Winners and Losers S01E01 Review

I normally approach a new Australian drama or comedy with trepidation. As do most people. And who would disagree? It’s true that as of late, the track-record for Australian dramas and comedies hasn’t exactly been that shabby.

Rake? Tick!

Packed to the Rafters? Tick!

Rush? Tick!

Offspring? Tick!

The Librarians? Tick!

And so on…

However, when Australian shows fail, they fail badly. Think Canal Road, The Strip, Cops LAC…

But this new offering from Seven was interesting for a number of reasons…

1. Packed to the Rafters has been a monumental success, how would Winners and Losers fare (ratings and quality-wise)?

2. Would Seven commission a carbon copy of Packed to the Rafters?

Before I answer these questions, let’s take a look at the superficial aspect of the show.

It is interesting to observe any pilot, mainly for the techniques it employs to grab the viewers’ increasingly fleeting and fickle attention.

In this case, the lives of the four main characters were shown to us. And the character-types are fairly stock-standard, so not much exposition is needed. There’s the flirty (or slutty, depending on your point-of-view) one, Melanie Vallejo as Sophie, the nerdy one, Melissa Bergland as Jenny,  Zoe Tuckwell-Smith as Rebecca, the career-driven one [SHE WORKS SO HARD SHE FALLS ASLEEP AT HER DESK], Virginia Gay as Frances James, and Zoe Tuckwell-Smith as Rebecca Gilbert, seemingly the one in a stable relationship.

Probably the most recognisable of the bunch would be Virginia Gay, of All Saints fame. And I guess observant viewers would recognise Vallejo as home-wrecker Mel from Packed to the Rafters.

[Just a side note, for fans of the US version of The Office and Parks and Recreation, Vallejo has kind of done a “Rashida Jones” here, if you get my drift]

I had a tiny problem with the way their names were plastered on screen as they went about their everyday business. It isn’t a big deal, and most likely will seem to be a novel way of introducing characters, but really it is just laziness.

Anyway, on to the meatier scenes… so to speak.

In relation to the question about being a copy of the Rafters, well… it ain’t.

This was pretty evident from the opening scenes- and it’s clear the writers wanted us to know.

Cue Melanie Vallejo… er, riding a bloke.

Then um, Melissa Bergland is cleaning up a woman’s lower regions…

Throughout the course of the episode we are also treated with an F-bomb, and a “BS”.

This isn’t a criticism, but it is certainly a touch surprising, as you’d imagine that families with children under 16 expecting another family-friendly dramedy like the Rafters would find this a squirmy experience, to say the least.

I’m surprised that Seven risked alienating a large proportion of Rafters viewers by airing such risqué scenes, yet it rated well (1.6m), so who am I to criticise?

This is not to say it’s Australia’s answer to Californication, or even as saucy as Underbelly, but I can say that we aren’t in Kansas anymore.

Another obvious difference to Packed to the Rafters was the amount of bloody characters (or actors) introduced in episode 1 compared to Packed to the Rafters. Now, I know that many extras pop up in TV shows, but when you have such recognisable faces as Scott McGregor (from Neighbours, Temptation), it implicitly demands viewers to sit up and take notice of them. Aside from Scott, there’s also

(Temptation)

Francis Greenslade

But despite all the differences, it seems as if the show will be somewhat centred around a family… that of Jenny Gross. However, with the dynamic of the four girls, it will be interesting to see which group will be the central, or base one.

Most likely it will be the four girls, yet I thought that Denise Scott and Francis Greenslade were particularly good as the Jenny’s parents.

So let’s have a look at all the characters introduced, and you can place your bets on who will stick around, and who won’t.

So there’s the four main actors;

Virginia Gay

Zoe Tuckwell-Smith

Melissa Bergland

Melanie Vallejo

their partners and family, played by;

Francis Greenslade

Jack Pearson (Jenny’s brother)

Sarah Grace (Jenny’s sister)

Denise Scott

Blair McDonough

friends:

Damien Bodie (Frances’ assistant)

Tom Wren

the antagonist

Michala Banas

… and once I work out who everyone else is they will be added too…

like Lawrence Mooney, who for some reason was in the show. Hopefully we see more of him but there isn’t a character page for him on the official site so who knows?

There has also been a lot of discussion about it being labelled by Seven as a comedy. Yes, it is true that there aren’t a great deal of gags, and some fairly weighty issues are brought up, such as bullying (which, incidentally, was a very prominent issue in the week), so a “dramedy” would be most fitting. SMH refers to it as a “light drama”, which is also not a bad little label.

Overall, would I watch it next week? Yes.

Is it as good as Packed to the Rafters? No, but no-one expected it to be (yet), surely.

Will it match this week’s ratings of 1.6m? No, because it isn’t Packed to the Rafters… yet.

Will it ever match Packed to the Rafters in terms of ratings? Probably not, but it is a worthy effort. For a first episode of an Australian show (well any show, these days), it is an achievement in itself to have dialogue which is natural and lines which don’t clunk, and it certainly did that.

As long as it keeps it natural; the characters and issues relatable, and the plots interesting, I will keep watching. But the real question is, will you?

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Posted on March 24, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hi Andrew,

    thought I’d pop over and pay you the same kindness you paid me, that being reading and commenting on your “Winners & Losers” thoughts.

    Nice work. I’ve bookmarked your site. Your final sentence sums things up well and like you, I will keep watching also. I do think it could also drop the cliches and I would be even happier.

    Almost everyone I’ve spoken to, online and off was of the opinion “Winners & Losers” was a comedy and I think perhaps that was a massive #FAIL in the marketing dept.

    Oh well, onward and upward.

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