It was always going to be tricky to reboot a series called The Doctor Blake Mysteries without Dr Blake himself. But Seven has done a terrific job in resurrecting the viewer favourite, renaming it The Blake Mysteries and placing co-star Nadine Garner front and centre.
Having rescued the show after it was axed by the ABC and not yet put anything to air, it would have been easy enough for the network to walk away earlier this year after star Craig McLachlan was embroiled in a sexual harassment controversy. But they listened to fans – and the cast themselves, who were desperate to keep the franchise alive – and the first of four telemovies with Garner in the lead premieres on Fri., Nov. 30 at 8.30pm. And it’s fantastic. In fact, I think I prefer it to the original.
I always loved Garner’s character, Jean, way more than McLachlan’s Lucien. He was just so fussy and exacting, and “I’m always right”. Jean was far more content to hang back, quietly swooping in with a cuppa and some sage advice when it was needed most. I love that she’s finally getting her moment in the sun.
The success of this reboot is in stark contrast to the recently released sixth season of Netflix’s House of Cards, another show that has had to be radically overhauled after its leading man – Kevin Spacey this time – was embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal.
The streaming giant tried valiantly to retool this series with co-star Robin Wright as the focus, but it falls flat. And that’s not due to Wright’s performance – she’s sensational. It’s more that Spacey’s Francis Underwood was such a towering character and such an integral part of the show’s mystique, and his chemistry with Wright so compelling, that it feels weird – and wrong – to continue without him.
Ditto The Conners (starts Thurs., Nov. 22 at 7.30pm; Ten), the re-tooled Roseanne without Roseanne Barr, who went on a racist Twitter tirade earlier in the year, resulting in the axing of the recently revived sitcom. For me, her absence is jarring, perhaps because she was such a presence in the TV family. It feels weird she’s not there, sitting on that plaid couch, harassing her kids. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like the props department has even removed photos of her from the mantle?
The death of Roseanne (the character), which is dealt with in the first episode of the new show, is the fodder for gags. Not enough gravitas is given to her passing, wrenching for this fan after so many years. Perhaps it’s because the writers – and new executive producer Sara Gilbert, who plays Darlene – are cheesed off with their one-time star for shooting her mouth off, pissing off TV executives and fans, and putting all their jobs on the line by getting Roseanne cancelled. And who can blame them? Perhaps it would have been better to draw a line in their troubled past and move on.