tea room at the back of the general store to generate more income. The hotel owner though isn’t happy with the business he is losing, so he cuts his prices in half.
Black Sheep: Jessie McClusky turns up in Paterson’s Ridge to run the Railway Hotel. While much of the town doesn’t like Jessie, it is Emily’s reaction which has Colin worried. It takes a real heart-to-heart for Emily to reveal her secret.
Prince of Hearts: Spanish gypsies pass through Paterson’s Ridge, and Danni falls in love with Carlos, while Hannah loves Carlos’ older brother. Then the town turns against the gypsies after several robberies take place.
The Grand Duke: Nell Frampton sells Matt a bull called ‘The Grand Duke’, but soon after the bull vanishes and another bull turns up dead. Meanwhile, Emily and Colin move into their home.
New Business: Duncan leaves town just before Rob returns. In town, the stables are going up for auction and Rob wants to buy them, but can’t afford it on his own. He must try and convince Colin that they are a good buy.
Foundation Day: Foundation Day has arrived and with it brings Henry Wagner to town. Henry is in Patterson Ridge to catch a rabid dog. Danni agrees to meet up with him to help him hunt the dog.
The Lovers: Two teenagers go missing in the scrub so Matt and Colin set off to find them. In town, a man has arrived to see Jessie one last time before he dies.
The Claimant: Dave Turner arrives at Emily and Colin’s to claim Josh and take him back to his family. Emily is upset and Josh believes that now Emily is pregnant, she and Colin won’t want him around.
The Loaded Deck: After a long absence, Victoria Blackwood returns to Patterson’s Ridge, only to find that the land is gone and she has been left with nothing.
Difficult Times: The stables are proving to be hard to financially manage as Rob and Colin get behind in the bank re-payments. Victoria turns down another proposal.
A Son for a Son: Part 1: The Morrell clan turn up to settle an old score with Matt. As luck would have it Matt has left town leaving either Rob or Colin to fight in the duel – if they don’t, the Morrell’s will burn the town down.
A Son for a Son: Part 2: Emily goes into labour while in the cabin shortly after Matt finds her with Nancy. Colin gets ready to fight in the duel, writing a farewell letter to Emily