Review: Mr Black 1×1 (Australia: Ten)

Wilfred without the dog suit

Stephen Curry as Mr Black
Stephen Curry as Mr Black

In Australia: Tuesdays, 8.40pm, Ten
In the UK: Not yet acquired

From time immemorial, the older generation have believed that the younger generation are a bunch of softies. Even Hesiod, way back in the 8th century BC, was writing about how the latest generation of man from the ‘age of iron’ was so much rubbish compared to those from the ages of gold and silver, for example. And he didn’t even have avocados and lattes to complain about.

That feeling doesn’t seem to have gone away, judging by the worldwide universal refrain of baby boomers calling millennials snowflakes. It’s certainly big in Australia.

Mr Black

Joining the chorus is Mr Black, which sees Stephen Curry (The Castle, Pine Gap) playing a recently retired sports journalist who is forced to move in with his 24-year-old daughter (Sophie Wright) and her new boyfriend (Nick Russell) as a result of his ailing health – he has ankylosing spondylitis, just like Mike Atherton.

However, Russell isn’t like Curry. He meditates, does yoga and can’t name a team he supports other than Australia. He can’t catch a ball and while Curry is a proper sports writer, Russell is an ad copywriter who came up with a campaign involving a robot car.

Needless to say, Curry is not impressed and doesn’t think Russell is suitable for his daughter. That makes for uncomfortable living.

Wilfred without the dog suit

The show is written by Adam Zwar, who is best known for creating the original Australian version of Wilfred. Here, we have more or less the same set-up, with an alpha male trying to stop a beta male from going out with a woman he’s fond of. Except here, Curry just has to drive around a mobility scooter, rather than wear a dog suit.

Fortunately, there’s a bit more to Mr Black than a simple retread of Wilfred. Curry’s a recognisable persona, albeit one bordering on the sociopathic in his willingness to persecute Russell. His gripes aren’t rare and there’s an element to Russell that does make you roll your eyes at him.

Nevertheless, Russell isn’t a complete pushover and is willing to stand his ground, making it more of an equal contest, rather than the older generation sneering at the younger. Sometimes he gets the upper hand, sometimes he doesn’t, and while Curry’s clearly manlier at heart, he’s also physically handicapped, making his bark worse than his bite.

Wright has a more thankless role, essentially being stuck between the two of them and having to work out which one’s lying, which one’s telling the truth in their battles, but not getting much of the plot dedicated to her needs and wants. But it is interesting how much “like father, like daughter” she is.

Coming in later episodes as the estranged Mrs Black is Doctor Blake‘s very own Nadine Garner, here playing someone a lot closer to her in age. That should be worth watching, at least.

Mr Blackly funny

Although I’m not a big fan of cringe comedy, I did enjoy Mr Black. It’s very much character-based amusement, rather than jokes aplenty, but it can be outright hilarious, such as when Curry is doing a Meet The Parents style interrogation of Russell that ventures into absurdities.

The growing relationship between Russell and Curry is sometimes warmer than you’d think and there’s a dangerous quality to it, as you never quite know where it’s going to go. Sometimes you’re on Russell’s side, sometimes you’re on Curry’s, and sometimes neither.

I’ll be watching more, I think.

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