Cleaver Greene has issues. A lot of issues. And his issues get him into trouble. A lot of trouble.
Cleaver is a very smart and talented barrister who can take literally any case and run with it to grab a win regardless of how unusual his client or the circumstances of the case. The subject matter for his cases in this first season have ranged from a cannibal killer to a respectable doctor having been charged with bestiality. There are mobsters, prostitutes, teachers with questionable ethics, diplomats and politicians that add more color to this series than you could see in any art gallery!
Richard Roxburgh does a brilliant job bringing Cleaver Greene to life. The character is charming and entertaining. One minute, you truly sympathize with him and the next you can change your mind because it's blatantly clear the trouble he's in was of his own making. He has more than a small problem with gambling and drugs and often finds himself taking a good bashing from stand over man Col (Steve Le Marquand) and answering to Col's boss, Mick Corella (Richard Carter). Cleave manages to estrange himself from his long time best friend Barney "Barnyard" Meagher (Russell Dykstra) and his wife Scarlett (Danielle Cormack) after making a huge mistake with the latter. Cleaver is more than a little bit fond of Melissa "Missy" Partridge, a former prostitute. Cleave and his ex wife, Wendy (Caroline Brazier) have their hands full with their teenage son Finnegan "Fuzz" who is having an affair with one of his teachers. Sadly, the poor lad loses the love of his life when said teacher leaves him for a younger man!
The series was created by Richard Roxburgh, Peter Duncan and Charles Waterstreet. Andrew Knight, along with co-creator Peter Duncan serve as the writers for the series. Duncan and Knight are the perfect writing team as they have successfully created a show that is entertaining, full of complicated ups and downs, sprinkled with just the right amount of humor to lighten the serious moments but not to come off as silly and is populated by multi-faceted characters who are realistic, lovable and despicable. Some of the humor is subtle such as Cleaver calling David Potter "Harry" but all of it is laugh-out-loud great.
Casting was inspired. Fans of Aussie television will recognize many faces in Rake. International viewers should all be familiar to some extent with Roxburgh through such films as Moulin Rouge!, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Van Helsing. Even someone who is seeing Rake as an introduction to Australian television will soon find themselves wanting to see more from the cast in this series.
Matt Day (David "Harry" Potter) can be seen in Underbelly: The Golden Mile, Tangle and the soon-to-air Reef Doctors. Steve Le Marquand (Col) took the lead as Tony Piccolo in Small Time Gangster. Adrienne Pickering is noticeable from Home and Away. Russell Dykstra has appeared on such hit Aussie shows as Wild Boys, Blackjack, and Spirited. The amazingly beautiful Daniella Cormack who is quickly making a huge name for herself is recognizable from Xena: Warrior Princess, City Homicide, East West 101, Underbelly: Razor and, most recently, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Noting was spared with the casting of guest actors, as well. Lisa McCune (Sea Patrol), Sacha Horler (Small Time Gangster, Offspring & Crownies), Damon Herriman (Love My Way, Breaking Bad, Wilfred and Justified) and Richard Carter (East West 101, City Homicide and White Collar Blue) are all top-notch in their roles. There are also some real gems making guest appearances. David Field (Water Rats, City Homicide, Wild Boys, Blackjack) makes an appearance in episode four as a man accused of the murder of a 15 year old boy. As with everything he is in, Field delivers a powerful performance worthy of award. One of my very favorite actors, award winning and multi-nominated Sam Neill shines as Dr. Bruce Chandler in episode five. The regular cast of Rake PLUS Sam Neill. Could it get any better than that? I think not!
I don't believe viewers from the United States should have any problems adapting to this being an Australian series. There isn't too much Aussie slang in the dialogue and from the legal standpoint, the atmosphere of the show is almost like watching an episode of Law & Order except the lawyers wear wigs and robes, as well as the judge. Minutes into the first episode, American viewers should feel right at home and comfortable with their surroundings and really enjoy the series. I personally think this series as as strong, if not stronger, than any series on American television. Rake can hold its own against the likes of Law & Order, Breaking Bad, Monk, Republic of Doyle (Canadian, and another excellent show I highly recommend) and White Collar.
Rake began airing on ABC1 in November 2010 with the first season containing eight episodes. ABC1 commissioned a second series of Rake which began production in April 2012. A date has yet to be given for the second series premiere but I am assuming since Rake was a summer series the first time around (November is summer in Australia) it will be the same for series two. If so, November can't get here fast enough for this viewer!
If you are a fan of well written, smart, very unique story lines and characters who are all over the personality map and delivered by some of Australia's finest then you will most definitely enjoy Rake. It's a series that I hope has a long and healthy life on Aussie television so that it will have a long and healthy life on DVD here in the States!