Home and Away is a television serial created by Alan Bateman and produced by the Seven Network. The idea for the series came to Bateman (then head of drama at Seven) after he stopped to buy ice-creams in a small country town in southern NSW. While chatting to some locals, he learned that the town was unhappy about plans to build a home for foster kids from the city. At that time, Channel Seven was still smarting from its decision to let Neighbours go to the Ten Network, where it had become hugely popular, and was looking to create another series to rival its success. Bateman saw in the idea that became Home and Away the potential for plenty of storylines and conflict by having streetwise city kids being relocated to a small regional environment,
In the beginning, the series focused on Pippa and Tom Fletcher, who, being unable to have children of their own, decide to become foster parents. When Tom is retrenched from his city job, the couple buy the rundown Summer Bay Caravan Park and move there with their five foster children. Soon after arriving, they also take in troublesome Bobby Simpson.
The series debuted in January 1988 with an hour-long telemovie. Although this rated well, the series itself took some while to develop an audience. Having learned their lesson from the Neighbours debacle, Network Seven gave its new show time, and its ratings gradually increased. As with Neighbours, the Home and Away series and performers became very popular in the United Kingdom.
Set in a small, fictional, New South Wales country town called Wandin Valley, A Country Practice focused on the staffs of the town's medical practice and local hospital and on the families of the doctors, nurses, and patients. Many of the episodes also featured guest characters (frequently patients served by the practice) through whom various social and medical problems were explored. Although often considered a soap opera, the series was not built around an open-ended narrative; instead, the two one-hour episodes screened per week formed a self-contained narrative block, though many of the storylines were developed as sub-plots for several episodes before becoming the focus of a particular week's storyline. While the focus was on topical issues such as youth unemployment, suicide, drug addiction, HIV/AIDS, and terminal illness, the program did sometimes explore culturally sensitive issues, including, for example, the Aboriginal community and their place in modern Australian society.
Among the show's principal characters were Dr Terence Elliott, local policeman Sergeant Frank Gilroy, Esme Watson, Shirley Dean Gilroy, Bob Hatfield, Vernon 'Cookie' Locke, and Matron Margaret 'Maggie' Sloan. In addition to its regularly rotating cast of characters, A Country Practice also had a cast of semi-regulars who would make appearances as the storylines permitted. Interestingly, while the series initially targeted the adult and older youth demographic, it became increasingly popular with children over the years.