Sea Patrol: articles

Sea Patrol just too wet

I'm quite happy to admit that there are certain programs I don't understand for a moment that everyone else seems to find utterly ring-a-ding-ding and isn't it nice that we can all celebrate our differences/Do They Know It's Christmas, etc. Big deal if I get excited in the pants about British sketch show Big Train while 8 billion other viewers gaze in slackjawed amazement at that karaoke show with Grant Denyer and his teeth. We're each of us entitled to our personal and private peccadilloes.

Additionally, there are shows I cheerfully own up to being utterly unable to write. Years ago I was given the chance to pen an episode of Blue Heelers and made a quite spectacular hash of it. It's not that I didn't try, honest. I'm just mildly useless when it comes to trying to second-guess what policemen or criminals might shout at each other in the midst of battle.

From memory some of my dialogue was along the lines of "Any of you f--king pr--ks move and I'll execute every motherf--king last one of you" which is absolutely fine if you're a sweaty actor in a Tarantino movie about to shoot John Travolta in the heart, but not so OK if you're pointing a Stanley knife at a startled John Wood in the middle of his afternoon tea break.

The producers were very nice about it and told me if I wanted to have another crack at a script I was more than welcome, but I bowed out graciously and spent a few not unhappy years writing children's television and Always Greener. Again - not my thing and that's OK.

Now that's out in the open, I'll just come right out and say what I need to: I don't really get Sea Patrol. Obviously it's rampaging through the ratings and everyone who watches makes impressed oooh noises every time Lisa McCune strides around in her dungarees ordering lowly men to clean the portable toilets, but the general gist of it leaves me somewhat cold.

Am I pleased that a local drama is kicking goals? Yes, very much. Will I be tuning in every week without fail to watch breathlessly as the butch-looking crew pluck brown people from the ocean? Possibly not, though don't let that put you off for a moment. There's lots to like about Sea Patrol. Particularly if you're not me.

Last Thursday's episode possibly wasn't the greatest example of swashbuckling on the seas ever witnessed by Australian audiences, since the main dramatic focal point of the hour seemed to be a little boy who'd gone missing without his diabetes medication.

Obviously the idea of some poor beleaguered bean splashing about sans insulin is cause for concern if you're a mother on a beachside jaunt, perhaps a smidgen less thrilling when you consider the alternative storyline options of Captain Hook slicing off Ian Stenlake's face with a cutlass partway through a deep-sea diving expedition. Call me picky, but I wouldn't mind the odd submarine explosion. Even a simple P&O-type gastro outbreak among the troops would spice things up a bit.

Having said that, I'm sure some weeks are more nail-biting than others. And the swish character names are very nice (Swain, Chefo, ET, XO, Spider, RO and Buffer, for starters. Yes, I'm serious), not to mention the hard-looking Ghostbuster jumpsuits everyone gets to wear. But if the nice folk at SP wish to gain my patronage they'll have to do better than the following somewhat limp exchange offered last week:

Bohunk (squinting manfully): "Nikki Caetano - of all the beaches in the world . . . "

Nikki Caetano: "Craig! What are you doing here?"

Bohunk (looking macho and handsome but slightly available): "Oh . . . just the usual hero stuff."

I daren't imagine what that dialogue would have been like if it were shoved in my general direction - no doubt the Bohunk would have dropped and rolled and kicked Samuel L. Jackson in the goolies in a fit of swears which wouldn't have suited at all, and I'd be fittingly turfed from yet another writing job.

Still, there are moments in Aqua Police which could use some jazzing. Josh Lawson's comic genius - as witnessed regularly on Thank God You're Here and in various highbrow theatre productions around Sydney - is all but stomped out, leaving him in the background of scenes chopping vegetables and starting up community kitchens during cyclones, which is a terrible waste of such an incredible talent. Give him a freaking knock-knock joke, for God's sake.

Again, it's probably not Sea Patrol, it's me. I prefer my television a little more bent, with less po-faced ploughing through the waves and mystifying words like "datum".

Less radar, more lowbrow sniggering every time an actor uses the term "seaman". If fellow audience members wish to cosy up on Thursday evenings with a glass of shiraz and a team of gritty ocean soldiers protecting our borders from diabetic children, then I wish them only the best.

We can always meet up to pass judgement over Daryl Somers' innate twittishness - something everyone can agree on.

By Marieke Hardy
August 30, 2007
The Age