Inability to get real made series a chore

Last updated 14:32 15/10/2010
This is Not My Life
UTOPIA: Cast members of This is Not My Life.

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Honestly I really did try my best to care about Alec Ross and his quest for truth and freedom in This is Not My Life, but after the first stunning episode the show was a chore to watch.

OPINION: It became the programme to be virtuously recorded and set aside for viewing with a mental note to self: "Must keep abreast of, but don't really want to."

It would be churlish not to recognise the huge efforts that went into the set and the grey and pastel colour schemes, but they only contributed to making the drama seem washed out and bloodless.

It was difficult to care about characters when they look like Karen Walker models living pseudo perfect lives in minimalist houses in bleached out streets town planners would have wet dreams over.

The utopia that was Waimoana worked against viewer involvement because it lacked warmth and humanity.

In highly realising and bringing to life a post-The Prisoner environment, even those who rejected the contrived perfect world and were making complicated plot-ridden bids for freedom had their work cut out for them - making you want to root for them.

Charles Mesure, who played chief protagonist Ross, is a competent actor and was believable in the initial episodes when he found himself cast as a confused imposter suffering from a bad case of residual deja vu in a brave new world.

Later, when he was in on the game, and had to pretend to be complicit in his alter life married to the annoyingly emotionally pert Callie while producing the joyful heartfelt scenes he needed to with true love Jessica, Mesure was unable to show real contrast and difference between going through the motions with Callie and really letting go with Jessica.

It wasn't as if Alec and Jessica didn't have enough scenes and endless snatched dialogue allotted to them to give viewers the time to emotionally invest in their relationship. Jessica, played by Miriama McDowell, is blessed with a beautiful face but at times it seemed as if the camera was more in love with it than Alec was.

The highlight of the drama for this viewer was to see what designer cool ensemble Jessica was going to wear next, and wondering how long it will be before the telephone companies adopt the slimline cellphones that characters spent so much time fiddling with.

The technology - voice active and hand wave computers and milky-coloured, eco-friendly, short-arsed cars that buzzed around the place - became the real stars of the show.

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Maybe this was intentional to send the message that the machines really are taking over. I don't think so.

However, the drama managed to show how repugnant a socially engineered world might be with all its contrived happiness.

Hope, Ross's spurned mistress, said it all in a nut shell when she gave her reasons for marital infidelity: because Waimoana, "the perfect shit hole", was "so perfectly gut-wrenchingly boring".

What a pity her character wasn't developed more and she was side-lined to just toy with her long black hair like a beautiful show pony kept back from the race.

Joel Tobeck, as Richard Foster the baddie, tortured one of the terrorists by sticking his hand in her wound before she gave up a name, but he in turn got his comeuppance as we saw the last of him denuded of his identity and strapped down on a stretcher screaming to be let go.

One can only conclude that the direction here was for hammy comedy as that was the way it came across.

The finale closed with Ross and his daughter poised to start a new life away from the ghastly Waimoana, and with Jessica impregnated with his child still stuck with the ghastly Gordie. Jessica's memory banks have been wiped of all recollection of her "passionate" affair with Alec - when he knocks on her door, alas, she can't remember him.

In what is supposed to be an impassioned speech which sums up all the nuts and bolts of the series, Ross hands her a notebook that will help her remember in the days to come that This Is Not Her Life.

He should have been gutted to have been thwarted at the final hurdle from being able to escape with the love of his life, but his speech to Jessica is perfunctory.

I would have thought tears, at least, would have been in order but instead the speech came across as a calculated bid for a second series as Alec promises to return and rescue her.

Maybe we haven't seen the last of the claustrophobic Waimoana yet.

- The Dominion Post

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