Population 11

Ben Feldman meets a cavalcade of oddballs portrayed by some of Australia's top comedic character actors in a new Stan series.

When Andy (Ben Feldman) travels to remote Western Australia in search of his father he gets a little more than he bargained for.

For starters he encounters some of finest comedy character actors Stan has cast as small-town crackpots.

The local police cop (Katrina Milosevic) is determined to flirt and coerce with this out-of-towner in the series’ opening sequence on a red dirt road.

But it is the empty, rundown town of Bidgeegud where Andy will find himself in the middle of a Twilight-Zone-meets-Wake-in-Fright comedy. Its fraying community is a cornucopia of eccentrics and dropkicks.

“Everyone here is from somewhere else.. they all come here to runaway” – Cedric (William Zappa).

Andy is searching for his estranged Australian father Hugo (Darren Gilshenan) who has seemingly vanished whilst conducting local UFO tourist tours. As he tries to piece together a jigsaw mystery he encounters Bidgeegud’s very Aussie oddballs.

They include Genevieve Lemon as a local garage and accommodation manager, Emily Taheny as a bakery / Asian fusion restaurateur, Stephen Curry as a local hoping to claim his own principality, Rick Donald as a dateless bogan, plus Steve Le Marquand, Fiona Choi, Chai Hansen, Tony Briggs, Pippa Grandison and more.

But there are also mysterious phone calls back to the USA which hint at at Andy’s own secretive backstory…

Aiding his search on the ground is local traveller Cassie (Perry Mooney) enroute to moving back home with her mother. Instead she connects with Andy in a push-pull comedy of errors.

With Ben Feldman (Mad Men, Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches, Superstore, Silicon Valley) in the lead, it’s hard not to see this as being pitched at American viewers, where everything is out to kill foreigners. Andy is the sympathetic fish-out-of-water in the middle of kooky redneck Australia, something explored as recently as the tense thriller The Royal Hotel.

Writer Phil Lloyd charts a much lighter mystery than that, and there are touches of Upright, Welcome to Woop Woop and The Tourist therein.

There are some quirky moments to be had such as Emily Taheny baking pies to the sounds of Leo Sayer, Stephen Curry’s smart-arse ribbing of an American accent, and anything involving Genevieve Lemon and Katrina Milosevic.

Feldman balances the sincere straight man deftly against the wilder locals, yet if the chemistry with Perry Mooney feels at time forced, at least it propels the plot forward to its next encounter with the talented supporting cast. And at just thirty minutes per episode, Population 11 is never too demanding, just as well given there are 12 episodes in total.

Stan this week unveiled a raft of local drama commissions upstaging the competition, and most Free to Air networks. Population 11 is another notch in its ample drama belt.

Population 11 screens Thursday March 14 on Stan.

2 Responses

  1. While many of the characters may “balance” their storylines, I’m afraid most have overbalanced and fallen from the tightwire onto the sawdust by episode 7. Perhaps some tightening down to just 6 x 28 minute episodes would have been plenty. A sterling effort that doesn’t quite make the grade.

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