East West 101: articles

Don Hany, as Detective Zane Malik, lays down the law in SBS's East West 101.

101 reasons to love crime shows

As you flick through the viridescent pages of your TV guide each week, you might have noticed that many of your reviewers are a bit in love with East West 101 (Wednesdays, 8.30pm on SBS One).

We're impressed with the way it examines complexities of Australian life without giving easy answers; we love that it's a local crime drama that doesn't make us cringe; and, at least in my case, we love it because it stars Don Hany, who is a total, rugged hunk.

But as much as we might agree East West 101 is the bee's knees, viewers don't seem to be quite as besotted with it. It's not that the show doesn't have lots of fans — it does.

It just hasn't hit the dizzying heights of popular audience appeal you'd imagine a well-made local crime drama should. It's disappointing that so many viewers are missing out on such a terrific, satisfying drama series.

Set in Sydney's western suburbs, East West 101 is centred around Zane Malik, a senior detective of the Major Crime Squad, played by Hany. Malik is a complex character, a practising Muslim who moved from Iraq to Australia as a child. His job is to investigate crimes that span various ethnic groups in the community. While he's had his challenges in the previous series, in this third and final one he is tested to the limit: a violent bank robbery in last week's opening episode resulted in a terrible personal tragedy and that's the driving push of this series.

Smaller crime mysteries also unfurl each episode, resulting in a narrative as tightly wrought as the chignon worn without respite by Inspector Patricia Wright (played beautifully by Susie Porter).

Each episode's themes are fascinating in the way they tackle those huge world conflicts that happen so far away and which, for many of us, are mere words that flash across the news headlines — Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan.

But East West 101's skill is in showing us how these events reverberate through our own communities and touch upon our own family life, even when we think they have nothing to do with us.

It might all sound very serious and intense but East West 101 is, in effect, an excellent, compelling series, noteworthy for its quality, scope and diversity. This last aspect — diversity — is of more significance than I have room to discuss here but it still astonishes me how refreshing it is to see different ethnicities on our television screens, portrayed in a multidimensional way that isn't tokenistic.

By Lorelei Vashti
April 28, 2011
Sydney Morning Herald