The Life And Times Of Ryan J Finnigan: Drazic Park
Drazic Park: The Lost World of Heartbreak High
In the inevitable conversations about TV nostalgia that crop up from sentimental Twentysomething’s, the shows I would always bring up were Australian classics, like Pugwall and Round the Twist. I don’t exactly know why I had an affinity with Antipodean programming (and still do) but these were the shows I loved.
However, my heart was reserved for one show, Heartbreak High. In my youth, it was the coolest show to watch, reflecting school life and teen issues like no one else had. I had vivid memories of imitating the show with friends. Mostly, we would tell each other to “Rack Off” and even years later, I could drop it unexpectedly into conversation for a guaranteed laugh. The term was alien and idiosyncratic and, it was now ours.
We’d talk about the love triangles, the fights and the coolest character of all, Bogdan Drazic. For those uninitiated, Draz was the archetypal vulnerable rebel, all eyebrow ring and vintage clothes. The tough exterior displayed by a proficiency with rollerblades, cars, put-down’s and the ladies hid the inner pain of tough family life and school failures. Girls loved him, Guys wanted to be him. Despite not being in the show from the beginning, he had become the most popular character and became the icon of the show for those my age.
And then… Something dreadful happened, the show vanished. A lack of funding equalled cancellation and soon after, the show disappeared from UK television for good. Over the years, the lack of any repeats meant that details such as plots and characters eventually became hazy and the show, a beloved yet distant memory.
The desire to see the show again grew. I once contacted the BBC to inquire about acquiring the British rights to the show. They never replied. I scoured the internet looking for information and made do with clips of footage from fansites and forums… though it didn’t satisfy.
Years later, a mysterious bootleg of all six seasons found me, ripped from TV with hardcoded Dutch subtitles, questionable picture and audio and just one missing episode. I didn’t care and ecstatically, the idea hit me from nowhere, to watch it all in order and edit together every utterance of the words “Rack Off”. Over the space of a year, I spent approximately 157 hours watching every single episode, making notes of the times it was said.
Over the course of 210 episodes, I became encyclopaedically knowledgeable on the show and noticed that a lot of the actors had names that were exotic, at least to me sitting in Yorkshire, (I’ll stick to character names here for privacy). They weren’t every day names in my World and so I curiously typed one into a social networking site and alas… there was the real life Dennis Klinsmann. From there, I unlocked a web of former HH cast members and began to add them as friends.
Eventually, I compiled the video ‘Every “Rack Off” in Heartbreak High’ and unleashed it on the internet. I immediately sent it to as many cast members as possible and over the space of a few months, I had heard from an amazing list of characters including Dennis, Charlie, Con, Anita, Bolton, Declan and Rose. Luckily, the response was positive with most commenting on how they had found it funny, although no light could be shed on the term itself. “What does it actually mean?”, “I forgot rack off even existed… ” and “I had no idea we said it so much!!!!!!! What else can you say when you’re not allowed to swear??” amongst the offerings.
My favourite response of all came from Ox, who wrote “That’s a lot of television, you really must be a very confused young man. Tell me when you get into fights do you ask what would they do in HBH and then tell them to “Rack off”?” – I can confirm, I do.
I loved watching the show again and truly enjoyed it as an adult. At different stages I became perhaps, too obsessed. I thought about how the show had possibly influenced The Wire (multiple character, urban racial drama, looking at all sides of the “conflict”), how Mai had invented Lady Gaga and that Katerina having her marketing ideas stolen was exactly the same as Peggy’s story in Mad Men….. and then I started to watch it a little less often.
Yet still, the point remains that the show has stood the test of time and stands up high in terms of TV excellence within shows about young adults, only really in my mind being equalled by Freaks and Geeks. The show was always ready to tackle issues, to educate and inform, full of teenage angst, longing and brooding. I’ve enjoyed every minute.
Alas, I’m still waiting to hear back from Drazic.
Written By Ryan J Finnigan