New Aussie Drama: Cops LAC SUX

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 9th September 2010.

In the same week that it was announced that perennial Australian soap, Neighbours, will be shafted across to new digital station, Eleven, next year, a plethora of new home grown drama has premiered on the idiot box. Cops L.A.C. (Local Area Command) is the latest in a long line of local police dramas, the first of which was Homicide which premiered in 1964, almost ten years after the introduction of television in Australia.

A starring vehicle for Kate Ritchie, most recently coming off a stint in radio with Merrick and Rosso, and prior to that, a short run on soapie Home and Away, the new series debuted last week to over 1 million viewers. Supported by the who’s who of Aussie acting veterans, such as Gary Sweet, Roy Billing and Denise Roberts, and a few new faces, Kate is miscast as Detective Senior Constable Samantha Cooper. Sorry Kate, I just can’t buy you as a hard-nosed cop. You’re just too nice, or wooden, or both. If she approached me with a gun and handcuffs, I think I’d give her a hug rather than running away.

The rest of the cast get an assortment of stereotypes to play. Gary Sweet plays the abrasive and cocky superintendent with a heart of gold. Denise Roberts portrays the hard working, no-nonsense inspector. A female head of detectives no less. Roy Billing gets the veteran old school cop, just three months from retirement. I bet his character dies sacrificing himself heroically just minutes before the end of his last shift. All we need is Colonel Mustard in the library with the candle stick and we’ll have the full set of standard police show characters.

The premiere episode centred on the first day on the job for rookie cops Priscilla and Daniel, whilst team Milko investigates a car accident that may be (yawn) a murder! Within minutes of starting in the morning, Daniel gets a milkshake thrown over him and at the end of the episode, which takes place that evening, he is still wearing his soiled uniform. I know the L.A.C. is under-funded but surely they have spare uniforms? 

The killer ends up being the first and least likely suspect, who in TV storytelling terms is actually the most likely suspect. Oh, and smug Detective Llewellyn, played by Martin Dingle Wall, hangs rookie Priscilla’s cap from the roof to teach her a lesson for forgetting it. What tension and drama! If I want to watch a show called Cops, it better be the one with the reggae theme tune and foul mouthed Americans getting arrested with blurry faces.

My verdict: Cops S.U.X.

Spirited debuted two weeks ago on pay TV station “W”. An eight part dramedy from the producers of Love My Way, Spirited stars Claudia Karvan as Suzy Darling, a dentist who leaves her arrogant husband (Rodger Corser from Channel Ten cop drama Rush) to move into a city apartment with her kids. In the apartment she encounters Henry Mallet (Matt King) who may just be the ghost of a pommy rock star. Only appearing to her, Henry and Suzy develop a friendship that might just lead to romance, but can love develop between our world and the spirit realm? Thousand of Michael Jackson fans say yes.

With a set of appealing lead actors, Spirited has a light feel to it that is a refreshing change from the standard teen soap or overacted police drama. Eight episodes is probably enough to sustain viewer interest with its high concept storyline which could go stale over more episodes. It may be a little too reminiscent of The Ghost and Mrs Muir but Spirited is worth a look.

My verdict: Spirited is ghostly good fun.

Offspring also premiered in Channel Ten last month. I’m yet to watch an episode but it looks like a quirky comedy drama about relationships and family. Hmm, that sounds original. Packed to the Rafters in Melbourne, anyone?


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