Stingers: articles

Coffee amid the red herrings

The team from Stingers (Nine, 9.30pm) hovers in the mean streets and runs in the fast lanes from Moonee Ponds to Mordialloc. Maybe that's why it's such an unpretentious and effortlessly entertaining cop show. Like those granddaddies of Aussie drama Homicide and Division 4, it's nice to still see cops slamming crooks up against corrugated iron fences in the scrubby lanes of inner Melbourne.

Which is exactly how tonight's episode begins, and thus announces the arrival of new kid on the block, Constable Chistina Dichiera (Jacinta Stapleton). Of course, she's a feisty, not-quite-by-the-rules kind of cop. But unlike the other (female) cops in the Stingers undercover unit, she's more Brunswick brunette than Brighton blonde.

As rough nut Senior Constable Peter Church (Peter Phelps) shows the pig-tailed rookie around HQ, he comes up against some class resistance, and it's not just in how she uses her vowels. Explaining the delicate use of the most precious technology in the office, the coffee machine, she bluntly tells the gobsmacked Church that she's a Nescafe sort of chick—"I'm not a coffee wanker".

And that's Stingers—a sort of Blue Heelers for coffee wankers,—and that's meant in the nicest possible way. Stingers is smart but not slick and show-offy. Its appeal is in its simple, good storytelling. The scripts aren't hifalutin, but they're solidly entertaining and allow the show's able cast to display a sense of camaraderie (which is probably inevitable given that the five cops appear to be the only people working in the vast police building).

The scripts also allow the actors opportunities to reveal a level of subtlety that is unusual in the churn-it-out pace of local drama production. There's a moment in tonight's episode, The Last Dance, when the camera lingers on Danni (Roxane Wilson) after she's helped to bust a greedy nursing-home boss (nicely played by Victoria Eagger). Her reaction allows just a hint of doubt about how she feels about throwing the book at the low-life.

The murder in the old people's home storyline is a staple of cop shows, but amid all the usual red herrings, this Stingers episode is distinguished by a typically excellent performance from Terry Norris as the husband of the murder victim.

Wrapped in his tartan dressing gown, Norris looks like Sandy Stone but his acting is as sharp as a tack. Which unfortunately cannot be said about the new bland boss of the undercover unit, Detective Senior Sergeant Luke Harris (Gary Sweet), who clearly needs to substitute the Horlicks for a double espresso to spring him in to life. Bring on the coffee-wankery.

By Raymond Gill
August 20, 2002
The Age