The Circuit

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I am back at 2SER 107.3 doing a TV review segment called TV on the Radio during Wednesday Overdrive.  Hear it some time between 4pm and 6pm on Wednesdays.

This week I reviewed the new SBS drama The Circuit, which screens on Sunday at 9.30pm… here are a few of my thoughts.

This 6 part miniseries revolves around Drew Ellis, played by Aaron Pedersen, who is a city-educated Aboriginal lawyer who takes up work in the Kimberley, doing the circuit around makeshift courts in remote Aboriginal communities. The central character has a conflict between his educated well to do upbringing in Perth and his Aboriginal heritage. The internal conflict is a clever device because this character is a stranger in his environment, and he feels he shouldn’t be because he is indigenous, and the audience is also a stranger, and we shouldn’t be because we are Australian. So he can kind of guide us in this foreign world.

First episodes of dramas have the tendency to be a bit clunky because everyone has to introduce everyone else, and the plot has to be established, so the story didn’t get a lot of momentum to start with, but as the episode progressed the pace picked up and you got a taste of what this series could deliver.

I believe this show really has a lot of potential. It doesn’t seem to fit in any of the traditional ‘boxes’ for drama. It’s not a medical drama, it’s not a coming of age drama. It is legal, but in an entirely different context to the normal office and city based stories. It’s also very different from your average legal drama because most shows in that category tend to deal with one large case throughout an episode, but in The Circuit the sheer volume of legal cases means that the plot doesn’t rely on the viewer becoming attached to a particular victim or mystery. I think this is a positive thing, because if the show solely depicted Aboriginal Australians in a victim role it would be unbalanced and a completely wasted opportunity to deal with contemporary issues.

And deal with the issues it does. Petty theft, drug use, the lack of public transport, colonialism and the stolen generation were just a few of the topics hit upon in the first episode. While not all of the acting is stellar, it is believable. The large Aboriginal cast put in convincing performances and the use of stunning outback locations adds to the gritty realism.

The choppy camera work tries to give the series a documentary feel, but I felt it was perhaps a bit over the top and could be toned down a bit.

While showing the problems facing these remote communities, The Circuit hasn’t fallen in to the trap of being too preachy, at least not yet. I felt it took more of a showing approach rather than ramming a particular view down the audience’s throat, and ultimately I think this works, because this series deals with complex issues, issues that are not just black and white (excuse the terrible pun), and I am glad it hasn’t resorted to giving just one side of the story to make it more palatable. This series shows that drama doesn’t have to rely on fantasy and doesn’t have to come from American moulds… there are enough trials and tribulations in our own backyard to create compelling television.

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