“The Straits” Review – ABC TV Attempt At HBO Style Drama

People of Australia rejoice. There’s a new crime drama on TV and it isn’t Underbelly 52: NSW Rum Rebellion. The Straits is a new ten part series set in far north tropical Queensland and the Torres Strait. I just watched the media preview disk of the first 2 episodes and will definitely see the rest of the series via ABC iView.

the straits abc tv review

Most of you won’t have ever traveled to the really northern parts of Queensland or looked at a map of Islands in the Torres Strait, so you won’t have realised that it’s relatively easy to hop between them to Papua New Guinea (PNG).

PNG’s Highlands are infamous for tribal fights. Traditional fighting weapons are spears, and bows and arrows but nowadays sophisticated weaponry such as army-issue machine guns are commonly used. Most illegal weapons in PNG are stolen from police or military armouries, while weapons smuggled into PNG often come from Australia by sea.

The show’s storyline revolves around ructions in the Montebello family led by patriarch Harry, over which of the 3 brothers will take over their smuggling business.

Fans of HBO’s Deadwood TV series and the films Bourne Supremecy, X-Men 2 will be familiar with Brian Cox who plays Harry Montebello. If you thought being fed to the pigs alive in the US wild west frontier town of Deadwood was a really painful way to die you haven’t seen payback in Far North Queensland and PNG style.

There are similarities between The Straits, the aforementioned Deadwood and the FX cable TV show Justified which centres around Kentucky crime families. All 3 shows are quality crime dramas about life on the edge of civilised territory where the black market flourishes.

ABC TV commissioned Matchbox Pictures to create a 10 episodes series of The Straits and their team has done an HBO-esque job with presumably far less budget. If successful I’m sure ABC/Matchbox hope to sell broadcast rights for the show to overseas networks.

Pay attention to the screen while watching because bikey gangs, smugglers, raskols and a family plotting against each other make for an interesting and unpredictable plot. I wonder what Tourism Queensland thinks of the show’s tagline “Beautiful One Day, Deadly The Next” 😉 ?

The Straits premieres as a double episode on Thursday 2nd February at 830pm on ABC1 and is repeated on ABC2 at 1030pm Friday 3rd February. Let’s see how it competes against CSI on 9, Law and Order on 10 and Desperate Housewives on 7. Perhaps it deserved the Sunday night flagship timeslot on ABC 1 instead?

Other Reviews

Tim Winton wrote of people who live in frontier towns – like those in our north on the shores of the narrow, shallow waters between us and PNG – that they measure up to the myth, “do things, remember things, and recall things in their carriage that the rest of us just dreamt of as children”. And this series gets what Winton called “the scale of things, the grandeur and craziness of it” just right.
The Australian

In the premiere there’s a hefty dose of crimes: drug importation by boat across the Torres Straits from PNG, drug manufacturing, assault, assault with a deadly weapon, use of firearms, kidnapping, embezzlement and even murder (and what a novel death scene it is!).

These characters should be entirely unlikeable. They are, after all, violent crooks with no sign of redemption (yet).

Yet there is an empathy cleverly created by the boys’ inability to rise to the ambitions of their father. However flawed they are, there is also devotion to the family unit.
TV Tonight

18 thoughts on ““The Straits” Review – ABC TV Attempt At HBO Style Drama”

  1. this is a decent show,but to call it hbo esque is just ridiculous…
    how mutch did they pay you to wright that?? lol
    this show does not belong in the league of the wire,sopranos,the corner
    and the boardwalk empire etch…
    do you honestly believe its in that league, or is it because your an aussie??

  2. The show is freaking amazing. I accidently catched the pilot on Friday night. I must admit that ABC is not a channel I would watch and I have don’t have a very good opinion of Australian drama. But wow! The Straits caught me off-guard in a very pleasant way. I have been missing The Sopranos and Deadwood etc but The Straits is an awesome substitute. This HBO style drama is something I would not have expected from an aussie channel especially from a broadcast network and especially from ABC! Thanks to the much relaxed censorship practices of Australia compared to the US the show has managed to attain that HBO standard that we are all too familiar with and love. Cannot wait for the next episode. Promote The Straits!

  3. Its HBO esque in it’s pacing and style, and considering the lack of funding generated by the ABC as a PBS, the calibre of acting and character development thus far is superb. When you watch a a pilot, and are keen to watch on further, you know that the production is decent. I will definitely be watching tonight!

  4. Vastly overrated rubbish and a huge waste of limited ABC budget – and that’s just the tabloid single fold poster inserted to my SMH one day recently!

    Waste of talent and resources – Ep. 2 nonsense about Gary’s multiple fractures, snake bite, hallucinations and so on. If you’ve been bitten by a taipan or even a brown snake, you won’t feel like sitting in a chair and indulging your fantasies – especially coupled with apparently major accident trauma. Mind you, he’s walked about 5 km with the hapless Indian arrival, so I guess he’s be weary…

    Not even worth continuing… pathetic.

    Even the anti-spam question above wouldn’t allow me to say “Arguably” – harumph…

  5. The worst acting that exists has been captured in this horrific abomination of a TV show. The ABC should surely have better ideas than this floating around waiting to be made.
    It is embarrassing as an Australian that this show would be compared to any HBO series. As f*cking if!
    It is shot like a b grade soap with the acting prowess of a b grade porn!

  6. I feel Episode 4 was particularly weak. From some promising signs in the first episode, this series has gone downhill very quickly.

    It gets back to my biggest gripe – ’It’s the scriptwriting, stupid’.

