Last year was a shining year for Australian drama. We had it all: Underbelly, City Homicide, Packed to the Rafters, Rush, East of Everything, Bed of Roses, Satisfaction and many more. While they weren’t all worthy of a place in the Hall of Fame, we were spoiled rotten.
Now that Nine has Underbelly in hiatus, all eyes are on its returning, glossy flagship, Sea Patrol. When the series first began two seasons ago, it was clear there was real money up there on the screen.
Two years on there have been subtle tweaks by producers. It remains a mix of action and soap, but the balance appears to have shifted for the better. Now there is more action over melodrama. We open on the high seas, in the middle of a rogue boat aimed directly for an Australian oil rig and refusing to yield. No time for backstory here. As the HMAS Hammersley’s orders are ignored, they are forced to take things into their own hands.
From here the show flips immediately into its soapie tones, with a romantic tryst between two central characters. It’s a little earnest, but I suppose it will appeal to the masses. In the first episode one character will also die. Guess they had a better offer this year?
Aside from its robust scenes on the high seas, Sea Patrol is blessed with some good performers. Jeremy Lindsay-Taylor as ‘Buffer’ is a gruff, hard-hitting alpha-male and absolutely believable as an officer you wouldn’t want to mess with (well, not in that way anyway). TV darling Lisa McCune also hits her strides in an action role belying an underlying vulnerability. Ian Stenlake will need to show his mettle if we are to believe he is worthy of another year as commander. Cheekily, even Robert Coleby from the ABC’s 1979-1983 drama Patrol Boat makes an appearance.
This drama is most effective in its action scenes on location. Right now there’s really nothing else on the box that goes there physically or dramatically with such confidence. I rather wish it was even tougher – Wildside on a boat would have been a great brief. Instead, in keeping with its sales to international broadcasters, including Hallmark, it doesn’t quite race over the line.
Sea Patrol is broadly aimed at a wide audience who should enjoy its vista locations, action scenes and soapie storylines.
Sea Patrol returns 8.30pm Monday on Channel Nine.