Friday, February 22, 2013

TV review: The Blue Rose

The Blue Rose (South Pacific Pictures, 2013)
Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

First day on the job. Everything there is new, to you. Walking into a high-powered city law firm, trying to gauge where and how you’ll fit, taking it all in: the place, the people, the politics. How will this turn out, the start of something great, or disappointing?

Plenty of readers will have shared that moment at some point in their careers, perhaps several times – whether as a wide-eyed summer clerk, a new graduate, or when making a new move later on – but none (hopefully) will have found themselves in the situation of Jane, the new legal temp at Mosely & Loveridge Barristers and Solicitors, one of Auckland’s “most prestigious and expensive law firms”. Jane (Antonia Prebble, ‘Loretta’ from Outrageous Fortune) quickly discovers that she’s not filling in for someone on holiday, but as the replacement for Rose, a loyal and well-liked young mother whose body was found floating face-down in the Viaduct Harbour.

As if sitting in a dead woman’s chair wasn’t perturbing enough for the cautious and mild-mannered Jane, she soon has to juggle the demands of a variety of challenging people, including: fellow PA and snooty ‘office bitch’ Krystle (“with a K”); moody partner Simon Frost; nervous and invasive IT nerd Ganesh; misogynistic high-flying client Derek Peterson; Rose’s ex and former P addict Grant; and Rose’s quick-fisted best pal Linda. Just what has Jane gotten herself into?

The Blue Rose is touted as “a contemporary, smart investigative drama in which the lowly back-room office staff join forces to fight for justice in a corrupt corporate world”.

This new local ‘dramedy’, from acclaimed scribes James Griffin and Rachel Lang (Outrageous Fortune, The Almighty Johnsons) certainly started with quite a noir-ish feel: the blue of the Te Wero Bridge and night-time city lights contrasting the menacing darkness of the harbour’s waters, as the body is discovered by a suspicious homeless man and some late-night revellers. But as the first episodes progressed, there were lighter moments mixed in with the drama, often thanks to Linda (played by Siobhan Marshall, ‘Pascalle’ from Outrageous Fortune) or Ganesh (Rajeev Varma).

As would be expected, there was a lot being set up early on in The Blue Rose, in the first episode in particular – characters, storylines, relationships; however, the way it was done did give things a bit of a ‘thin’ feel at times. Several characters seemed to be placed rather obviously, almost caricature-ly, into ‘good guy’ or ‘bad guy’ roles, as if the audience had to feel a certain way about certain people before things could get started. Peterson is not only responsible for duping investors out of life savings, but he’s a sexist pig. Rose’s ex-husband, despite overcoming a P addiction and wanting to be back in his daughter’s life (which could be good things), is a pushy asshole who Linda hates, so maybe he killed Rose, and regardless, he deserves to be screwed over, legalities be damned. Linda is a self-confessed “mad bitch”, punches people out, breaks into houses, and much more – yet she’s Rose’s friend, so on the side of angels, the audience will like her, and that’s all okay (Marshall’s performance, which mixes surface feistiness with masked vulnerability, does help with bringing us along there).

In the early going, some questions were answered awfully quickly, minds made up and actions taken. Despite initially coming across as an extremely cautious person, Jane is easily roped in by Linda to believe that someone killed Rose, and is willing to follow their amateur investigation all over the city, doing things she never would have imagined. She agrees to screw over Grant after seeing Peterson treat women like crap.

There’s also a definite sense of ‘us and them’ established between the underdog support staff (legal admins, IT, accounts, couriers) and the lawyers and businesspeople. We clearly know who we are rooting for, no matter what they do (at this stage, at least).

Having said that, with Griffin and Lang’s pedigree, I have no doubt that more complexities and layers will become apparent as the series progresses, more shades of grey will emerge, and storylines and expectations will be turned on their head. The first episodes were also pretty enjoyable and entertaining, with some ‘chuckle moments’ (NZLawyer readers will certainly recognise some of the humour-producing office situations), as well as an undercurrent of intrigue bubbling away beneath the action. Will Jane, Linda, and Ganesh be able to discover who killed Rose? Is there more corporate skulduggery going on with Peterson? How is Mosely & Loveridge involved? What will happen to our heroes if certain people find out what they’re up to? Who can they even trust – shared ‘blue rose’ tattoos or not, can they trust each other?

It will be interesting to see where Griffin and Lang take us. Jane may have easily flipped from caution to action early on, but you get the feeling there is a lot more to her character and motives. Simon Frost (played with some nice subtlety by Matt Minto) also seems to have a lot more going on. The Blue Rose may not be one of those shows which ‘wows’ in its very first episode, immediately turning it into appointment TV, but the intriguing set-up, characters, and flashes of humour (“not just any cricket bat”) make it quite watchable.

Like starting out at a new job in a law firm, sometimes you can’t tell straight away just how things are going to go. But there’s enough promise with The Blue Rose to suggest that, just maybe, it could be the start of something great.

The Blue Rose screens on TV3 at 8.30pm on Monday nights, and is also available to watch OnDemand at

This review was first published in NZLawyer magazine, issue 202, 22 February 2013, and is reprinted here with permission

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