LA Times nods to Aussie shows
Frayed, Five Bedrooms & Upright are hand-picked as undiscovered gems for US viewers.
The Los Angeles Times has hand-picked three Aussie dramas to recommend to readers who like discovering gems such as Britain’s Fleabag.
“What they have in common is that they don’t let style stand in for content — they share a certain tradition of naturalism, in writing, acting and production,” they noted.
Here’s what they said about Frayed, Five Bedrooms and Upright.
In “Frayed,” airing on HBO Max, fabulously wealthy Samantha Cooper (creator Sarah Kendall) learns that her late husband, deceased under unsavory circumstances, has left her destitute. Dragging two confused teenagers, from whom she has concealed her actual past, she returns reluctantly to the industrial harbor town north of Sydney she left in a hurry 20 years earlier, moving in again with her properly wary mother (a terrific Kerry Armstrong) and angry brother (Ben Mingay) and encountering various old friends not unhappy to see her laid low. Set in the late 1980s — allowing for amusing hair and fashion and recurring “Dynasty” references — it’s a different sort of series than the similarly premised “Schitt’s Creek,” less whimsical or warm; the comedy rides on a bed of sorrow. (Each family member gets a substantial storyline.) Still, as in “Schitt’s Creek,” the viewer suspects that this is the best thing that could have happened to them, and is in no rush to see their fortunes, as measured by money, restored.
The premise of Peacock’s Australian import “Five Bedrooms” — five people, not all of whom know one another, buy a house together — is the sort of thing multi-camera sitcoms are built on; it’s “Friends” without the intervening hallway. It’s fundamentally a comedy, but as a story of people who need people it’s more in tune with, if not as nakedly sentimental as, NBC’s “This Is Us.” Each character gets a turn at narrating; each seems superficially cut to type — posh lawyer lady; semi-closeted gay doctor; hunky construction worker; slightly creepy guy separated, but not emotionally, from his wife; lovelorn girl on whose shoulder he cries — but will prove more dimensional. Each is keeping a secret, and all are running from or toward the wrong thing, or running from the right thing, which gives them room for growth, and room to stumble. This is not quite my cup of tea, but I quickly became invested in their several fates. (It helps perhaps that, the actors being unfamiliar, the characters felt that much more actual.)
The marvelous “Upright,” on Sundance Now, also features a musician who has never managed to grow up, though it is less grotesque and satirical and more warm and human. Created and directed in part by and starring Tim Minchin — a sort of show- business Jack of All Trades, Master of All, whose credits include the score for the Tony-nominated “Matilda: The Musical” — it is a road movie, and in most respects a comedy in that Minchin’s character, the ironically nicknamed “Lucky” Flynn, manages to climb out of the bad situations into which he steers or falls only to steer or fall into another, as he makes his way across the continent, hauling an old upright piano, to visit family he has not seen in years. His accidental companion on the trip, Meg (Milly Alcock, vulnerable beneath the bravado and thoroughly exceptional), is a teenage runaway with whose truck he collides minutes into the opening episode. (The last episode destroyed me, in a good way, but I am a sucker for a weathered piano metaphor.) The camera takes advantage of the wide expanses and arboreal silhouettes of the Australian outback without making it into a statement.