Review: Party Tricks 1×1 (Australia: Ten)

Party Tricks

In Australia: Mondays, 8.30pm, Ten

Politics is an area rife for fictionalisation – indeed, some would argue that it is already largely fictional – and some of the best TV comedies and dramas around the world have been set in the world of politics: think The Thick of It and Yes Minister in the UK, The West Wing and House of Cards in the US, Borgen in Denmark and Spin in France.

Australian politics is no less entertaining than the politics of any other country and Australian TV is now getting in on this act with shows such as ABC’s The Code. However, more traditional but equally innovative is Ten’s Party Tricks, which sees Victoria’s incumbent State Premier and Labor politician Kate Ballard (Asher Keddie from the much-loved Offspring) going up against Liberal politician and former journalist David McLeod (Rodger Corser). The slight hitch is that Ballard and McLeod had an affair several years previously and Ballard is worried that McLeod is going to drop this particular bomb at an inconvenient moment, despite the widowed McLeod playing the family card in his own campaign.

Ten’s supporting the show with extensive fake social media activity, from Twitter feeds to web sites and campaign videos, which is a relatively innovative touch. Unfortunately, as with all this kind of ‘360º work’, more attention should have been paid to the script than to how many people get fooled by a fake Tweet and then smile wryly to themselves.

Party Tricks is ostensibly a comedy drama and while the show starts off pleasantly enough with a bewigged flashback to when McLeod and Ballard first met – and hated each other – slowly the corners of my smile descended as it became clear that was the best bit. It doesn’t help that Ballard’s main helper Wayne Duffy (Angus Sampson) is effectively just a gay Chris Addison in The Thick Of It, from lines through to delivery, making anyone who’s watched similar shows feel like they’re watching a re-tread of better things.

Lots of it play well, though, with Ballard and Duffy’s rewriting of statements to blur the truth a particular highpoint, and there are some genuinely funny physical comedy moments, such as Duffy’s dealing with the security systems at the Victorian government offices. But this is more a story about relationships than politics, and the relationship in question was between the frosty Ballard and the ‘big giant twat’ McLeod, and by the end of the first episode, I didn’t feel inclined to get to know either of them any better.

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