The thin blue line
Tuesday night on Rush an inspector doesn't take kindly for being pulled up for drink driving. How much can you get away with when your show isn't partnered by actual police media? Producer John Edwards talks to TV Tonight.
Tomorrow night on Rush, Inspector Kerry Vincent (Catherine McClements) is pulled over for drink driving. Without giving too much away, she doesn’t take kindly to the directive, which begs the question: how much can you get away with when you’re filming a drama about the force?
Rush and City Homicide both depict a fictional “State Police” which affords them the luxury of stories that aren’t in collusion with Victoria Police.
Producer John Edwards spoke to TV Tonight about the benefits of not having to seek police approval on scripts.
Surprisingly, the move is not as a result of wanting to proceed with sensitive stories, but rather, an economic decision.
“We speak to a lot of coppers,” says Edwards. “We speak to them in an official and unofficial capacity. We get lots of advice, some of it secret, some of it over and above board.
“The main reason we didn’t work with them in any capacity, wasn’t fear of censorship, because we wouldn’t have done that had they wanted to. But more than that it is actually costs. The way Victoria Police is structured, and the media unit is structured, it’s just prohibitively expensive.”
Edwards says Victoria Police requires a fulltime consultant, a relationship supported by Blue Heelers for many years. But the fees, according to Edwards, are more than he pays his senior crew.
“It was just the difficulty of having someone on the whole time which we didn’t need,” he says. “We do need advice, we do need help, and in fact that incident of a senior officer being caught in a situation, often that’s the kind of thing police tell us about all the time. Those bits of stories that come like that very often come from real events.”
The scene in which McClement’s character is pulled up for drink driving is the merging of several actual incidents. Furthering their script freedom, the first episode of Rush included a scene of police brutality, while City Homicide has previously depicted police corruption.
“We’re trying to say in our show that it’s not this great rigid line between the goodies and the baddies,” explains Edwards. “Most of the people we’re dealing with it’s ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’
“Our police are people. It’s not this goody / baddy divide that television often makes it (out to be).”
As TEN’s newest locally made drama, Edwards says he is happy with how Rush is tracking but concedes Tuesdays are a tough night.
“We haven’t been rating as well in Sydney as we’d like. I mean, we’re in extraordinary circumstances at the moment where 2.2m people are watching Australian drama at 10:30 on Tuesday night. That’s just amazing. By the end of the slot we’re (Rush and All Saints) averaging 2.2m across the time, that’s remarkable. There’s a total audience watching Australian drama at that time.”
Despite the lead-in from TEN’s biggest show, Rush has been unable to hold onto the total audience of NCIS.
“There’s an argument that says a big chunk of NCIS’ audience are not Australian drama watchers,” says Edwards. “Basically Packed to the Rafters has cornered the Australian drama market with 1.8m and a lot of the other 1.2m just don’t like Australian drama. In fact when NCIS finishes 600,000 leave us and 200,000 come from Packed to the Rafters.”
Competing against the long-running All Saints is a big ask, currently the only two local dramas going head to head for viewers.
“We’re very pleased where we are, given the competition. As I say we’re not winning in Sydney, but for some reason Sydney had a big upturn last week. We win in Brisbane, we do pretty well in Melbourne and Adelaide. Perth fluctuates a bit.
“It’s terribly hard getting a new show started on Channel TEN. There is a loyal Seven audience for a certain kind of drama. Each of their four shows that succeed become self-reinforcing.
“On TEN you’ve kind of got no base to go off. There’s so little to work off. When we were doing Secret Life (of Us) we were getting much the same gross numbers. We were doing better in the demos if the truth be known, but we’d become a cult hit by now, about ten episodes in. It was a cool thing to watch at 9.30, and then when we went to 8.30 the following year we just grew 300,000 viewers straight away.”
Despite the challenging first year, Edwards remains optimistic the show will win approval for a second season on TEN in 2009.
“All the signs are good,” he says.
Rush airs 9:30pm Tuesdays on TEN.