It’s easy to see why Nine has built a drama around Kate Jenkinson.
The Wentworth star is effortlessly likeable and abundantly talented.
She is now the lynchpin in Amazing Grace, starring as a midwife in a birthing centre attached to the fictional St. Brigid’s Hospital. No stuffy uniforms here, it’s a lot more zen and comes with waterside views.
Grace is pretty accomplished at her work but her personal life is a bit of a mess, a popular TV trope.
Her day is up-ended with the arrival of a pregnant teen, Sophia (Alexandra Jensen) who just happens to be the daughter Grace gave up for adoption when she was much younger (it’s not really a spoiler given it takes place in the set-up). The realisation between the two performers is handled so delicately, it’s one of the episode’s better moments.
But the Birthing Centre is also a busy clash for Grace with her mother Diane (Sigrid Thornton) on the hospital board. Ex-husband Jim (Ben Mingay) is also a local ambo.
The day doesn’t stop there, with male midwife Max (Ben O’Toole) in his first day on the job. He’s a cheerful bloke making his way in a female-dominated workplace. I guess that’s not a trope.
Other key supporting roles are staff Laney (Catherine Van-Davies) & Sasha (Kat Hoyos) plus Alex Dimitriades, Luke Ford and Nicholas Brown.
By the end of the episode there will be 4 generations of Grace’s family all connected to her workplace and a corridor that presents with conflict the minute anybody steps into it.
How Grace navigates tenuous relationships is the crux of the series, along with touchy-feely births, panting mothers, tearful dads and the most bizarre soundtrack I can recall in a long time. As the babies are born they are accompanied by 70s disco tracks We Are Family, Yes Sir I Can Boogie (huh?) and Born to Be Alive. If it is to endear us it only served to distract this viewer…
Nine has cast diversely in its supporting roles (there’s even same-sex mums in Episode 2), which is an improvement on its past. Is it too much to hope that one day they will be leading roles too?
I’m clearly not in the target demo for the show, but I’ve previously enjoyed episodes of Call the Midwife, Offspring and Love Child.
Yet while Amazing Grace is handsomely-packaged, and the cast are all fine performers, it’s somehow underwhelming as a whole.
Is this because Grace and Max are lookalikes for Nina Proudman and Patrick? Is it because the wonderful Sigrid Thornton is again playing a mother at odds with her daughter, as she previously did in Nine’s Seachange? Is it because I feel like I have seen all this before in shows with a bolder premise? Or maybe it’s because reality dramas such as One Born Every Minute have upstaged the fiction…
It’s a bit disappointing given Kate Jenkinson could potentially follow in the path of leading ladies Gibney, Parker, McCune and Keddie, if the material were more ambitious.
Amazing Grace is full of pretty safe choices which is fine if you are chasing a broadly-appealing female-skewing audience, but TV needs more risk than this if it also wants to break the mould.
Amazing Grace premieres 9pm tonight on Nine.