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Ben Gannon
Series Creator and Executive Producer

Were there any wild ideas that came up during the shows run that you had to veto?

There would definitely have been in the early days. At the start, everyone had an idea of what the show should be, and sometimes those notions were slightly different. For example Ten had a different vision. There's a point after say forty hours when the show has settled, and you know what is right.

In terms of issues, I'd like to think there were none we wouldn't do. In terms of censorship though that was always a problem – as the show was always going to play early evening. It was very hard to do drugs stories, as you can't show anything before nine o'clock at night.

We felt responsible, because of the age of the audience, and tried to show how those issues can affect your life, rather than making it seem somehow glamorous or something to emulate. Again, you want to communicate in a way that's not a lecture. That's a real turn off for a younger audience. We had to continually think about that.

 

As Ten originally wanted to water the show down a bit, how did you play with the realism of the school versus story opportunities?

That's always a problem. You're always stretching reality. I think that's what makes it interesting. We used to say that our show was a kind of heightened reality, so that the audience has to go on the ride. If the audience isn't buying into the reality of your show, you're stuffed. Once they've bought into it, you can start to push out at the edges.

Until you go too far that is, which probably happened to us a few times throughout the shows life – it went outside the boundary that you'd set. When you're making 210 hours, sometimes you're really struggling for stories, and other times it just sort of flows.

Dealing with issues, it's possible to get into this rut of “What's the issue this week?” If you can't come out with the right thing, you tend to make something very soapy, and that was always something we were trying to avoid.

Sometimes though those elements because very popular; certain relationships for example, and people got upset when couples broke up. One of the problems with that is when you have relationships in these shows, when everyone is really happy it's not very interesting – so you always have to break them up. You have to.

 

What was the reason behind the reduction in the number of adult characters in the show?

When we started, the network of course wanted to have the broadest possible target audience, i.e. 16 to 45. They felt that the teachers stories, romances and problems should run parallel to the kids storylines, so there would be a point of reference for an older audience. We felt that was a mistake.

Our target was a core teenage audience. There was a tug of war dealing between what the two audiences would want to see. We basically thought that the adult stories should only impact through the kids stories, so that they weren't standalone.

We felt that was going to work better for our target audience, and once we lost the other teachers, it was a lot easier to plot. In the beginning we had too many characters and so you end up with some having nothing to do for several weeks. Then of course you're struggling to pull this person back in, and it doesn't happen organically so you have to start to contrive things. It took us a while to hit that magic number when it felt like everyone would get their turn.

 

Over the five years there was a very high turnover of characters, with many unfortunately never being mentioned again after walking out the school gates. Was this a conscious decision?

There wasn't much of a way around it, we tried to keep the show moving forward. People do leave school, and we were constantly thinking of ways to keep them there. Cast changes though primarily happened for one of two reasons, either the cast member wanted to leave, and this was sometimes the case. Sometimes though an actor might start to look too old to be in high school, or the story department would simply feel as if they'd explored the character as far as it could go.

 

Are there any plans for a future DVD release of the show?

It's certainly doable, though there are contractual and distribution issues that would need to be resolved first, but we are looking into it…

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