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The Sydney Morning Herald

NOT SO MUCH LA LAW AS A CYNICAL SPLASH IN THE BATH

Author: Barbara Toner
Date: 26/07/1991
Words: 1313
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Spectrum
Page: 34
SO NICE to see young people having fun in these troubled times even if they are obliged to grab it where they can. Christopher Searle, a thrusting boy counsellor in Equal Justice (Ten, Tuesday 8.30pm), took his work to bed with him. "I've got the weapon, I've got the ballistics report, I've got an eyewitness," he panted in a transport of delight to the blonde beneath him as he thrust.

"Urrr," she groaned in ecstasy. "Tell me about the coroner's report again."Christopher wasn't even the wacky one. He was the try-hard slime ball. Briggs was the wacky one, charging the guys five bucks a head to perv on the hard-nosed sex bomb with a brain, Julie in the next office, as she climbed out of her going-to-work clothes and into her work clothes for a complete change of wardrobe and hairstyle. At the D.A.'s office, the baby lawyers are one bunch of well-dressed zany loons.

The fun, unhappily, was a weak link in this fair-to-middling two-hour opener. It thrashed about in a positive frenzy of pranks, plot and character development, whipping up such a lather of action and personality insights that the anxious viewer keen to spot a resemblance to LA Law, as promised, very nearly went under.

Then through the foam, as a black choir sang in exultation on the doorstep, and Mike's case gave way to Joanne's, Joanne's gave way to Andy's, Christopher took over Andy's, Briggs was beaten up in the washroom by an outraged father(Ha, ha ha |), then Julie (Ha, ha ha |) and the guys threw lines at each other like "Hang tight" and "Cool out", something emerged to account for it all. It was the ghastly spectre of A Cynical Exercise which could doom it to mediocrity forever.

The brief was plainly to come up with a formula which produced something as good as LA Law, famed for its plotting, characters and wit, but wasn't LA Law. So you take this mean District Attorney, right, and you have a caring head counsellor who will soon be on Mylanta because he is already lock-jawed from stress, see, you throw in a brilliant senior counsellor who's black and loves opera (black and loves opera |) and finally, wait for it, a room full of gorgeous juniors, all potential cult figures, wet behind the ears, brilliant under pressure but crazy. And what do you end up with?

Pretty well precisely what you end up with in the same time-slot on the ABC where Capital City (ABC, Tuesday 8.30pm) has discovered the exact formula. All you have to do is swap the D.A.'s office for a merchant bank, thereby cashing in on the Wall Street as well as the LA Law factor, and the accents for mostly British.

Well, do those crazy maverick kids on the trading floor at Shane Longman have fun | "We're all crazy", says Declan, whose mania takes the form of a wilful disregard for traffic laws. "Jimmy is dangerous. " Jimmy throws his telephone into his terminal when he is unhappy about the Deutschemark.

Max, who is almost as wacky as Briggs, wears his hair receding at the front and in a pony tail at the back and does yoga on his terminal. Michelle, the hard-nosed sex bomb with a brain, orders crazy sandwiches from Hugo on the phone and says "I'm sorry I shouted at you yesterday. I just dropped a million quid" and an extra bawls in a self-service laundry to a girl who steals Max's car, "I want that piranha fish out of the bath." Laugh? I tried. We all did.

The push for strong characterisation brings us not only Wacky Max, Frankly Dangerous Jimmy and Brilliant, Charming but Unlucky Declan. There is also Chas with a heart of gold and Hudson, the simple systems analyst whose wife has run off in the middle of the night leaving him with the baby whom he brings into the bank in case the series is short on the Three Men And A Baby factor. Only Wendy Foley, who heads the team, has no distinguishing traits, but, being over 25, she could be too old for them.

By substituting youth for substance, and wacky for wit, both Capital City and Equal Justice miss LA Law's edge and style, but their first episodes weren't bad viewing. Equal Justice in particular had a couple of strong, if not notably original, strands which may prove that aiming high and falling short can still leave you with better than average on a good night.

On the other hand, as in the case of DAAS Kapital (ABC, Monday 9.30pm), it may prove that it's much better to scrub around anything you've ever seen and admired that rated and start from scratch. This is a shocker, despite pinching its characters from The Young Ones.

Maybe the Doug Anthony Allstars, who used to look sort of original on The Big Gig, didn't mean to. Maybe they just stumbled on the idea of slinging Neil's peace-loving dope in with Vyv's axe-murdering punk and Rik's Tory coward. Coincidence is certainly a wondrous thing and plonking them in a submarine so they can catalogue the universe was a twist: a Hitchhikers' Guide To The Galaxy sort of twist. But their dominant guts-and-gore motif is no longer startling. It's not even wacky which at best is a poor apology for funny, and worse, half an hour is too long for a rambling sketch going nowhere.

The shining light of the whole terrible venture is Paul Livingstone as Flacco, whose presence was a bit of a puzzle but who can show the rest of them a thing or two about originality. The audience sounded as if it was having fun but it was hard not to suspect they were laughing at something silly in the corridor.

On Home and Away (Seven, Wednesday 6.30pm) that zany pair Blake and Hayden were planning a terrific wheeze with the old taking a couple of sheilas for a drive and running out of petrol scam nudge, nudge. Lots of laughs to look forward to there for the HAA devotee. I'm not one of them and tuned in at random hoping for a hook to hold me. There wasn't one.

Guy Pearce, fresh from his film career, has turned up as a nasty, but his storyline was even less fascinating than whatever is going on between hard man-on-the-run Revhead and personality girl Karen. Theirs could have been a goer but they seem to have underlined the wrong words on their scripts so I'm afraid I gave up on them. Not even Marilyn's promise in the promo for Thursday of something terrible happening to her in the toilet was enough to lure me back.

Almost the only kids not having any fun on television this week were to be found in the repeat of Nobody's Children (ABC, Wednesday 8.30pm), unless you count Sandy who, since this excellent documentary was first shown, has found happiness in marriage and motherhood, a voice-over told us. She used only to have prostitution and drugs for laughs.

It would have been a relief to hear that others interviewed had been as fortunate because the tales of incest, bashings, rapes and exploitation of the worst sort so graphically told to David Goldie were harrowing beyond measure. We didn't so we can only imagine the worst.

Goldie is an outstanding documentary-maker, bravely and compassionately tackling the mess under our carpet. Under the carpet even a small amount of wacky would be welcome.

 
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