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The Age

Monday - Critic's View

Author: Paul Kalina
Date: 23/08/2007
Words: 672
Source: AGE
          Publication: The Age
Section: Green Guide
Page: 40
City Homicide

(Series premiere)

Channel Seven, 8.30pm

Some keep their cards firmly pressed to their chests. They choose their battles. They understand the difference between winning the war and keeping the peace, between crouching tigers and hidden dragons. They're wily strategists. What they know has come from decades of experience, not from reading a manual or brashly jumping to conclusions. The skeletons are carefully concealed in their desks. By contrast, others wear their hearts, as well as their anger and their pride, on their sleeves. They strong-arm those that block them, unaware that bullying and bluster give away too much and paradoxically make them vulnerable. Their victories are usually hollow. Welcome to the men and women of Seven's new crime series City Homicide. In the former corner of the homicide squad are salty Detective Senior Sergeant Stanley Wolfe (Shane Bourne) and Detective Superintendent Bernice Waverley (Noni Hazlehurst). In the latter, the aggressive alpha-male Duncan Freeman (Aaron Pedersen) and his cocky, too-handsome constable colleague Simon Joyner (Daniel MacPherson); somewhere in-between, still trying to figure out where they belong, is the enigmatic Matt Ryan (Damien Richardson) and soon-to-be-promoted Jennifer Mapplethorpe (Nadine Garner), the female part of the "four musketeers" as the junior members of the unit are known. Created and written by John Hugginson and John Banas, whose credits include prime-time staples Blue Heelers and Water Rats, City Homicide makes a promising debut tonight by not straying too far from the established norms of the genre. There is a plucked-from-the-headlines story of urban crime and its detection - in this case a discomforting story that evolves around jilted men avenging their wives' infidelity - told from the multiple perspectives of the victims and the law, whose modus operandi here consists of old-school detective work; interviews with suspects, footwork, intuition and bravery (without a single lab-coat or high-tech computer read-out in sight). There's the stable of regular characters that straddle generational and ethnic divides and who the audience isn't asked to immediately fall in love with or detest but merely to empathise with. It's well enough cast for the characters on screen to seem credible and the 90-minute episode that introduces the principal characters and the broader conflicts moves at a steady gallop. Which is not to say City Homicide isn't without its weaknesses. Some scenes fall flat on their faces - a confrontation in a hotel kitchen that should sizzle just fizzles, for example, while some of the main plot turns strain with contrivance.

Californication

Channel Ten, 9.30pm

Just what, exactly, did that nun recommend she do for Hank Moody to overcome his crisis of faith? A fleeting reference to the Book of Job? Whatever. An "adult" (nudge, nudge) comedy with a fiercely wicked eye for modern love and the entertainment biz, the buzz-worthy Californication kicks off tonight with considerable promise. Hank (David Duchovny) is a broken-down novelist whose bestseller God Hates Us All has been turned into a Tom and Katie-starring Hollywood blockbuster. Channeling his self-loathing into one-night stands and killer put-downs, Hank seeks redemption from the two women who least need him in their lives - his ex Karen (Natascha McElhone) and sitcom-precocious 13-year-old daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin). Duchovny is beautifully cast as the potty-mouthed man-behaving-badly whose cynicism and lousy attitude mask a razor-sharp mind. All of which augurs well for this Entourage meets Sex and The City romp.

The Office

(Series return)

Channel Ten, 10.25pm

It's time for Ricky Gervais loyalists to get over it. Steve Carell's buffoon Michael is no mere second-rate imitation of the Gervais original, David Brent. He's worse. Much worse. Where David Brent's guilelessness and self-delusion would occasionally invite a modicum of audience pathos, there's no such relief-valve watching Dunder Mifflin manager Michael Scott when he outs gay colleague Oscar (Oscar Nunez) in this cracking season-three opener. He's a jackass through and through, and re-engineers Gervais and Merchant's slow-burn "dramedy" into 30 minutes of painfully funny cringe comedy.

 
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