Rake the Complete First Series
this out of the way very quickly: Rake is Australian television.
Ordinarily this invites commentary like “It’s quite good for Australian
television”, or “It’s not great but then again it is Australian
television”. Well, after this paragraph I will have no need to invoke
that meme – Rake is excellent television by any standard. Origin
eponymous rake character, world-weary Sydney barrister Cleaver Green, is
the best kind of protagonist: jaded, bitter and cynical, with the
almost-too-predictable heart of (not quite) gold. Cleaver likes his
drink, his women, his forked tongue, and all things salacious and
lascivious. A lazy reviewer might describe Rake as “House,
except with a barrister instead of a doctor”, but this would be grossly
unfair. House hasn’t been this worth watching in years (if indeed
it ever was), and Rake relies on no predictable formula.
approach is only faintly recognisable as “freak-of-the-week”; there is
indeed a new and scandalous case each episode, but these don’t feel
trite and disposable. Each case is curious and funny, and they all fuel
the season-long story arc in interesting ways. Without spoiling it, that
story arc includes the following: Cleaver’s pursuit of a woman whom he
previously paid for sex, his colleague’s marriage cruising headfirst
into the most treacherous terrain, his son rebelling against (and
seeking the approval of) his separated parents, and his prosecution as a
tax-evader. It’s juicy stuff, and deliciously handled.
Each of these elements is treated with the same Six-Feet-Under-esque
realism and grit that joyfully pervades the whole series. The dialogue
is clever, but it’s much more interested in being believable. The
characters are expertly crafted and entirely relatable, which is crucial
to keeping the drama meaningful and maintaining its impact. You will
care about what happens to these people.
it’s probably incorrect to describe Rake as a comedy, it’s
equally reprehensible to refrain from describing it as hilarious.
Cleaver’s verbal wit is gorgeously cutthroat, but it’s not the sole
vehicle for the show’s humour. Many of the situations are painful and
amusing in just the right measure, as are the characters’ reactions. And
importantly, the ridiculous bits are never too ridiculous. Special
mention needs to be made of those small touches which push a scene from
a giggle to a laugh; I have in mind a particular scene involving Cleaver
securing the services of a taxi driver in the pouring rain. The humour
in this scene comes not from what he says, or even what he does, but the
way in which he does it. This is the mark of exceptionally well executed
is an extremely solid production. Watch it. Buy it. Do whatever you can
to ensure that the powers that be produce a second season.