By FRANCES GRANT
The incoming wounded did not get a fair share of attention in Shortland Street's opening night 2000.
It was policewoman Janet's turn to fulfil the demands of the annual disaster finale and be the trauma victim wheeled into the clinic in last night's first episode for the year (TV2, 7 pm).
Given the size of the big bang of last year's finale, the escapes this time were miraculous. But this is Soapland, where key characters like Rangi can't bow out of essential plotlines.
There he was, unscathed. The small child at the centre of the accident was rescued unharmed. The drunken driver who sparked the inferno got out, we learned, with barely a scratch.
Surely Janet, as sole victim of a terrible accident, should have had the full cast hovering anxiously around her. Crikey, she could lose her leg. She could be the start of a whole worthy new storyline about the challenges facing amputees.
But apart from Rangi's concern, reaction to the news of Janet's misfortune seemed rather muted. The rest of the cast appear too engrossed in the real business of the soap - their romantic liaisons.
Shortland Street has returned as one big smoocherama. The cast obviously don't have the energy to deal with Janet's problem, they're plum puckered out.
Caroline was too busy swapping spit with evil Greg Feeney and worrying about the consequences for her lesbian love affair with Laura to be her usual sympathetic self. The motherly Moira, normally all compassion for the woes of others, was fully occupied on the sofa snogging Dean. You couldn't really blame her - she's been waiting a long time for the chance.
Love has come at last to the old folks of the soap and it made a touching picture. "Dinner tonight?" suggested the amorous Dean. "Ooh, glass of water with a worm in it, dinner, anything, lovely," said Moira with a gratitude never demon-strated by the younger, nubile members of the cast.
A concession to the sensitivities of the show's young target audience came later, as pouty Minnie made a great show of publicly pecking her elderly businessman boyfriend on the cheek. "How old is that guy? He's got to be 35!" said a rightly disgusted Fergus.
Thank goodness the clinic's evil bean counters, Nick and new boss Sofia Martinez, were there to provide some edge. The new clinic director means business. Her profits before patients ethos is right up Nick's alley. "It's pretty hard to make money from car-crash victims and the like," he agrees.
Tell that to Janet as she lies wondering whether she is about to kiss her leg goodbye. At least she got a few sympathy smooches from Rangi.
Shattered as she is, you can't help hoping she'll soon be on the mend. That incest-that-wasn't-thing between Rangi and Donna must be resolved so the star-crossed lovers can be reunited. Those two were made to lock lips.