Winners and Losers is a show for women.
That’s not to say it’s a bad show, or an unworthy show – but it’s just not a guy’s show.
This is Sex and the City (there’s even two blondes, a brunette and a redhead) meets Packed to the Rafters – and it’s Channel Seven’s attempt to double down on the Rafters audience, whisking that incredibly popular program off the air to make way for this – and in the process they’ll be hoping that they get two massive dramedy franchises off the ground.
Of course, they might risk alienating the Rafters audience, a casually diehard fan base that has forged a deep connection over the last four years to this particular family.
My question is simply this - by aiming the show squarely at half the country are they not giving it a chance to get out of the blocks?
The show itself tells the story of four friends – Bec (Zoe Tuckwell-Smith), Frances (Virginia Gay), Sophie (Melanie Vallejo) and Jenny (Melissa Bergland). They are, to unfairly reduce each character to a single adjective, the nice girl, the career woman, the party girl and the homely girl. One by one, they are invited to their 10-year high school reunion by Tiffany Turner (Michala Banas), the girl who tormented them in high school.
But that’s not really what the show is about. Like Rafters, which began life as a show about what happens when adult children move back into their family home and eventually became a show that told stories about family, this is a show that will eventually tell stories about friendship. The most crucial part of any of this is whether the characters themselves are worth hanging out with.
On that score, Winners and Losers had a 50% strike rate with me. Virginia Gay is always a welcome presence on my TV screen, never overplaying her clichéd ‘career woman’ role and always charming even without decent material. Zoe Tuckwell-Smith is equally luminous – playing a nice girl with enough depth behind her eyes to keep her interesting, rather than vacuous.
Melissa Bergland as Jenny and Melanie Vallejo as Sophie fare less well for varying reasons. Both characters are clichéd ‘types’, just like their friends, but neither the actresses nor the writers give me any hope that they’ll add depth and become more likeable as the series progresses. Having said that, this is a character drama – so time must be allowed for the characters to flourish – but having watched the second episode and liking those two characters even less, I’m rapidly losing confidence.
The supporting characters are tracksuit-pants comfortable – familiar enough to never threaten to overtake the driving force of the show in our main four characters. We have the doting but commitment-shy fiancé, the adoring gay best friend, the adoring straight best friend, the comforting, quirky family – and they are all serviceable. The weakest link is Damien Bodie, who gets one note and one note only to play as the gay best friend. I know there must be some low-key gay men out there somewhere, but you wouldn’t know it from watching TV…
I’ve seen two episodes so far and the pilot was far superior to the episode that follows it. Unfortunately, the pilot ends on a plot development that I have never seen end well for any show I’ve ever watched. I won’t spoil it for you, but I think it is extremely difficult to have a show about characters that go through this particular situation. On top of that, this particular plot development is clumsily inserted and painfully telegraphed.
In the end, though, I will not be the harbinger of doom and glory for this particular show. That will be the female audience, who will either take to this with Sex and the City-like abandon, or shun it like they did the Cashmere Mafia.
In the end, the deciding factor will be how much we want to hang out with these four friends. I don’t, but you might.
All in all, a nil-all draw.
So weigh in, if you like! Did you like the characters? Do you think this show plays as strongly to gender roles as I do? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.