Wild Boys: articles

Where the wild things were

I WAS sad when I heard Wild Boys had been axed. Not because I thought it was a really great show - it was never going to make anyone's top 10, unless it was a list of Greatest-Ever Shows About Anachronistic Bushrangers - but because it was fulfilling a role that is all too rare in locally produced drama: the role of having fun. The role of being a bit far-out and a bit silly and a bit mad.

Wild Boys wasn't a superlative show but it was a precious antidote to Australian TV's business as usual.

For one thing, it wasn't about cops. There were cops in it but they were 19th-century cops and didn't really count, especially since Jeremy Sims played his character more like Captain Hook than Sergeant Tom Croydon. And for me, an Australian show not being about cops earns a tick straight away, after all these years of Heelers and Rats and Rushes and Stingers and Homicides and Ops and Collars and that other one with Brooke Satchwell. Eventually cop shows just blur into each other, so you're no longer sure whether Peter Phelps is head of the Water Police, the guy who caught Noni Hazlehurst trying to murder Lisa McCune. Or was it Peter O'Brien? Whatever - Wild Boys was refreshing as a non-cop show at a time in Australian history when fictional police officers were close to outnumbering real ones.

It was also refreshing that they didn't go back to hospitals. We knew the All Saints template was outdated when All Saints itself started trying to con people into thinking it was ER.Wild Boys gets kudos for never featuring an arrogant doctor who refuses to listen to the wisdom of sexy nurses. And it didn't go for the other Australian drama trope either: ordinary Aussies negotiating relationships in hip, modern, urban Australia.

Wild Boys was not The Secret Life of Bushrangers. It was not Packed to the Rustlers. And at no point did Jack Keenan either win the lottery or discover the true meaning of sisterhood with his wacky fat friend.

No, Wild Boys was none of these things. It was a series of cracking yarns about handsome rogues with hearts of gold putting one over The Man. It was just good, clean, slightly violent, shamelessly historically inaccurate fun. And it's something Aussie TV could do with more of. More cracking yarns, more swashbuckling, more fun.

Overseas TV seems to have much more of a spirit of adventure about it. In the US and Britain you can get shows about vampires and zombies and superheroes and space cowboys and time-travelling aliens. But back home we just seem to get the same dull cops and doctors and suburbanites living out their prosaic lives and occasionally being taken hostage by disgruntled single dads. Wild Boys tried to break that mould but as soon as it stuck its head over the parapet, it was blown away by the cruel musket volley of ratings.

I'd like to think this could change. I'd like to think Oz might still throw up an awesome show about smuggler robots or wise-cracking river pirates but chances seem slim. And that's a pity.

When the most fun you can have is watching 30-year-old Prisoner repeats, those are some serious doldrums you're in.

By Ben Pobjie
November 19, 2011
Sydney Morning Herald