In Australia: Sundays, 8.30pm, ABC
In the UK: Acquired by BBC Three
There’s a worrying trend developing in television drama, one that I heartily disapprove of: drama about sports. It’s coming to us from the US, with the likes of Ballers, Pitch and Kingdom; meanwhile, Australia’s already given us tennis players in The Beautiful Lie, and now we’ve got to put up with swimming with ABC’s Barracuda. I’m guessing with the Olympics on the way, there may be even more sports shows to come. Tsk. There’s really no need for it, though, is there?
To be fair, Barracuda is more an excuse to look at the issues around sport and at young men in speedos, than it is all about the glories of swimming, no matter how many dodgy poems Hungarian swimming coaches read to their youthful charges in their homes. Set in 1996, it sees newcomer Elias Anton playing a working class Olympian hopeful winning a scholarship to a prestigious private school that trains swimming champions. But there, as well as having to shave his chest and dive into water a lot, he has to navigate class boundaries, bullying and racism, in order to make it to the top. But what price does it come at and is it all worth it?
If you’ve watched any kind of sports drama and any kind of drama set in a school, particularly a private school, you won’t be surprised by much of what Barracuda has to offer, although what it does, it does very well. The young cast is decent and look the part; Matt Nable (Arrow, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Gallipoli) is suitably inspiring as the coach, even if he sounds more South African than Hungarian; and the talented Rachel Griffiths (Brothers and Sisters, Very Annie Mary, Camp, Deadline Gallipoli) mysteriously shows up as one of the mums of the swim team.
It’s all beautifully shot and there are some good moments, even some involving sport, particularly when the reason for the show’s name gets revealed. But ultimately, even at just four episodes, you have to give a monkey’s about swimming for Barracuda to be worth your time.