Tricky Business

Part melodrama, part procedural, Nine's new drama has a foot in each camp. So can it strike some gold?

It’s been a long time between soaps for Nine.

The last time it had a long-running melodrama based around a family was McLeod’s Daughters. Decades earlier The Sullivans was a superb soap. Others such as Chances have been less successful (it began with one premise then ended as something extraordinarily different). Paradise Beach and Pacific Drive were also short-run soaps.

While Nine has been dominated by procedural and event dramas, Seven and TEN have forged success with Packed to the Rafters and Offspring respectively. Both also have soaps revolving around families that have endured for decades and screened around the world.

This week the network unveils a shift back to the genre, of sorts, in Tricky Business.

At the centre of this 13 part series is the Christie family in Wollongong, running a debt collection agency. It’s great to see a change from the usual backdrops of Sydney and Melbourne on screen (ominously it didn’t serve Seven’s Headland very well). The locale allows for plenty of surfside shots, with a bright and breezy feel and characters sporting plenty of primary colours.

But a debt collection business hardly seems like a logical backdrop for sympathetic characters.

Kate (Gigi Edgley) is the focus of the first episode, a spirited young woman confident in her job, alongside partner Rick (Kip Gamblin). In the first scene they are tailing the driver of a car that must be repossessed. These two believe that people in debt are usually “Good people who make bad decisions,” and where they can they are here to help. I doubt that philosophy meets with much welcome.

Entering the fray in the first episode is rival operative Matt (Antony Starr). It isn’t long before a romantic triangle begins to form with Kate at the centre.

On the fringes of the first episode are parents Jim (Shane Bourne) and Claire (Debra Byrne). Casting Byrne is the boldest move in the cast -while she has been concentrating on theatre, it has been years since she has had an ongoing primetime role. Bourne and Byrne make for a promising pair. Two seasoned actors who look like they will be bouncing off one another in episodes to come. They don’t do much yet.

Chad (Lincoln Lewis) also assists in the business with Lily (Sophie Hensser).

There are backstories for Gamblin’s character, and trust issues for Edgley’s. One peripheral character tells us “Tricky business, debt…. we all owe someone something. But how we acknowledge that and how we pay for that, that shows character.”

The biggest surprise for Tricky Business is that it isn’t purely a melodrama. There is a procedural case to solve, while the family deal with their own set of dramas. It’s an each way bet and I’m yet to be convinced it is a natural fit. But first episodes are a tricky business themselves, perhaps once the set-up is out of the way it will have a clearer vision.

The script by Screentime’s Greg Haddrick is occasionally pedestrian (including the odd clunky line, “You’re about as square as a butterbox”) and lacks an inciting incident to grab our attention. It sorely needs some humour which both Rafters and Offspring juggle with success. Perhaps if this had aimed at being an offbeat drama, such as Starr’s former series Outrageous Fortune, it may have fallen into place with ease, but it leverages sentimentality and earnestness.

But I am pleased Nine is detouring down this path. It’s not all about Underbelly adventures and telemovies. Nine is also cleverly launching it off the back of The Voice, although it does feel more like an 8:30 rather than 9:30 show.

Tricky Business has a tough time setting up its ensemble characters and establishing backstories. While I would have preferred it to be a straight-up-and-down melodrama, I suspect things will improve in coming episodes.

Lastly, does anybody else see the irony in Nine producing a series about debt collection at a time when it is itself up to the eyeballs in $2.7b in monies owed? Maybe it’s just a good network that has made some bad decisions?

Tricky Business premieres 9:30pm Monday on Nine.

24 Responses

  1. @OZJay: Post Voice 9:45 is nearly a graveyard slot now. Not really given much of a chance to succeed.
    @ Goatracer I too miss OF and hoped TB would fill some of that void…
    @ Victor It would seem most programmers really have no idea. I assume they have no qualifications or understanding about viewers habits or logical sequence of shows…
    As for building a show 9 have a poor track record of being faithful, so viewers automatically approach new Aussie dramas with caution.

  2. Whoa. This one is beyond bad. Every single aspect of it is unbelievable. The characters are all asinine. The plotting is dumb (I counted three convenient coincidences within the first ten minutes). And it looks like shit. I give it three to four weeks before they’ll be forced to relegate it to a graveyard timeslot.

