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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

'Party Tricks' DVD: Aussie Political Drama Shows Some Things Universal


[Editor's Note: This DVD set is formatted for Region 4, as opposed to the U.S. format of Region 1. Playing it in the U.S. requires having a (well worth it) region-free DVD player.]

The uber-awesome lighthearted 2014 Australian political camp drama "Party Tricks" is a great subject for the first official Unreal TV review of a DVD set from uber-awesome Australian DVD producer/retailer Madman Entertainment.

Discovering the Madman releases of both seasons of the U.S. '60s fantasycom "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" led to purchasing and reviewing those sets, which led to exploring the Madman site, which led to writing about Madman generally and its release of the '60s Irwin Allen cult classic scifi series "Land of the Giants"specifically, which will lead to ongoing reviews starting with this one.

One of the best endorsements of "Tricks," which is a highly entertaining tale of a political race between former illicit bedfellows, is that it is the first release in YEARS to pass the test of prompting staying up late to watch an additional episode. The intriguingly presented premise is that front-runner Kate Ballard learns during the pilot that more conservative television journalist David McLeod is challenging her in a race for State Premier, which the series and online research indicates is equivalent to being a super-governor in the U.S.

One wrinkle is that the threat of revealing a now-ended affair of Ballard and McLeod threatens both candidacies, with the lion's share of that risk falling in the Ballard camp. The possibility becoming a probability demonstrates the validity of the concern.

Other relevant irrelevant issues include Ballard not having children, McLeod having a child who does not present an image that supports his candidacy, and a slip of the tongue that causes a not-so-pregnant cause. In other words, Australian politics as usual by U.S. standards.

Other highly recognizable incidents include great concern regarding an accidental cross-over on the campaign trail, an "October surprise" that actually presents an 11th hour crisis, and discord within the ranks.

Flashbacks that open each episode both chart the course of the aforementioned affair and tie into present events. These segments also wonderfully document the developing maturity of our leads in the same manner as the increasing toll of the election on them and their staff.

Although the final episode predictably centers around the election to which the series (my people call them seasons) builds, that result is not predictable. The post-election incidents are even more surprising.

Although Asher Keddie (who seems to be to Australian television today what Jennifer Aniston was to '90s U.S. audiences) and Rodger Corser respectively do terrific jobs as veteran politician Ballard and the more roguish McLoed, Charlie Garber largely steals the show as Ballard speechwriter/confidante Oliver Parkham. The fact that Parkham is gay and has awesome chemistry with his live-in reporter boyfriend is incidental to his character except to the extent that the work duties of Parkham impose great pressure to censor his pillow talk.

The charm of Parkrham relates to his borderline slacker persona that he instantly sheds on needing to spring into action. This relaxed attitude further makes him a much more likable gay best friend to boss Ballard than his flamboyant counterparts in American romcom films. Australian-based site gaynewsnetwork.com.au sums this up well in the enviable headline "Charlie Garber is no Party Trick," and other online interviews show that he is equally awesome in real life.

The only hesitancy related to praising "Tricks" so strongly is fear that it may contribute to an American studio attempting a remake as a series or film. Any "suit" considering this travesty is asked to think back no further than the Fox effort to remake the spectacular Australian dramedy "Rake.," which is slated for additional Unreal TV reviews. A contract clause that requires eating (and not regurgitating) a vegemite sandwich in the event that such a remake fails seems apt.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Tricks" is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.