Third-episode verdict: The Beautiful Lie (Australia: ABC)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

In Australia: Sundays, 8.30pm, ABC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

There’s a certain responsibility that comes with writing these reviews, you know. Leaving aside that lots of people have puts lots of effort into making TV programmes, even the bad ones, when I recommend a show, I have to a remember there’s always a chance you might end up watching it – and wasting a lot of your time.

So imagine my concern, after having given a hearty thumbs up to ABC Australia’s The Beautiful Lie, a remake of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina set in modern day Sydney with famous tennis players taking the place of Russian aristrocracy, when episode two turned out to be a bit of a pup. Imagine the stereotype of a classic aristocratic romance – annoying, privileged people whining about the depth of their love and their #FirstWorldProblems and then not doing anything about them ‘because of society’ – and you have episode two.

“Oh dear. What have I sold them on?” I worried to myself.

Fortunately, episode three brought back some fun and some insight, and made a sizeable number of the characters Not Hateable again. Unfortunately, the show is still centred on Anna, the tennis player, and Skeet, the hipster musician, and their unstoppable, intense but utterly vapid love for each other – they are not in the Not Hateable group.

Whether by design or misfortune, The Beautiful Lie‘s biggest problem is that it has a romance between two people who are intensely annoying and stupid. Particularly Skeet, who is ‘pretty but stupid’ incarnate. Anna’s got Terribly, Terribly Important Things to deal with and talks about how when she’s with Skeet, “she’s like a starving woman given food.” Again, I reiterate, Anna and Skeet are not in the Not Hateable group.

Where it is working a lot better is with Peter and Kitty, Skeet’s former fiancée, who are very tolerable, even when assembling love poems to each other with fridge magnets; Dolly, Anna’s sister-in-law, is also fun, as are her dealings with spiders and electricity; and her cheating husband may be a dick, but at least he’s fun, too. They’re all relatively decent people, whose stories are engaging.

So I’m not going to be watching The Beautiful Lie to see how Skeet and Anna’s romance turns out, since unless it’s a fiery death, probably caused by too much friction in Skeet’s luxurious hair, I don’t want to know. Instead, I’m going to carry on with it, since it’s that rare thing – a TV show about love that doesn’t settle for clichés, that knows how to have fun and to handle complexity, and which is willing to give us supporting characters every bit as interesting as the central lovers.

Rating: 3
TMINE’s prediction: Unless they discover a sequel to Anna Karenina, I imagine one season should be all it gets. But it’s TV and if the ratings hold up, who knows? 


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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