Australia delivers another solid younger-skewing teen sports drama, but it avoids making big waves.
This review of Surviving Summer Season 1 is spoiler-free.
Coming pretty hot on the heels of Maverix, another Australian teen series aimed at a younger-skewing audience, Surviving Summer is… well, another Australian teen series aimed at a younger-skewing audience. It’s even about a slightly extreme sport, in this case surfing rather than motocross, but they’re nonetheless different shows despite sharing the same target demographic and many of the same themes.
Here, a good-hearted rebel named Summer is sent from New York to the Australian beach town of Shorehaven while her mother is working away for six weeks. Staying with friends of the family, including the surfing son, Ari, who is cresting a new wave after a serious injury, Summer naturally begins to warm to the place and the people there while we build towards a big sporting event.
Now that I write it down, this show really is pretty similar to Maverix. The sport backgrounds the human drama, and while it builds towards one of those big tournament-style finales, it’s really the relationships between the characters that bring everything together. There’s even a social media influencer on the come-up, but I suppose you can’t make a show about the youth these days without including one of those.
Surfing is a more popular pastime than motocross is, so I suppose some of that cultural specificity is lost here, but as I’ve said many times before, any kind of sport essentially comes with dramatic stakes pre-packaged. You don’t need details, or experience, or insider knowledge. Whatever teachers might be pushing these days, it’s all about winning and losing.
The trick is convincing the audience to root for someone to win or lose. Surviving Summer does a decent job of that, revolving around characters who’re decently layered and have a little more to offer beyond their broad archetype. Sure, this isn’t the longest series in the world, and it doesn’t deal with the most complex issues and ideas, but it feels just long enough to get you invested without overstaying its welcome or belaboring the point.
And yet there’s really nothing here that’s surprising or that you haven’t seen before; there’s nothing daring or original. That isn’t necessarily a criticism per se, but it certainly prevents the show from becoming something special and rising above its contemporaries. It’s a solid version of a specific thing, but it’s content to be just another example of that thing rather than something fresh and distinct. Most of the target audience won’t mind that, but it’s worth a mention all the same.