Sorry, Australia. And indeed fans of Australian TV. For ages, I’ve been promising to review all manner of new and exciting – and, it turns out, not so exciting – Australian TV shows. However, thanks to a deluge of US and Internet TV, I’ve being failing hopelessly.
This weekend, however, I made a massive effort to play catch up with all of them. I’ve not been 100% successful, since I’ve not yet started SBS’s Deep Water, but since that’s a four-part mini-series that’s already finished, I might as well watch all the episodes before letting you know what I think of it prior to its eventual BBC Four airing.
After the jump and to save myself a whole lot of time, mini-reviews of the first few episodes of all the other shows. Just to give you a tantalising preview of what I’m going to say, though:
- Definitely watch: Hyde & Seek (Nine)
- Probably watch: The Secret Daughter (Seven)
- Maybe watch: The Wrong Girl (Ten)
- Don’t watch: Rosehaven (ABC)
Hyde & Seek (Nine)
Matt Nable (Arrow, Barracuda, Gallipoli) is a Sydney cop investigating a seemingly routine case when his junior partner is killed in an explosion. Soon, it becomes apparent terrorists are involved and before you know it, everyone from the federal police through ASIO and ASIS is involved in the investigation, and Nable’s jetting off to Hong Kong and having to evade snipers and assassins to get to the bottom of it all.
Unsurprisingly, given that Rachel Lang (Outrageous Fortune, The Almighty Johnsons, The Blue Rose, Westside) is one of the co-writers, there’s also a New Zealand component to the story, with Nable’s new ‘buddy’ Emma Hamilton (Mr Selfridge, The Tudors) a New Zealand ‘immigrations officer’ assigned to help out – but who’s probably an NZSIS officer, given her command of self defence, torture, interrogation et al.
After a slightly pedestrian, derivative start, it all gets very exciting, very quickly. The conflict between agencies evolves in suprising ways by the end of the second episode. The buddy-buddy format with an antagonistic male-female Australian-New Zealand partnering, each with strengths and weakenesses, works well, right down to the cricketing jibes. The Hong Kong transfer adds a touch of the exotic to the proceedings, too.
True, Nable’s character is a bit of a dick, as are most of the federal agents, with only Hamilton’s character exhibiting any people skills. But the show also avoids glossing over Nable’s loss and how it affects him emotionally, giving it a bit of an out. Definitely one I’ll be sticking with.
The Secret Daughter (Seven)
Rich city hotelier had an illegitimate daughter in a remote mining town. While off looking for her, he meets pub singer Jessica Mauboy who might just fit the bill. However, before anything’s settled, he dies in an accident. When one of his sons (Matt Levett) comes looking for his new sister, he assumes it’s Mauboy and since Mayboy and her dad, David Field (Chopper), need to get out of town quickly, she assumes the mantle of sister. Cue in-fighting among the other brothers and sisters, including The Almighty Johnsons‘ Jared Turner, and much discussion about class, race et al.
The Secret Daughter is a weird mix of family potboiler, musical and comedy. The various family conflicts over the family cash, the differences in class et al are intelligently handled. However, the fact that Mauboy is one of Australia’s most successful female singers and an Australian Idol runner-up means that there’s an obligatory musical interlude every 10-15 minutes or so, which had me reaching for the fast-forward every time. On top of that, everything to do with Maubouy’s small town life, her work with her band/boyfriend/best friend, and in particular her father are broad comedy at best, daftness at worst.
The end of episode two provided a slightly obvious twist (or did it?) that means the show might actually be worth sticking with, so I shall, despite the musical numbers. At least for a bit.
The Wrong Girl (Ten)
Based on Zoë Foster Blake’s book of the same name, The Wrong Girl sees morning TV producer Jessica Marais (Love Child, Packed To The Rafters, Magic City) sleeping with best friend Ian Meadows (A Moody Christmas, 8MMM Aboriginal Radio) then regretting it, and accidentally sending an insulting email to her boss and chef Rob Collins (Cleverman) and then regretting it since she has to get him on her programme. Except maybe she quite fancies Collins, except oops, now he’s going out with her BFF and oops, Meadows has got someone else pregnant!
This is, pretty much as it sounds, chick lit, but pretty good chick lit. Marais, Meadows and Collins are fine. There’s the standard array of characters – annoying, stupid female work adversary; camp work colleague; more exciting, freer BFF; two blokes to choose from; and more. The men are all emotionally more literate than virtually any actual straight male you’ll find. There’s even Craig McLachlan (The Doctor Blake Mysteries) as the host of the TV show.
If you like chick lit, you’ll like this; otherwise, nothing much to see here, I’m afraid.
Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola are two best friends, mousy McGregor being a doormat who drinks milk, Pacquola a bumptious, dominating extrovert who made McGregor one of her bridesmaids. It looks like they’re not going to see each other for a while, since Pacquola’s off on her honeymoon and McGregor’s returning to his home town of Rosehaven in Tasmania to cover at his mum’s real estate business while she has an operation. However, wouldn’t you know it, Pacquola’s soon in Rosehaven with McGregor, helping him to stand up to the natives, especially the ones who were mean to him as a kid.
Most of the humour of the show rests on Australian stereotypes of ‘wild’ Tasmanians and their strange, hardy ways (“Isn’t having a 24-emergency butcher kind of odd?”), as well as on McGregor’s astonishing doormattery. But that’s really all the humour, McGregor just irritated more than amused, and frankly, the culture clash comedy isn’t so much a clash as a mild nudge. Pacquola and McGregor do have a nice, mumbly chemistry together, but otherwise this is a definite miss for me.