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