Regular Guest blogger, KatharineD, shares one of her favorite Australian TV series, and discusses its modification for American TV.
One of my favourite Australian TV shows from the last few years is a little gem called Rake– each series is only eight episodes long, but the writing is high quality, so I haven’t minded (too much) waiting two years in between each outing. It’s a dramedy about a brilliant but dissolute Sydney barrister, loosely based on the life of Charles Waterstreet, who’s what we choose to call a ‘colourful character’, and is one of the show’s co-creators. It’s one of those shows where you’re laughing one minute and crying the next at the vicissitudes of life.
When I heard about Rake being taken offshore and given a makeover, my first, second and third thoughts were NO, don’t even think about it. A big part of it’s charm lies in it’s setting- Sydney isn’t small, but there are very distinct interwoven threads of life in the big city law firms and state politics, which provide many of the comedic elements in the plot. It’s a world centred on a specific part of the city, and I can easily recognise nearly all the locations.
One of the fears was that US audiences wouldn’t warm to this particular anti-hero- Can our Rake survive the US culture? This is not a character looking to be redeemed- he’s unrepentant in his myriad failings, lurching from one crisis to another while pulling off intermittent glorious wins in the courtroom. ‘US culture loves it’s heroes, and one of the biggest challenges,…..is keeping the main character’s personality flaws intact’. US Rake seems to feel the need to spell out the humour, as if it’s afraid to trust to the audience’s intelligence. It airs on Fox network, and I haven’t seen any of the casual nudity or swearing which the original uses to great effect to underscore just how much of a shambles Cleaver’s life is. He’s a man who loves too much, loves all the women in his life, but can’t figure out how to make a relationship work.
Already the ratings aren’t looking good, and to be honest, I wanted to enjoy the American version, but really didn’t. I’ll give it a couple more tries, but I wish they’d just decided to air the original in prime time and let the audience decide. Apparently it’s being shown on DirecTV’s Audience Network, but I have no idea how widely accessible that is. Here is an interesting article on the Aussie Rake, highlighting the fact that Americans don’t often get to see original overseas series-‘There has always been a tacit embargo on what American audiences get to see of the world’. ‘Rake quietly dazzles with it’s sharp writing and subtle performances’. If you can chase it up, I urge you to give the original series a try- Richard Roxburgh makes one hell of a charming rake.