There’s a theory that every drama filmed in Sydney has to include a shot of the coat hanger and another that the most-used line in Hollywood films is “Let’s get outta here!”
Both are the opening shot and opening dialogue in new ABC ME drama The Unlisted.
But the good news is it’s uphill from there in a new action series which sees teens take on the nasty adult world of cyber-corporations and conspiracies.
What’s unmistakeable in this 15 part drama from Aquarius Films (RED, Wish You Were Here) is its embracing of a multicultural metropolis.
Created by Justine Flynn (Blue Water High, Dirtgirl World, Bambaloo, Me and My Monsters) it centres around identical twins Dru and Kal Sharma (Ved and Vrund Rao) who are growing teens in an Indian-Australian family. They live with parents (Virgine Laverdure, Nicholas Brown), grandmother (Saba Abdi) and sister (Avishma Loth), while Auntie Maya (Zenia Starr) is an extended family member.
The Sharma family happily balance traditional Indian cultures, especially through food and religion, with a contemporary Aussie lifestyle.
When Dru gets a stern reminder not to spend time hacking on the computer, you know these are smart kids. And they will need to be. Their school is part of a Global Child Initiative which begins as a kind of government dental plan but is actually a covert cover for creating an army of young soldiers who can be manipulated to obey any order.
After Dru gets Kal to take two implants (ouch) with a bit of twin hijinks, he soon realises he is the only kid in his class not to succumb to strange bouts of hypnotic behaviour. Kal also begins to display feats of human strength. Hmm. Something is definitely up. And why are the teachers making strange phone calls and charting their physical advancement?
At the same time some kids go missing while another troupe of runaways (Abigail Adriano, Miah Madden, Jean Hinchliffe and Nya Cofie) are trawling subways and sewers -do not attempt at home- to avoid detection by a mysterious corporation, Infinity Group.
The premise of kids being privy to a mystery that has adults unawares is a good one. It will be up to our heroes to band together to save the day. Although the concept of dental implants having strange powers was a bit too Get Ace if anyone remembers that animation….
As the double opening episode unfolds there are black vans chasing kids on bikes, kids tricking teachers, and hints of teen courtships. Each time we come back to the family home there is more reinforcing of family values and cultural heritage, especially through the strong performance of Saba Abdi as grandmother.
Newcomers Ved and Vrund Rao show promise in their screen debut in two demanding roles that require drive, wonder and brains. They are the glue that holds this together.
The Unlisted, a title which refers to Dru not being tracked by a computer database, sits in the genre of Spy Kids, Conspiracy 365 and Nowhere Boys -and did we mention it has Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall as its theme song? Very cool.
This is a welcome and diverse addition to ABC’s local teen dramas.
The Unlisted premieres 5:30pm Sunday on ABC ME and continues daily.