  3. The target audience for this programme are not those that finish watching the voice and think hell i might just defy my parents and stay up an extra hour.
    Bizarre programming for a much advertised for what I would have imagined to be ratings prospect.
    Will give it the benefit of the doubt and hang in for the next Epp.but was hoping for a mix of drama and humour(I really do miss Outrageous Fortune).
    I can see this being fed to the wolves and finish its life late night on Go.

  4. The programmer’s idea that you can cash in on The Voice and follow it with a different genre, a drama and after 9.30pm is a very risky strategy and unlikely to work. If you think a show will work put it in a prime time family slot and treat the audience with some respect. And which advertisers will want to be associated with a continuing drama about debt collectors, the sad and dark side of consumerism and a dangerous subject to venture into for a commercial broadcaster dependent on advertising. Any guesses?

  5. The only shows I watch on the Nine network are on “Go”, which means I must have it all wrong as the main channel has no appeal to me at all.
    I am actually looking forward to this in that I really hope it is an escapist type show in the vein of “Outrageous Fortune”(best thing to come out of New Zealand since Phar Lap).
    I don’t mind the low brow stuff and Suburbatory and The Middle seem to be the only Nine Network programmes I really enjoy……hhmm must be me after all.

  6. Stupid ad Nine are running for this show.It makes them look a family of crooks with the daughter stealing a car from the servo and the dad and brother breaking into a house.

  7. This looks rather dull. And seems completely different to Rafters. They were likable characters, but the ads for this just not appealing at all.

    Brothers In Arms looks quite bad as well so will give that a miss too. The latest ads with the bikies talking about Dallas is cringeworthy.

  8. This looks like a clone of “Rafters”, which is fading fast anyway, with channel nine’s usual aversion to ethnics of any sort in it. Of interest to the whitest of white-bread only… i.e. no-one in oz anymore.

  9. I agree with TVT and have thought a drama series about debt collectors called Tricky Business from Nine was hugely ironic for ages! Nine’s approach to casting always feels like rounding up the usual suspects. I will check it out but I have very low expectations. The drama audience is just too discerning IMHO to give these series a soft start and allow them to build. Launching off The Voice is almost too clever – as if they are afraid to let it stand alone.

  10. As others have alluded to, the starting time off shows needs to be uniform for metro and regional areas. With the local news at 6.30 it throws the weeknight schedule out. I wonder how much this affects regional ratings? Frustrating how I can’t interact on twitter and other mediums during shows such as the voice without ruining it! Surely WIN can shuffle ACA or put local news on at 5.30? Or better still ditch the local news altogether!!

  11. I think an American network like Showcase or HBO could make a family of debt collectors sympathetic – heck they can make a serial killer sympathetic! Not sure Nine can do it though!

    Plus, the ads I’ve seen (and I’m sick of them already!) make me think it’s a melodrama featuring a lot of bed hopping romance and that’s about it. No hint there is a “procedural case to solve”. Note to Nine; many a show has failed when advertised as something it is not.

  12. Whilst loathe to judge something without seeing it (we all do anyway) your review seems pretty fair and balanced but hasn’t peaked my interest at all. Running it off the back of The Voice to get some extra eyes on it is a good idea but the corollary of that is that we now don’t know when it will actually start.

    It also seems to be an 8:30 (or 8:47) show so I won’t be flicking over from 9:35 to 9:55 trying to catch the start. I don’t know whether Nine is a good network but, with regard to program scheduling, they certainly do make some bad decisions (thanks for that line, David 🙂 ).

  13. From the commercials, it doesn’t look overly appealing to me and the background song is irritating. Plus, the commercials now advertise it as ‘After the Voice’ which means there is now no definitive start time according to Nine, meaning it could be at 9.30pm as per guides, but realistically 9.48pm. I’m not going to suffer through the Voice or play chasey trying to watch it.
    It should be on at 8.30pm, the 9.30 shows always rate lower that the hour beforehand even with double episodes.

  14. This doesn’t deserve The Voice’s lead in but i suppose when you have a crapper you have no choice but to give it the best chance possible. I won’t be watching it because it doesn’t start till after 10pm where i am.

  15. This will fail. The review certainly gives the impression that it is not compelling, must see tv. The time slot is dreadful. The voice will run late and ch9 will pack the latter half of the first episode with ads. Just simply can’t be bothered when you combine these factors.

  16. This sounds a little dull to be honest! I can’t see many other countries buying this, nine should’ve stuck with rescue at least that had action,humour and romance!! But hey I could be wrong……

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