Farewell Rosehaven: the five best low-stakes plotlines of TV’s sweetest show

Over five delightfully pleasant seasons, Rosehaven has become a TV series we will remember. Here are some of its most memorable, if inconsequential, subplots

When you take away all the categories we use to define movies and TV shows – when you remove all the genres and spiffy labels – there are really only two kinds: the ones we watch and the ones we remember. Bestie real estate agents Emma (Celia Pacquola) and Daniel (Luke McGregor), the principal characters of Rosehaven, have already well and truly established a residence in our collective psyches, forming – along with other folk from the idyllic titular town where it is based – a very pleasant space to mentally return to.

This place in our heads is managed of course by the good people at McCallum Real Estate: Emma, Daniel, the laconic but loveable old receptionist Mrs Marsh (Noela Foxcroft), and their grouchy hard-to-impress boss Barbara (Kris McQuade). After five delightfully low-key seasons, ABC TV aired Rosehaven’s sweetly satisfying finale on Wednesday night. A cute email arrived in my inbox earlier in the week from the show’s publicist, politely asking the media to keep its resolution a secret.

Thing is, you couldn’t spoil this show even if you wanted to. Rosehaven is a state of mind; a soothing balm for anxious times; a fresh air-filled world where the pace is slow and the stakes are low. Looking back over this thoroughly pleasant series, which, when it launched in 2016, I initially found a little too uneventful but soon came to cherish, below are five of my favourite, least consequential plotlines – one from each season.

Emma (Celia Pacquola) and Daniel (Luke McGregor) , in season four of Rosehaven
Bestie real estate agents Emma (Celia Pacquola) and Daniel (Luke McGregor) in season four of Rosehaven. Photograph: Scott Bradshaw

The new weirdo locksmith

Season one, episode two
What happens when people in a small town don’t trust the local locksmith? After all, they (more or less) have the keys to everything. Emma and Daniel are alerted to this issue when the local Neighbourhood Watch bundle into their office to tell them they don’t trust the “weirdo” new locksmith Damien (David Quirk) who, according to one citizen, is guilty of the heinous crime of one day “smelling a bush with no flowers”.

Emma and Daniel go over to his house to suss him out; Emma is delighted that he’s a hoarder. They don’t mind the guy and allay the town’s concerns (partly by buying them a round at the pub) until Damien enters their homes unannounced to retrieve his father’s possessions which had never been returned. This is an early example of the show’s community-building spirit and penchant for making a meal out of irresistibly petty grievances.

Daniel prepares for his first auction

Season two, episode eight
This episode begins with Daniel, gavel in hand, practising his best auction voice as Emma (arguably) helps him prepare for his first auction. Her most valuable contribution is suggesting that he spins on the spot after yelling “Sold!” When auction day arrives, the nervous and awkward Daniel (McGregor, after all, is an auteur of awkward) talks up the property by reflecting on the revolutionary benefits of a combined bathroom and toilet: “So, no need to go to another room to wash your hands.”

When interest from the crowd is lacklustre, Daniel asks: “Does anybody have a double shoulder injury that might prevent them from raising their arms?” The auction is a bit of a debacle but things end happily – until Daniel yells “Sold!”, spins on the spot and accidentally turns his gavel into a projectile that takes out one of the locals.

Saving the pig

Season three, episode one
If in doubt, throw a stray or missing pig into your story – according to a screenwriting dictum espoused by precisely nobody ever (although this episode, an excellent Nicolas Cage movie and one of my all-time favourite Australian films have embraced the concept wholeheartedly). Emma is smitten by a large porker that strolls up to the McCallum Real Estate office; she pronounces it lost despite Daniel suggesting, “It knows exactly what it’s doing and you’re disturbing its plans.”

The following plotline, revolving around Emma’s reluctance to give the pig back to the butcher (for obvious reasons) reflects, perhaps accidentally (given Rosehaven’s aversion to making a statement about anything) reflects the truism that many more vegetarians would exist if killing animals didn’t take place out of sight and mind. The pig character is played by Ned, a real-life rescue whose “comic timing was often impeccable”– in the words of this episode’s director, Shaun Wilson.

McGregor and Pacquola with Ned the pig actor.
Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola with Ned the pig actor. Photograph: Michael Brook

Barbara and the real estate conference

Season four, episode four
Episode four of season four explores a horror familiar to many: attending a work conference. This plotline is a way to recognise that Barbara – who is attending a regional real estate conference to collect an award – is not just amusingly cranky but also exceptionally good at her job.

One conference speaker asks attendees to call out the names of society’s least trustworthy professions. She gets the usual responses (lawyers and car salesmen) until a bloke at the back names fish and chip shop workers because “they never weigh the chips; you just have to trust it’s the same amount”. The gag is indicative of Rosehaven’s safe, Seinfeldian observational humour: innocuous jokes that make you think “So true!”

Dealing with a lavender-averse landlady

Season five, episode two
The very fine actor Pamela Rabe plays a character light years from her famous sadistic prison guard in Wentworth: a landlord, Margaret, with a habit of rocking up to her tenant’s house unannounced. The tenant asks Daniel and Emma to fix this situation but has trouble articulating why she finds Margaret so annoying. As do I; as will you.

The not-nice landlady

That’s the beauty of Rabe’s smug and softly condescending performance: she is indeed almost indefinably irritating. Even the way Margaret says “hello” makes you kind of hate her. Deducing that she’s allergic to lavender, Emma and Daniel stock the tenant’s house full of lavender-scented candles to put her off coming and, uh-oh, the plan works a little too well.


Luke Buckmaster

The GuardianTramp

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