“Hell Has Harbour Views”

Sydney Harbour Br.jpg

A big issue in the Australia-US FTA debate last year was the possible implications for local content on tv. It’s reasonable to ask whether there is that much compulsively watchable Australian tv around at the moment. Certainly, as just about every tv reviewer in the country has remarked, Secret Life of Us is a shadow of its former self. So I was interested to watch Hell Has Harbour Views on the ABC last night, billed as a break in the drought of good Oz drama. Who could resist “a modern day tale of love and litigation”? The blurb was certainly promising:

The closer you get to the top of the greasy pole, the more slippery it becomes. Hugh just manages to hold on … until he finds himself the only witness to a frantic, sexual indiscretion on the boardroom table, and the centre of a bitter power struggle between two warring factions within the firm’s senior partners. He seems damned whichever way he turns, and that harbour view is becoming more and more elusive…

I was a tad disappointed. It was well-acted, but the plot seemed a touch predictable and the comedic potential was underplayed. Steve Bisley was great as the bankrupt business spiv with a heart of gold, but I thought the ubiquitously applauded Lisa McCune was pretty average, and her character seemed to lack motivation and development. I’m so over the whole soliloquy to camera thing as well… It was interesting to see a different perspective on the everyday lives of lawyers, but I still think the cutting edge was a touch blunt.

ELSEWHERE: There’s a roundup of reviews, and some commentary on the book on which the show was based, at David Starkoff’s law blog Inchoate.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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Robert Merkel
2022 years ago

Mark, at least this made some level of sense, unlike the last corporate revenge fantasy made in Australia, the excreable The Bank.

And, yeah, Bisley was good, but how many times has he played that character? It dates at least to The Big Steal (though without the redeeming features in that one).

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Yeah, Robert, I didn’t see the Bank even though I’m a big Claudia Karvan fan. It did make sense, though I suspect if I’d been less tired I could have poked a few holes in the plot. I actually thought it was a series til the end, and was thinking to myself “promising, maybe it’ll get better”.

Is yr blog back up by the way? I was going to link to you as part of the blogroll update but it’s been down a while.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

“Yeah, Robert, I didn’t see the Bank even though I’m a big Claudia Karvan fan.”

The reason of course being that she wasn’t in it. I’m thinking of “Risk”…

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

I have always been amazed that the entertaintment industry can put forward such pathetic argumeents to gain protection and they are accepted.

Yet these samr arguments are rejected for the manufacturing, agricultural indstries etal.

Why do actors need to have so much government support?

Vee
Vee
2022 years ago

It was in the middle of the tennis match but I did flick over and saw probably the second ten minutes of it. All I saw was sex and sexual innuendo with a thin plot. I couldn’t get into the show. So I did the patriotic thing and watched Hewitt lose.

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

“All I saw was sex and sexual innuendo with a thin plot.”

In that case I can reliably confirm you were probably watching tv.

Gianna
2022 years ago

yeah, i agree with you Mark. i find Lisa McCune very beige (i can’t help thinking of her in those stupid Coles ads); i agree about the soliloquies; and even though Bisley was good, he was just Bisley as Usual. and yeah, a pretty predictable plot. how many times have you seen a character saying to himself, “don’t call her, don’t call her, don’t call her” – cut to him calling her. haha. yawn. the only halfway interesting character was Matt’s mum if you ask me they could’ve done more with her. on the other hand it was very true to life in Sydney’s corporate law world–boring, bitchy, full of people who are convinced they’re terribly important..and great harbour views of course. :)

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Yeah, Gianna, the mum had potential.

It did seem to me – from what people who unlike me finished their law degrees – that it was probably reasonably accurate (albeit in a parodic way) as to what life as a corporate lawyer is like…

Gaby
Gaby
2022 years ago

“Hell…” was quite an entertaining book. A little weak on plot and characterization, but good enough. Its strength lay in an incisive and funny satire on life in a major Sydney law firm, especially in an insurer-defendent practice. It benefited from a painful kernel of truth as well as verisimilitude.

I taped the movie in deference to the tennis final. How was Tiriel Mora?

Mark, I’m a big Karvan fan, ever since “High Tide”. Wonderful film. Recently re-watched it on dvd.

Her “Love My Way” on Fox 8 has been excellent, if extremely confronting to watch over the past couple of episodes. Series concludes tonight.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

As someone said to me today, “it was like being at Longrain.” Longrain is a funky, chic, mimimalist Thai fusion place in Surry Hills where beautiful Legal AID types meet corporate lawyers and their mutual on-the-edge creative friends.

They were stock characters were they not?: the conflicted young corporate lawyer who really wants to be a presenter on Radio National, the young Fairfax journo living alone in a to-die-for, renovated Surry Hills Terrace (and presumably dealing to be able to afford that); the lined – yet beautiful in a Bacallish way – young corporate lawyer’s Mum fagging away in her worldy-wise, longtime Legal Aid lawyer way; the evil Senior Partners who, by definition, care nothing for values – let alone Legal Aid; the deeply compromised young women in the firm who have no alternative but to hump the Senior Partners on the Boardroom table if they are to rise through the glass ceiling (preferably upright); the Silk with the barbed wit, the smart, wisecracking secretary who loves her young corporate lawyer boss, the Singo manque larrikin/hard bloke – but with a heart of gold………………….all they needed was Jason Donovan and it could have been an episode of MDA.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Gaby, sadly I don’t have cable.

Geoff, yes, but at least Jason Donovan provided an occasional element of absurd hyperbolic overacting which somewhat enlightened the very tedious MDA…

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

for “enlightened” read “enlivened”

Gaby, Tiriel Mora didn’t have much to do.

Splat Guy
Splat Guy
2022 years ago

I thought HHHV (to abbreviate) was just garbage. I really did try to watch, but I was pretty much poisoned right from the scene in the restaurant with all the evil corporate heavies cackling as they recounted their defeat of the poor desperate working family. Seriously… villainy like that is fine in James Bond because that’s really just a joke, but in something that purports to be Drama-with-a-capital-“D”, I thought it was pretty pathetic.

I hope the film + TV industries’ protection is taken away; perhaps then they’ll have to rely on making good shows to survive, rather than the current crap.

Ron
Ron
2022 years ago

I lasted to the same point, Splat Guy. I hope this movie is not a sample of what we are going to see on the ABC this year.

Now for a person who rarely watches commercial TV, ‘Desperate Housewives’ on 7 last night did suck me in (no pun intended). It’s being repeated tonight 9.30pm (don’t forger OUTFOXED is on the ABC about the same time!).

ron
ron
2022 years ago

Hey, that was my nom-de-blog. Damn. Looking at your blog, though, it seems you were Ron before I adopted ron. We are not the same, as you are no doubt aware.