The Time Of Our Lives pitches itself as chronicling the “… typical Australian family, in all its contemporary variation.” If this is typical, then it’s no wonder we struggle to understand what’s required of us as husbands and wives.
The drama focuses on the various members of the Tivolli clan, a family going through a range of mid-life crises in moody inner city Melbourne. Despite the surname there’s hardly a European gene amongst the eight key cast members, though Shane Jacobson, who plays the Tivolli’s second son is inexplicably named Luce. A fairly contrived storyline adds Michelle Vergara Moore as Chai Li, the adopted Vietnamese sister, probably for the sake of another demographic niche. But otherwise the cast is as Anglo as the Australian cricket team. Justine Clarke plays Bernadette, Luce’s second partner. William McInnes is his older brother Matt, whose marriage to Claudia Karvan’s Caroline is teetering on the brink of collapse. And rounding out the mid-lifers is Australian stalwart Stephen Curry as the familiar friend-as-family member.
This 13-part series comes from the same stable that provided Australia with The Secret Life Of Us, which turns out to be somewhat ironic. If its progenitor was all about following love wherever it leads you then The Time Of Our Lives is about what comes of operating by that philosophy. Luce and Justine have the best relationship on offer, but it still suffers from the fractures caused by his previous marriage. Matt has had ten years of matrimony but is ready to walk out the door because he’s discovered he hasn’t been in love with Caroline for years – actually, he’s discovered someone with fewer complications in Sydney, but love sounds better than selfishness. And just so we’re sure it’s not just Gen X who can’t get marriage to work, Chai Li’s Gen Y fiancé leaves her standing at the altar in episode one.
The Time Of Our Lives presents these interweaving storylines as a summary of our common experiences in our thirties and forties, with a particular emphasis on our search for our most significant relationship:
“Settling in with the one you love; still trying to find the one you love; getting away from the one you used to love.”
However, several episodes in, I couldn’t help feeling that the writers had made a fundamental mistake when it came to relationship building. Each character believes they have finally found the ‘right one’ or is desperately on the hunt for them. But that approach pictures love as the precursor to a lasting relationship – “I realise it’s you I love – let’s get married!” In reality love is the result of the commitment people are looking for. That’s why people who have been married to each other for a long time, having seen off the doubts and other distresses together, can actually say, “I love you more now than I ever did on our wedding day.” Love is not the will-o’-the-wisp the ABC is presenting it as, burning bright and leading you on one moment, then slipping away when we need it the most. It’s the fruit of steady service and commitment; the determination to love even when our partner is at their most unlovely. That’s why the Bible can say,
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The Time Of Our Lives will likely go on for weeks to come pushing it’s ‘right one’ philosophy, putting all of the responsibility on the other person to match our needs and avoid our annoyances. And you can expect lots of hand wringing as the characters fail to find happiness. But imagine how much more interesting it would be if one of its characters woke up one morning and realized that love was something you gave rather than longed for.
Release Date: Sundays, 8:30 PM