Crownies: articles

Courting success ... from left, Indiana Evans, Ella Scott Lynch, Todd Lasance, Andrea Demetriades and Hamish Michael.

Fresh faces raise the bar

Aunty delivers a cast-iron hit to atone for some of its previous offerings.

Series one. Episode one. A new locally produced drama probably has about 120 seconds of wiggle room to be embraced or rejected. The credits. The cast. The credentials. These are all factors. But those first moments of action or dialogue can win or lose a critic and, much more importantly, an audience, in spite of the fact that hundreds of people have worked for two or five years to bring this crucial moment to the screen.

Crownies, a new ABC drama about a young bunch of crown prosecutors, their shocking cases and even more shocking personal lives, sounds like another limp attempt to recapture the glory of This Life or North Square or Party Animals. But we never make those shows. We make Bed of Roses and Blue Heelers.

The first few moments of Crownies (ABC1, Thursday, 8.30pm) aren't encouraging. This critic cares less about locally produced crime drama than nearly any genre. And ABC resistance is high. I consider East of Everything a booster shot.

Recent ABC product has not inspired confidence. British Friday-night crime, don't care so much. And unfortunately, as a result of watching more TV than most readers, I'm likely to jump to conclusions. So here's the weird thing. Something inexplicable happened with my advance DVD of Crownies. The plan to watch 20 minutes evaporated. Three hours disappeared, just like that. Six hours would have been gobbled just as quickly.

Crownies ticks those impossible, invisible magical boxes of casting, connection, character, charisma and care about watching more. The unlikely mix of known and formidable forces with fresh faces pays off. The language of the office, the look of the stationery, the too attractive but useful-for-our-purposes cast, in its underwear, is terrific. These look like future stars.

Todd Lasance, Ella Scott Lynch, Hamish Michael, Andrea Demetriades and Indiana Evans each breathe life into characters we've never seen before. These new faces should grab audience loyalty and fascination instantly.

Perennial hard workers Jeanette Cronin, Marta Dusseldorp, Lewis Fitz-Gerald and Peter Kowitz are all at their best. They bring nuance and heft to their wonderfully written characters. Co-producer-writer Jane Allen's background as a lawyer is evident and input from former DPP prosecutor Hilary Bonney may well account for the fresh smell of authenticity. No doubt our lawyer friends will point out some pitfalls but these should not get in the way of celebrating a rollicking good new local drama.

By Ruth Ritchie
July 9, 2011
Sydney Morning Herald