REVIEW: The Blue Rose, Mondays, 8.30pm, TV3
With the end of the summer holidays comes the start of the new television season and quick off the block is the new series from the Rachel Lang and James Griffin, the team behind Outrageous Fortune and The Almighty Johnsons.
Monday's debut episode began with the nighttime discovery of a woman's body floating face down in Auckland Harbour, with the inky water and menacing sharp angles of the Viaduct placing us in film noir territory.
Next we see a young woman scrambling for the bus and we follow Antonia Prebble as she enters an office tower, all gleaming glass and polished steel, for her first day of a new assignment as a legal temp. At first I fear a mash-up of thriller and office comedy, a sort of LA Confidential meets Glide Time, but the emphasis here is on the thriller, with barely a hint of comedy.
Prebble is Jane, who has stepped into the job of Rose, the dead woman, and with improbable haste begins to suspect she may have been killed because of something she learned at the law firm. This suspicion is driven by courier driver Linda, Rose's best friend, who dismisses the media speculation, seemingly based on a leak from the law firm, that Rose was a party girl who stumbled into the harbour while drunk.
By the end of the episode, Jane and Linda are breaking into a stranger's house as they search for clues that Rose's death is linked to a cover-up at a failed finance company whose boss is a client of the law firm.
The set-up is appealing - the lowly PA and courier are going to expose the powerful as crooks - but already there are hints that it will not be that simple. Why is the IT guy spying on Jane's work and what is his motivation for threatening her to stop snooping? The fun in such thrillers comes from the ground shifting below our feet and given Lang and Griffin's track record, I trust that they know what they are doing here.
The problem is why Jane, a cautious temp on her first day, would pair up with Linda, a self-described "mad bitch", on such a quest. We already know that Jane's parents' lost money to a failed finance company and Prebble gives Jane a steely core below the porcelain skin and innocent wide eyes.
Marshall, with more than a hint of Westie attitude, plays Linda as just enough of a loose cannon that we can believe her breaking and entering. The former West sisters have good rapport but we will need to see more below Jane's good girl exterior to make her transformation to avenging angel believable.
The show should tap into some populist resentment about the way crooked finance company directors fleeced Kiwi investors, even if the height of the scandal has passed. In this, the show is lucky to have Stelios Yiakmis playing corporate dick Derek Peterson, whose bullying power is nicely shaded by the way his lawyers defer to him and how he bullies his subordinates.
On initial evidence, the show is assured but modest, with the tone and pacing convincing. But the script was flat, with few memorable lines.
It may have been that there was little room to manoeuvre in an exposition-heavy first episode or that, in capturing the atmosphere of a cautious law firm, Lang had to suppress her usual wit.
I'm intrigued enough to want - and expect - more.
And like thousands of defrauded investors, I'm looking forward to vengeance being delivered, even if it is by courier.
- © Fairfax NZ News