(This review covers Episode 1-3)
The ABC took a pretty age-old approach to selling Crownies. Sex sells. ‘Sex, lies and magistrates’ was the tagline.
Sure enough, there’s lots of cleavage. There’s a set of lingerie. There are a lot of pretty people.
Unfortunately, it’s like when an Australian Idol contestant tries to be sexy. The ‘sexiness’ is all so forced – dropped into the plot purely because it should be there, not because it rises organically from proceedings. That’s to begin with, at least. Episode three manages to create some chemistry between two of the five leads – and that’s far sexier than randomly putting girls in their bra.
A couple of those girls are among our leads for this show – the five young Crownies whose trials (Ha!) and tribulations will form the basis of this show going forward. They’re all pretty good and immediately distinguishable from each other. The standouts at this stage are the continually flustered Hamish Michael who brings a real humanity to his role and Indiana Evans for her breezy charm and casual intelligence. This is not to denigrate any of the other five leads – they’re all very good.
Oh man, though. Midway through the first episode the primary prosecutor of the DPP absolutely smashes apart a defense team during a negotiation, and you can’t help but cheer for her as she does it. Despite the young cast being front and centre, it’s Marta Dusseldorp as Janet King that absolutely sprints away with the show. Disappointingly, she’s barely in the second part of the season pilot.
The rest of the adult cast is professional and competent though they don’t stand out like Dusseldorp does. Essentially, though, Crownies has an attractive, competent, charismatic cast. All that’s left is to do something worthwhile with it. On that basis, I think the show succeeds. While the first two episodes try to tackle way too much the third episode contains the focus somewhat and that results in a much, much better show. The cases are contemporary without feeling ripped-from-the-headlines and the issues involved generally have enough shades of grey to keep them interesting.
It takes slightly longer for the personal storylines to have as much impact as the legal ones. The young cast mostly make horrifyingly idiotic mistakes and sleep with people that shouldn’t be anywhere near their social circles if they had a shred of decency. Those forced plot developments that populate the first episode do make way for more complex storylines as the episodes progress and the characters begin to intertwine in ways that are more fun to watch.
Overall, do I want to watch a fourth episode? You bet I do. Once the third episode was over I was actively looking forward to the fourth and seeing how the series would progress. In fact, Crownies might be one of the best Australian-produced TV shows I’ve seen this year. No hysteria, not too much attention seeking, just classy, decent Aussie drama.