The Gold Coast is a picture perfect setting for a crime franchise. There is plenty of potential to be mined from its sun-drenched, holiday backdrop of beaches, hotels, resorts, skyscrapers, amusement parks and casino. It’s Miami in Oz.
Visually, The Strip is CSI: Miami in Oz (without the CSI). It is glamorously photographed with lots of sumptuous montages of sparkling surf, aerial shots and golden sands. It’s a postcard enough to tempt any viewer for an hour.
But all the golden-hue filters in the world can’t disguise obvious dialogue, dull plotting, unlikable characters and a decided lack of energy.
The first episode of The Strip kicks off with the death of a window washer, which eventually leads to murkier illegal activity. Jack Cross (Aaron Jeffrey) and Frances Tully (Vanessa Gray) front a small team of the Gold Coast force, headed up by Max Nelson (Frankie J. Holden). Dressed in designer clothes and talking tough, these two follow the usual red herrings of the crime genre, as the hour unfolds. Jack is smarting from a broken marriage to Marcia Cross (Alice Parkinson), who also happens to be the Public Prosecutor, and he’s not happy. Whenever Tully offers him a little advice in romance, Jack more or less bites her head off.
The other two sharply dressed crime-fighters are Jessica Mackay (Simone McAullay) and her youthful sidekick Tony Moretti (Bob Morley), both plain clothes constables. Given nobody seems to wear blue uniforms in this force, it’s easy to forget these two are not actually detectives. They get all the lame jobs from grabbing the boss a coffee to losing a lead only to be berated by the boss…
As Max Nelson, Holden, so far, isn’t afforded any action scenes and remains largely desk bound in the first episode. No doubt he will provide some grounding to his youthful team, and hopefully some scenes that allow him to demonstrate acting range.
Knapman Wyld have produced some of our best drama in recent years including Wildside and East West 101. Both were defined by a raw, gritty feel and a pulsating energy that should have adapted well to Gold Coast cops. But their frenetic hand held cameras, overlapping dialogue and flawed characters are barely visible between the shiny skyscrapers and rolling surf. The result is an Americanised indulgence into youth, sex, designer clothes (“this is a $1000 suit!” insists one character), and even an R&B soundtrack.
The Strip suffers from a decided lack of energy, the kind that was so ripping in Underbelly. The first episode has too little jeopardy. It feels like the cops are going through the motions when they’d much rather be surfing or organising a date for the night.
Ultimately it comes across as representative of the Gold Coast itself –fabulous to look at, but so far hiding a shallow interior.
The Strip premieres 8:30pm Thursday on Nine.