A mystery melodrama on the Mornington Pensinula is escapist fun without ever demanding too much.
In the world of melodrama mystery, writer / producer Jason Herbison (Neighbours) is positioning himself rather well as the go-to guy.
New UK-Australian co-commission Riptide, produced for Channel 5 UK and Network 10, follows from Lie With Me, while Heat is still to come. Arguably pitched more to British audiences, than Australian, these feature prominent UK soapie actors in inviting Australian backdrops.
But they are littered with good ‘ol twisty murder mysteries. Premium drama they are not. Sordid, escapist fun they are.
This time around Jo Joyner (EastEnders, Shakespeare & Hathaway) plays Alison, recently wedded to the wealthy Sean (Peter O’Brien), living in a swank beachfront mansion on the Mornington Peninsula. Living with them is Alison’s rebellious daughter Hannah (Asher Yasbincek), while the family is visited by Sean’s son Ethan (Benny Turland) and boyfriend Jesse (Benjamin Samaddar).
But Ethan resents Alison for splitting his father from his mother Rachel (Ally Fowler) while Hannah’s UK dad Michael (Ciaran Griffiths) is also bizarrely living nearby, in the hope of reacquainting with his ex.
A messy house of cards already? When Sean fails to turn up from a morning of surfing, true colours are shown.
Did Sean meet with foul play or did he slip away Harold Holt-style? And who to trust from this cast of potentially shady characters? It’s all part of the fun Herbison manipulates across 4 episodes.
Ethan uses candid pictures of Hannah circulating at school to blackmail Alison, while dashing neighbour and widower Dan (David Berry) consoles Alison in her grief.
Joyner isn’t particularly challenged by the material but makes for a convincing wife in distress. Ciaran Griffiths (Shameless, Coronation Street) is too one-note in an obvious push to portray him as a man with a mission.
Both younger leads Asher Yasbincek and Benny Turland step up, with Turland clearly enjoying a shift from his wholesome role in Neighbours. It’s always a pleasure to see David Berry, best known for Outlander and A Place to Call Home.
It has to be said too, the men in this cast all have much better hair than the women…. ridiculously lush. And wait for the shot where bubbling baked beans represent rising anger.
Director Scott Major captures the peninsula backdrop looking glossy and alluring, with rolling surf, golden sands, spacious mansions and designer abodes which all look suspiciously the same (I didn’t buy rebel Hannah’s designer bedroom) and plenty of flowing beachcomber costumes.
I would have liked a detective to lead the case, given the local constabulary never seem to take much initiative, but perhaps there were limitations in the casting budget.
If Riptide gets a bit histrionic here and there, there’s no denying it knows its audience well, and revels in its melodrama mystery without ever demanding too much of the viewer.
Riptide screens 8:40pm Wednesday on 10.