The second series of Redfern Now has big shoes to fill. Last year’s debut collected a swag of awards including the Logie for ‘Most Outstanding Drama Series’ and the Deadly Award for ‘TV Show of the Year’. Will 2013 live up to its predecessor? And, more importantly, will it provide viewers with an accurate view of the suburb it promises to reveal?
Redfern Now consists of six one-hour stories set within the Aboriginal community of that iconic inner-city Sydney suburb. Like the first series the stories are only loosely related, though sometimes they share characters or reflect on incidents that were dramatized in previous weeks. The new series is another collection of stories generally linked by one Redfern street. There’s even the occasional tie-in with last year’s episodes as the camera returns to show how a particular character’s life has developed. For example in 2012 we were introduced to indigenous constable Aaron Davis (Wayne Blair) whose career was thrown into turmoil by the death of an Aboriginal teen in custody. Davis is back in front of the camera this year, revealing his rejection by the local Koori community and his growing affection for a victim of domestic violence. Raw and real topics – something Redfern Now has in spades.
Where The Heart Is, the first episode, was an emotionally charged story about Richard and Peter, two gay men who were raising a young girl together. When white Richard ends up in a coma after a car accident, Aboriginal Peter has to decide when to turn the machines off and how to best raise their daughter. At this crucial juncture we’re introduced to Richard’s mother Margaret who is equally appalled at Peter’s decision to let her son die and determined to get full custody of her granddaughter. This week’s third episode, Babe In Arms, is equally disturbing, concerning the disappearance of a young couple’s baby. Janine and Justin are a mixed race couple who find themselves caring for their new son without the support of either family. The pressure this puts on their marriage results in frequent misunderstandings and fights, particularly for Janine who resents the assumption she should be a natural mother. When the baby disappears one afternoon family and media suspicions begin to centre on the exhausted mum.
It’s all well scripted, well acted, compelling drama … which actually might be the challenge going forward. The highlight of the first Redfern Now was the insight it provided into Aboriginal lives and the revelation that the problems being confronted were not be so different to other communities. Marriage problems, work pressures, unemployment and family issues in the main exceeded the specifically race-related storylines. There are certainly distinctly aboriginal episodes to come in this second series but I couldn’t help but feel its creators have started to introduce more crafted storylines – which is the first step to cliché.
Gay marriage is certainly shaping the zeitgeist at present. So, a story about a white, 60+ homophobe named Margaret who is determined to wrest a daughter from her Aboriginal father seems more than a little contrived. And what is particularly indigenous about a depressed mother under suspicion of doing away with her baby, except for the dark-skinned husband who is tortured in turns by his wife’s assurances and the mounting evidence? Are Redfern Now’s storylines in danger of falling prey to those plots most likely to attract an audience? You decide as we tune in for abandoned daughters intent on disrupting the funerals of their negligent fathers and Vietnam vets troubled by debilitating flashbacks.
When entertainment trumps truth, we end up in one of those situations that Paul described in his letter to Timothy – audiences beguiled by whatever their ‘itching ears long to hear’. I welcome the opportunity of understanding more of what my Aboriginal brothers and sisters might be struggling through because it helps me to be more sympathetic and prayerful. But if the series simply rates, without providing me the opportunity to relate, then it will only join the long list of television’s lost opportunities. Let’s hope Redfern Now delivers on the promise in its title.
Release Date: Thursdays, 8:30 PM