Given the TV version of The Family Law is based on a memoir, it’s understandable that the most commonly asked question I get about it is: “How much of it is true?” For the record, the fundamental details of the show match real life – my parents are named Danny and Jenny; they migrated from Hong Kong to Australia after they married; had five children named Candy, Andrew, Benjamin, Tammy and Michelle (they weren’t religious, just enthusiastic); and divorced when I was in my early teens.
Other than that, well, we make up a lot of stuff for the show – not because we’re pathological and sociopathic liars (most of us aren’t, anyway), but because we’re making a comedy, not a documentary. What’s important for us isn’t nailing the truth of what “actually” happened, but capturing emotional truths about parenthood, family, siblings and the awkwardness of growing up, no matter what age you are. (Also, keen watchers will notice the TV show’s set in present-day Australia. Unless I’ve discovered how to bend space and time, I wasn’t actually 15 years old in the 21st century.)
In the interest of full transparency, though, here are some of the most common true-or-false questions we get asked. Sorry for destroying any illusions. If you have any other questions, please contact my lawyer.
Jenny’s graphic stories of childbirth (series 1, episode 1) – TRUE!
Q: Honestly, what kind of mother tells graphic, bloody stories about the birth of her child around a dinner table? A: My mum! (Repeatedly!) Anyone who has met my mother has probably heard the words “tearing”, “vagina” and “scissors” at least once upon meeting her. For the Law kids, we usually hear the stories on our birthday – or what Mum refers to as her “labour day”.
Christmas food poisoning (series 1, episode 2) – FALSE!
OK, so this never actually happened, but was inspired by the fact the real Laws take Christmas very seriously. It’s also partly inspired by the time my cousins’ family bought a bulk pack of oysters to eat raw, not knowing they were supposed to be cooked. Cut to a hot, non-stop miasma of familial diarrhoea that stripped everyone of any decency that day. I couldn’t not use that as material, could I?
Melissa (series 1 and 2) – KIND OF!
Does Melissa Hills exist in real life? Kind of, but she’s more an amalgamation of at least three excellent girls I went to high school and/or extracurricular drama class with, all of whom remain dear to me. Only one of them wore leg braces for her patella tendonitis, though. She knows who she is.
Tit cake (series 1, episode 4) – TRUE!
Did Andrew actually get a cake in the shape of actual tits for his birthday, causing family tension and permanent heartache? Partly! Well, the cake itself existed. In real life, it was Andrew’s 21st birthday, and though he was mortified, everyone else loved it. We just amplified the emotional stakes in the show.
Costumes (series 1 and 2) – SORT OF!
One of the things we pride ourselves on in making The Family Law is presenting Australian audiences with some of the most thrillingly bats*** costumes seen on television, which I’m sad to confirm will only become more aggressively age-inappropriate as the series progresses. Sadly, I never had a watermelon costume (though I did play the clarinet throughout school and was very good at it, thank you), but my family did love a dress-up. I even won an award for Best Outfit for Book Week (a wizard) and helped Mum make my wolf costume for the limited school season of Noah’s Ark. We didn’t have the show’s costume budget in real-life, though. But, like Benjamin and his friends in that watermelon scene, I have been attacked by plenty of feral birds.
The Family Law airs on SBS every Thursday night at 8:30pm. New episodes and the entire first season are streaming now via SBS On Demand: