Young Lions: articles

Compromised cops fail to win conviction

Nine's new Australian police drama, Young Lions, has "compromise" written all over it. Simmering away behind all of it is a hint of raw and edgy storytelling, which we would expect on a show created by Michael Jenkins (Blue Murder and Wildside). But this is commercial TV, not the ABC, and there are commercial imperatives that must be satisfied. In the end, most of that edginess is stifled. We have just another cop show, one with attractive, young, brash characters, but still just another cop show.

Young Lions, which premiered last night with a telemovielength episode, does not take the genre forward. It's not a bad show—far from it—there is much to like about it and, particularly in Alex Dimitriades' central character, the sullen detective Eddie Mercia, much to admire. Overall there are flashes of Water Rats at its best, and infrequently a hint of the grittiness of Wildside. But a debut episode of any series must insist that we return for more. And I will, although mostly out of professional interest.

Last night's debut had two main threads. One was a gang war between Lebanese and Vietnamese youths, which Detective Mercia tried to quell through negotiation rather than force. It worked reasonably well. The other was about the hunt for a bank robber who had killed Mercia's former partner. This plot line culminated in a scene in which the crook fired a bazooka at the police station, opened fire on a bus and a street filled with innocents and then was chased down by Mercia, who killed him. It was like something out of a bad Clint Eastwood movie.

The main problem with Young Lions, however, is that it seems unable—or perhaps unwilling—to break the shackles of copshow cliche. What has worked in the ratings for decades is here again. It's Division 4 for the new millennium. It may be flashier, faster and more crowded than the cop shows of yore, but there's not much else.

Apart from Mercia, only one of the other Young Lions, the mysterious Detective Senior Constable Guido Martin, played by SeaChange law clerk Tom Long, has strong initial appeal. The son of an oldstyle cop, his girlfriend is a drug dealer, which raises all sorts of possibilities in coming months. We learnt little about him last night—most of what I know comes from the production notes provided by the show's producers. But he shows promise. Guido Martin wants to live up to his father's expectations, but he's in love with a criminal, the attractive Sophia (Maya Stange).

As Aussie cop shows go, Young Lions is as good as most, but it does not stand out from the crowd. And that is a problem, especially in the same timeslot as Seven's veteran cop show, Blue Heelers, which is made by the same production company, Southern Star. Young Lions might steal some young viewers, but it might do better elsewhere in Nine's schedule.

If, behind its hip, young feel, Young Lions is just another cop show, Quiz Master probably could be seen as just another quiz show. But with a potential prize pool of $1 million over four weeks, this Sunday-evening show on Seven is engaging and, towards the end of each hourlong program, really exciting.

Four players start each show. Over a number of rounds, they compete to answer a series of general-knowledge questions. In some rounds they can steal points from their rivals or gang up on the leader.

It's all good-natured stuff, unlike The Weakest Link or Shafted, where victory often went to the most bitterandtwisted.

Also, Simon Reeve is an unobtrusive host.

The climax is the final segment, in which the player with the most points goes for the week's prize: $250,000. He or she can select one of the remaining three players to help. Together they must answer five of the final 10 questions correctly, each of them worth $50,000. Whoever answers each question correctly gets the money, so, in theory, the helper can win more than the main player.

The questions in the final round are horrendous. Huw Evans never asked questions this hard on Mastermind. I have correctly answered one out of 20 so far. But the calibre of players in the first two shows was so high that, in week one, the $250,000 went.

On Sunday the two finalists went close, answering four of the 10.

Quiz Master is a welcome return to something like quiz shows of the past, everything from Pick-A-Box to Sale of the Century.

But one suggestion. If a player jumps the gun and answers the question before Reeve finishes reading it out, would he please finish the question for our benefit? For the viewer, it's frustrating not to know.

By Ross Warneke
July 18, 2002
The Age