Splat after the money's gone
REVIEW: Tricky Business, 8.30pm Tuesdays, TV3
A show set in the world of Aussie mercantile agents - seemingly a combo of debt collectors, private eyes and repo men - is a great idea for these recessionary times.
After each bubble comes the splat of it bursting and someone has to clean up the mess.
Surely there are gritty, heart-wrenching tales to be told about failed dreams and thwarted ambitions.
But based on this week's debut, Tricky Business is more interested in the bling than the bang. The credits are all Ocker good life - beach, babes, barbecue - and the show opens with merc agents, business partners and lovers Kate and Rick tailing a man driving a sporty Audi along a tourist poster coastal road.
Turns out the man has missed four car payments and when he leaves the keys in the ignition, Rick (or as rendered by Kate, "Reek") persuades Kate to hop in and drive off for an effortless repossession.
The hint is dropped: Rick is more of a risk taker than Kate, and her reaction to his botched marriage proposal later in the day shows that Rick is a little deluded about just how perfect his life is.
"Where is this from? We've never talked about marriage," says Kate as he thrusts the ring he just dropped on the floor at her.
By the end of the episode, Kate is left alone at an expensive restaurant unable to pay for the bottle of bubbly she had ordered. Rick was a no-show and all her credit cards have been declined.
The perfect life is unravelling. Kate has inherited the business from her merc agent parents, who are about to set off on a sailing trip that has been five years in the making. But the results of a routine colonoscopy raise health concerns for her dad.
Rick has got over his head with a dodgy loan and when his land speculation deal implodes, he hands over everything to the menacing shark, including their shared business accounts.
The loan shark is written in cliches. "The only way to get me out of your life is to pay me back my $100,000," he says with menace as he is reeling in a fish. "What should I do? Throw it back? Or cut off its head and gut it?"
This is just after he has delivered what may well have been the script for the shop's pitch meeting: "Tricky business debt - we all owe someone something. But how we acknowledge that and how we pay for it, well that, that shows character."
Into these troubled waters sails rival merc agent Matt Sloane, played with typically smarmy charm by Antony Starr (Jethro/Van from Outrageous Fortune).
His appearance is the jolt this show needs. Kate and Rick have zero chemistry and Starr's devilish twinkle - he's firmly in Jethro mode here - promises to inject some zing into what was shaping up as an hour of pleasantness with a pulse barely above the level of the tedious Nothing Trivial.
There were just enough hints of intrigue to make me get the series link.
Our triangle is set up and it seems as if Matt may have some secrets in his past.
And any show that can equate delving into people's murky finances with a colonoscopy surely has potential.
If the show can deliver on that promise of more seedy underbelly and less Offspring-style family drama, this could be a ride worth taking.
COMING UP When reporting crime in which the facts are yet to be proved, "allegedly" is the journo's best crutch. Since I'm confident that many artistic crimes will be committed on New Zealand's latest talent show, let's just say that Sunday at 7.30pm on TV 1 sees the debut of New Zealand's Got Talent. Allegedly.
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