Agent Anna squanders a good start

19:47, Mar 07 2013

I'm always saying that an opinion of a show can't be based on the first episode. It's tempting to do so here at the blog since new shows are always talked about most right after they debut. But, given how things can change from week to week, I feel like I have to factor in potential improvement (or decline) before telling the world what I think.

As I said in my optimistic review of the Agent Anna debut back in late-January, "a single half-hour of Agent Anna was not enough to form a proper opinion" - and so it is that, after six full episodes (comprising the entire first season), I can tell you that this is not a good show after all.

In fact, hardly any of what I was hoping for from this show has panned out.

After the first episode, it seemed like Agent Anna was going to be similar to shows like The Big C or Enlightened, shows where the protagonist goes on a journey of moral growth by taking the wackiest route possible.

But it didn't, instead turning in a decent first episode then immediately jumping into comedy cliché. The first season finished last night, ultimately a disappointment given what it could have been.

For example, the third episode had struggling realtor Anna spilling cough medicine on herself right before an open home, forcing her to wear an ill-fitting dress belonging to the homeowner's deceased wife.


Of course, instead of using the moment to say something about the nature of loss and grief, the whole scenario set the homeowner up as a creepy pervert.

The second episode featured an awkward sex scene. The fifth episode had another. As I think back now, it feels like every episode since that premiere was full of double-entendre or depravity of some sort.

It is possible to mine humour from something other than sex, y'know.

Because as entertaining and talented as cast members Robyn Malcolm, Adam Gardiner and Theresa Healey might be, it just gets a bit boring having to put up with a plethora of semi-interesting setups that are paid off as rushed, ill-advised sex jokes, especially when it's clear that the story and cast are capable of doing so much more.

And that's really been Agent Anna's main problem since the first episode: the debut was structured in such a way that it introduced us to Anna, to her life and family, and made us feel sympathetic.

But every episode since has been wildly inconsistent, transitioning from scenes and developments that look like they might reach the lofty heights to which the show seems to aspire, into silly, clichéd, seen-it-before scenes that instantly turn you off as a viewer.

"Anna is doing an open home and it seems to be going great. Go Anna, we believe in you! Oh, wait, there's Leon, having sex with the homeowner in the front room and he's made the sale ... [sigh] I wonder what's on the other channel."

That was how I felt about much of what was going on since that first week.

Look, Malcolm was great in this role, while Gardiner stole almost every scene he appeared in. The rest of the cast were fine. The directing, the sets, production values on the show - they were all good. But that writing just let the team down by dropping the ball two or three times an episode and killing the momentum of the story.

The temptation is there to write scenes that will make people laugh out loud, and comedy writers must surely feel as though getting a laugh is the same as getting viewer approval. The kind of laughs Agent Anna went for, though, felt tired and overused, especially when it felt like the show could - and wanted to be - be so much more. Disappointing stuff.

What did you think of Agent Anna? Did you make it through all six episodes?

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