A hidden gem in Australian teen dramas, FOX8’s SLiDE (2011) is your typical modern tale of friendship and self-discovery that fronts up to all the hiccups of adolescence. It’s awkward-at-times exposé on early adulthood failed to capture enough of a viewership to be renewed for another season, a contemporary television crime against my young heart.
I was in my early high school years when I discovered Australia’s less grimy answer to Skins (UK). SLiDE weaves authentically-cringe Aussie humour into the experiences of Ed, Scarlett, Eva, Luke and Tammy – five Brisbane students in their final year of high school – as they dabble in sex, drugs, heartbreak and identity crisis.
It glistens with heart-warming sentiment, and stories of family trouble and social and emotional estrangement. It’s a classic coming of age story, lifted by the summer vibes of Brisbane and the Aussie mantra of mateship.
Tammy (Gracie Gilbert) is a charming aspiring journalist and raging perfectionist, who loosens up and finds herself caught between all-round stud Luke (Brenton Thwaites), and neighbour and childhood best friend Ed Newman (Ben Schumann).
Each character gave my young self something to latch on to. Retrospectively, Australian dramas have rarely produced dazzling dramatic performances. SLiDE fails to offer five-star acts in its young talent pool.
It’s spirit is strong and its exploration of young relationships is admirable
Lying in a park slide, the brooding and mysterious Eva reflects through a haze of a spliff on the impact Scarlett has had on their summer friendly fling:
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“Maybe she’s like the sun. How she sucks everything in toward it.”
All to which hot and troubled Luke, equally stoned, replies: “She thinks she’s the centre of the Universe.”
Scarlett’s sudden move from Melbourne to Brisbane brings the team together, where these former acquaintances might not have ever crossed paths beyond a polite nod at the school lockers.
The adventurous teens spend a questionable amount of time in the Valley, clubbing in “Bris-Vegas”, as opposed to behind desks at school.
But let’s be real. Nothing all that exciting happens at school. That is, if you disregard Eva breaking into school after hours and torching the agora, and a wild hotel party that ends with the five students meeting in the back of a divvy van.
The onset of such a beautiful friendship is fairly unrealistic, but still more believable than teen TV predecessors.
Great companions have often come in fives
From Enid Blighton’s The Famous Five to Marvel’s Fantastic Five, our fascination with group dynamics has shaped the stories we tell. The Breakfast Club (1985) is an infamous on-screen example of the prevalence of cliques, personality clashes and newfound friendship.
There’s something organic about dumping five young unlikely friends in a tricky spot, where the curiosity of the teen soul sounds true. Yet, SLiDE never spoke to the tormented Tumblr teens who made Skins a mainstream success.
SLiDE is unapologetically Australian in its sound, sourcing local music festival settings from Brisbane to the Gold Coast, and a killer soundtrack that champions Australian artists (featuring tracks from Architecture in Helsinki, Miami Horror, Operator Please and Gypsy & The Cat).
A baby-faced Ball Park Music and Last Dinosaurs perform for punters, accentuating a carefree summer party in the sun. The SLiDE soundtrack boasts a Brisbane-rich soundtrack, that struggles to find transnational relevance like that of Skins.
The series was one of the first in Australian television to incorporate multi-platform programming, after ABC’s Fat Cow Motel (2004). ‘Before Bits’ and ‘After Bits’ connected episodes with story background via YouTube.
Releasing content through social media, SLiDE was one step ahead of the game and had all the potential to hit the mark. But again, it just wasn’t quite enough.
Their efforts to capture the hearts of Australian youth fell short. Perhaps it attempted to foster an online presence before its audience was ready; the visual nature of the show exceeded anything Facebook and Myspace were prepared for, the YouTube boom had only just begun, and Instagram was a newborn platform still finding its feet.
As is the case with most Aussie TV dramas, the humour might not have held the capability to translate abroad.
Ultimately, the homage to Skins was caricatured and cliché. Perhaps, the premise of ‘live while you’re young’ wasn’t far enough removed from the stereotypical teen prototype to achieve anything significant.
Yet, if SLiDE does the fabled story any justice, the freedom of the Sunshine State and the ‘live first, think later’ antics of the protagonists create a world that is nothing short of life affirming.
“I don’t really believe in best friends,” Scarlett brushes off Eva’s concern.
Eva persists: “Well, they still believe in you.”
SLiDE is brimming with hope, a stark contrast to popular teen dramas of its kind.
Every character created a ‘that’s me’ moment for my young and idealistic self. They foil each other in a way that is simple and meaningful.
Watch the SLiDE Launch Promo below:
They share a sense of staring life square in the face. It’s all about giving it a red-hot go. Or rather, celebrating their glorious fuck-ups and letting it all come together in an explosion of spontaneity.
The clichés are cringe-worthy here and there – perhaps given more room to move with another season, SLiDE could have deepened the complexity of their character’s motives. Yet, we will never know what might have been. Instead, we must cherish what we have in SLiDE, for all its bumbling cheekiness.