I was a bit mean about a TV2 show yesterday. Oh, I'm not apologising - Please Marry My Boy is bloody terrible. The more I think about it, the worse that show gets. A horrible reality show like Please Marry My Boy makes My Kitchen Rules look like Breaking Bad in comparison.
But it's nice to know TV2 isn't all bad. As vomit-inducing as its Friday night reality lame-fest might be, it's Monday night counterpart is pretty damn good. I'm talking, of course, about the rather brilliant Wentworth.
Described as a "contemporary reimagining" of the classic Aussie drama Prisoner (which I remember as Prisoner Cell Block H, the name it assumed in the UK to avoid being confused with The Prisoner; I can vaguely recall seeing adverts for it on television as a kid, though I would never have been allowed to watch), Wentworth stars our own Danielle Cormack as Bea Smith, a battered housewife sent to the prison on remand for attempting to murder her abusive husband.
My relationship with Australian dramas is a rocky one (Packed to the Rafters? Yuck.) but I've taken to this one quickly, thanks to a strong cast and an interesting narrative structure: there are longer story arcs in play, and each episode seems to revolve around an individual character and explore them in more depth.
I loved the second episode (last week), which had both sides of the structure working in perfect harmony: Bea dealing with communication problems at home, while Doreen (Shareena Clanton, in her first major role) took a gutsy step toward protecting Kaiya, a child living in the prison who we'd been led to believe was her daughter but who actually belonged to her cellmate. Doreen's back story was heartbreaking; Clanton played it beautifully.
I also love that the cast is primarily female. I don't really think of myself as a feminist, but I do believe that television casts are - unnecessarily - male dominated.
Even when a show does boast a cast of female characters, it's nearly always in a context that reinforces outdated gender roles: the homemakers/wreckers on Desperate Housewives or the bitchy shopaholics of Footballers' Wives, for example. There is a strange dichotomy between the strong, intelligent women I know in real life, and the majority of jealous, relationship-obsessed female characters I see in the course of my regular viewing.
It's a joy, then, to consider that there are long stretches of Wentworth that don't feature any male characters. Even the authority figures at Wentworth - the warden, most of the guards - are women. I'm not sure how well the Bechdel Test (which considers gender bias in film) measures television, but I'm sure Wentworth would score through the roof.
It would be a well-deserved score, that much is sure. Wentworth is a brilliant show, well written and performed, and a welcome addition to Monday nights. It's a must-see for me. And I can't wait to see what happens next.
Have you been watching and enjoying Wentworth? What do you like most about it?