    My modest request in a drama is for there to be some decent storytelling (zany, comic, serious or a combination), where there’s some fluency in the story, good characters and a strong script. Now, I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

    Episode 4 just made up stuff that didn’t happen – Harry was shot at close range and has been in a coma since the shooting, but then half way through Ep. 4, Noel tells about how Harry gave a description of the sniper who shot him… ‘reckons the guy had a goatee, shaved head and driving an old car with a tyre on top’.

    Did not. Just didn’t happen. So to resolve a huge gap in the storyline, the scriptwriters just added something that didn’t happen, and had no possibility of happening.

    Yet more crazy co-incidents – the sniper shoots at Marou but – he’s saved!! – a bird flies in the way and takes the bullet.

    Before this, Noel, Garry and Marou have a clear shot of the sniper at the camp site – what are they waiting for? Oh, we can’t end the episode now, there’s another 15 minutes to go. Bring in the fart scene! That’s funny and will enable us to add another ridiculous scene.

    I mean really, these people are professional script writers?

    And that scene where the sniper jokes that his name is Vlad after landing on the stake (geddit, Vlad the Impaler, haaaaaaaa, laugh and laugh). Yeah, real black comedy.

    And don’t get me started on the ‘curse’.

    All of types of things can work in a TV series. In isolation, no problem. A TV series can be dead serious, or comic (dark or otherwise), but doing both is really hard to achieve. Twin Peaks was a classic series were anything could happen, but The Straits didn’t establish itself as a zany black comedy where anything can happen in it’s first episode, so when you get quite surreal events happening like the ‘curse’ just out of the blue, it doesn’t work.

    The Straits is trying to be something that it’s not, and doesn’t know what it wants to be. I’ll accept that it’s a small step in the right direction, after all the cut backs to the industry during the Howard years, but boy, there’s a long way to go.

  7. The best thing about this show are the travelogue locations.
    I can’t believe that so many good Australian tv actors signed on to this drivel.
    Story line is straight out of the Godfather..the sick patriarc, the fueding children, the methods of disposing of enemies.
    Poor scripts.. implausible story lines…..even worse acting…what’s with the Indian dentist? How come an overweight geriatric with henna coloured hair can pull a glamourous blond lawyer? How come practically each episode has the gratuitous sex scene?
    This show is embarrassing..and I’m sure when the actors themselves have seen the series they would be cringing..must be lean times in the tv/acting industry..but please do not insult our intelligence..I would have expected better from the ABC.

  8. seems like a copy of many colombian series, check out sin tetas no hay paraiso
    or perro come perro

  9. This show is nothing short of brilliant. Totally unpredictable and super-smart script, and acting at a level that just hasn’t been in Australian drama as yet. last night’s episode reached into the souls of the characters. It was chilling. When are the punters going to catch on and start watching it –it leaves underbelly for dead.

  10. The problem with you haters is that you’re too used to seeing English and American actors/actresses on screen – no one can act unless they have an American or English accent right? The minute a brown face, and close-to-home accent appears on screen it is instantly dismissed as rubbish because of it’s homegrown roots. There’s nothing wrong with the scripts, no worse than say an episode of The Mentalist, it is the problem that you are all having with the people delivering the lines, and maybe even the scenery is too close to home -how can the scenes portrayed happen in little ole Cairns or the Torres Strait Islands eh? Open your minds people, this is a good show. The only problem you’re all having with it is that it’s home grown.

  11. “The Straits” is absolute rubbish. Plot line is ridiculous, the writing is bad, the acting ranges from poor to average. A total waste of taxpayer’s money.

  12. Ok Karen, firstly the Mentalist is rubbish anyway, you’re an idiot. Also the term haters is an Americanism but then go on to say WE are too used to american actors so again you’re an idiot.
    A brown face and a close to home accent? What does that even mean. I am pretty sure the faces could be purple and the accents turkish and the show wouls still be a steaming pile of sh*t.
    The show is a complete waste of money. If anything the close to home accents make it more aggravating because it means they would have used our government grants etc to create this joke of a tv show.
    People will see this show and think this represents Australia in anyway, which it doesn’t…………… Apart from the group of really bad actors and script writers and people stupid enough to invest in it.

  13. I like the way Karen Morley uses the racist card to denigrate anyone who mentions anything negative about The Straits, and further implies that there’s a cultural cringe in place, as well as all critics being closed-minded. I don’t think any negative commentary has mentioned anything about ‘brown’ faces, or lack of American/English accents (we’ve got Brian Cox in there anyway, so I don’t know what you’re talking about), or scenery as being too close to home as a reason for believing The Straits is not a good quality drama.

    It’s the quality, in my opinion, of the script and the lack of skill in applying some basic screen sense and logic which makes The Straits fail overall, as well as not knowing whether it’s a serious drama, comedy, or something in between (and don’t just say sh*t like, ‘Well, you just don’t geddit do you’. That’s really lazy commentary).

    There are some high quality moments in The Straits, but these are few and far between and the gap between good and poor is extreme. There is or has been a great deal of good quality Australian drama produced in the past (The Straits is not one, however) and I don’t subscribe to the idea that just because something is produced locally, has local accents or has local scenery is are good enough reasons to like it – that’s Pauline Hanson’s territory I’m afraid – and there has to be another reason for believing that a TV drama is good – and that reason is ‘quality’. The Straits just hasn’t got that.

  14. I love this cheeky show, I love to see all those brown faces I never normally see them, it is very refreshing if not a bit brutal entertainment.

  15. Watch out spiderman and superman. Here come the superhero crim family who have more than
    9 lives. Able to dodge bullets and cast evil spells on bikey crims. Watched the the whole series
    utter crap and pure fantasy.

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