Odd choices impede the plausibility of a witness protection drama, as ABC seeks to appeal to a broader audience.

2015-01-19_2335With any new Drama series it’s integral that the audience believes what they are seeing.

So if you’re creating one based around a witness protection scheme, it had better be very credible. In ABC’s Hiding, I just didn’t believe many of the choices that were being pitched to me as supposedly being real.

Such decisions start out with the casting of James Stewart and Kate Jenkinson as parents to a teenager played by Lincoln Younes. It’s not the fact that I can look up their ages on Wikipedia and see the 18 year age gap between father and son (it may well be less between mother and son) but that on screen they look like Younes’ elder siblings.

The curious choices have a ripple effect as Hiding proceeds.

Stewart plays Troy Quigg, a Gold Coast father of two teens who’s a nice bloke but just happens to work as a driver for a crime boss (Marcus Graham). But after a Police raid on the family home finds a stash of drugs, his world is turned upside down.

Wife Maree (Jenkinson), son Mitchell (Younes) and daughter Shaneen (Olivia DeJonge) can’t believe the sight of their unassuming father being arrested and thrown into prison where thugs want him dead. It has to be a set-up….?

But coerced by Det. John Pinder (Stephen Curry) into turning informant and spilling the beans on his boss, Troy and the family land a place in a Witness Protection Scheme that relocates them from the Gold Coast to Sydney. Maree, who shows colours of a cashed up bogan, is ripped away from her mother Jenny (Paula Duncan) and brother Koz (Nathan Page) -who also happens to work for the same boss.

Given new names and identities, the family leave behind familiarity and are parachuted into new lives in metropolitan Sydney (apparently the easiest place to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb?). But the teens don’t take kindly to parting with friends and Mitchell isn’t at all happy at being enrolled in a school that excels in the Performing Arts.

Bizarrely, Troy -now known as Lincoln Swift- passes himself off as a post-doctorate fellow in Criminal Psychology at a University, due to Pinder pulling some favours from an academic (in effect revealing his identity already… really?). Maree, now Rebecca, struggles with the changes, given her kids are mostly rebelling against the switch-up.

In exchange for their new identities, Pinder expects ‘Swift’ to now give up his old crooked colleagues. It isn’t quite clear why he hasn’t sorted this first.

There are elements of Hiding that are almost darkly comedic, but they are uneven against the straight procedural and relationship elements of this series. Jenkinson is the most successful at marrying some challenging material, while Stewart lacks excitement as the lead character for whom we are supposed to feel empathy (despite his initial employ). Although looking too mature for his blonde teen surfie, Younes puts in a good performance, and Olivia DeJonge is excellent as newly-named daughter Tara struggling to fit in with her new school’s mean girls.

There is also a sub-plot of the crime elements at play on the Gold Coast with Marcus Graham, Nathan Page and crim Bobby Chisel (Dave Eastgate). It’s good to see a backdrop other than our biggest cities again being used in Drama.

It’s surprising Hiding comes from some of the same team as 2014’s excellent The Code, both produced by Playmaker and directed by Shawn Seet, but this time with scripts by writer Matt Ford. There aren’t too many likeable characters, their choices lack plausibility, and with its predominantly youthful cast there is no potential for character comedy, such as that at play in Old School. After all hiding out from the mob has given us much comedic gold, just ask Some Like it Hot or Sister Act.

Instead Hiding‘s opening episode reaches a ludicrous crescendo in its final domestic sequence involving a gun and the family argument that ensues. In episode two the conflict gravitates to having second thoughts and forgetting Tara’s birthday. Yes, even in the midst of major upheaval, deep down they are just like you and I. Not.

Ultimately, Hiding doesn’t feel like an ABC drama. It feels like ABC trying to get cool and reach a broader audience (and we know how that worked out for Crownies). The coolest thing about this series is the opening title sequence.

I look forward to more of The Code.

Hiding premieres 8:30pm Thursday February 5 on ABC.

18 Responses

  1. After watching 2 episodes have to 100% agree with David’s review. While the overall premise is fine there is just too much of the plot that makes no sense for it to work. The university professor aspect is in itself so ludicrous as to completely destroy any sense that this is a real world scenario. Episode 2 was hard going – I certainly won’t be wasting any more of my time on this turkey.

  2. After David’s comprehensive review I was not expecting much with this and I was not disappointed. My expectations were confirmed.

    I wouldn’t say it was terrible but it was worse than The Code. I forced myself to sit thru half an hour and got to about 35 minutes where we saw a stab wound without stitches and that clearly required proper medical attention and full rest. I turned over to watch Heston Blumenthal make a giant ice-cream cone while waiting for Sons of Liberty to start.

    In addition to that and the things mentioned in the above review, the police raid was completely unbelievable – not accurate at all.

    However, it’s worst crime was that it was dull.

  3. This was diabolically bad. Why was every line of dialogue delivered at maximum volume and maximum cheesiness?

    What did the shooting script say? “Wave the camera around a lot and ensure the actors shout their lines”?

    Why does the ABC insist on commissiong this morose drama?

  4. For heaven’s sake…why can’t we produce better drama than this! The writing was pathetic.
    David…you were too generous with 2 and a half stars.
    It became so ridiculous…I just lost interest.
    I won’t be watching next week.
    Yep….it’s back to the UK and US shows.

  5. My feeling is the quality of Australian drama is diminishing because the decision makers don’t have script nouse – they’re more concerned with working with people they can ‘manage’ rather than true creatives. If we’re to take your word on Hiding David, why did it get through with so many flaws? Where is the quality control?

  6. Sad to say but these days when I come across the term ‘Australian drama’ my eyes glaze over and I switch off. The Brits, Americans and many non-English speaking countries simply do drama so much better than Australia.

  7. Would make more sense for the father to be a groundskeeper at a university, not an academic-absurd concept-also would think the Gold Coast wouldn’t be too keen on being shown as Spiv Central (even if it is…)-perhaps we need a crime lord from Bega?

  8. I know you turn in reviews like this very reluctantly – always looking for the positives. However, this sounds like another disappointment from the ABC drama department. Time for a change before everyone gives up on them?

  9. As with any Aussie and ABC drama. I will give this a go. Sometimes the length I commit may sway me. Is this 6 episodes or 13?
    They may be trying to reach a younger audience. I see this as ‘not resting on their laurels’ Any more renovation, singing, reality shows?
    We need risks in drama, so as to give viewers choice. There is always such a huge comparison of Audsie versus other U.S. big budget shows. I know production values can be important, but I like to support innovation and Australians work and as with Austrlaians, we give others a fair go.

  10. The trailer for Hiding is the most god-awful thing I’ve seen in my life. It looks like someone produced a script from the reject pile for Neighbours.

    On an interesting sidenote, decades ago the organisation I worked for gave a job to someone in the Witness Protection Program. The guy was someone who tried to assassinate a famous world leader, and the attempt failed (he wasn’t too bright), so he got relocated to Australia by a “friendly” government (it’s not too hard to work out which “friendly” government it was) with a request to find him a job. We didn’t know all this at the time – it only came out when we asked him to do something associated with the country he came from, and he had a massive dummy spit. Strange but true.

  11. I really liked the look of this but then again I’m probably in the target audience. David don’t take this wrong way as I respect your opinion, but the statement that this is not an ABC drama really annoyed me why should the ABC be pigeon holed in snotty nosed over 50’s drama because that’s we expect of them?

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