Rake spearheads ABC drama

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Rake's Russell Dykstra (Barnet) and Richard Roxburgh (Cleaver Greene)." link="/rake/show/80256/summary.html" target="_blank" loc="right">

Can Richard Roxburgh's new drama turn around the fortunes of the ABC?

"Like many fine Australians, Rake was conceived on a beach about five years ago. Needless to say, as in many of those conceptions, we'd had a couple of cold ones," says Richard Roxburgh.

"Now it's all very well to have a good idea, but to realise that idea is a whole other bag of bananas.

"This is just the beginning of the ABC's renewed addiction. A drive to create drama series that are contemporary, that connect and are uniquely Australian."

Indeed it is. ABC's new eight-part series has assembled a stellar cast for its offbeat tale about Cleaver Greene, a reckless barrister who is brilliant on the courtroom floor but a wreck in his personal life.

Publicity notes indicate "To his learned friends at the bar table he is 'a real wag', and to most judges he is 'an outrage'. To the Tax Office, he is 'a defendant', to a certain brothel owner 'a legend', and to his former cocaine dealer 'a tragic loss'."

Rake represents a great deal to the public broadcaster.

It's been a long time since it has enjoyed a hit drama. Roxburgh's last ABC series East of Everything had its charms but wasn't the next SeaChange. Bed of Roses with Kerry Armstrong has a third season in December as a gentle take on three generations of females in regional Australia. The Cut, which starred Matt Passmore as a sports manager, didn't do well in the ratings. ABC2's indie-style I ROCK with Josh Mapleston came and went without much fanfare.

Some critics have noted that ABC has spent too long in trying to recreate the success of SeaChange.

Rake could hardly be called that. It arrives at a time when police procedurals dominate our TV screens.

Meanwhile, the public broadcaster has seen drama awards being swept up by commercial networks, SBS and pay TV channels.

The exception is ABC's excellent output of children's drama: My Place, Dance Academy and Dead Gorgeous. All have received AFI Award nominations while there are none for its adult drama slate.

Some months ago ABC appointed a new head of fiction in producer Carole Sklan. She is now overseeing a slate that includes a number of new projects in development, including from writer Marieke Hardy and comedian Adam Richard.

Chris Lilley's much-anticipated Angry Boys will also air in 2011. Telemovie Sisters of War will air in November.

Rake has received positive reviews. With a guest cast including Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Sam Neill, Lisa McCune and Noah Taylor, it's certainly worth your attention.

Rake airs 8:30pm Thursdays on ABC1.

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