Are you ever out with a group of people and you look around the room and realise that you’re surrounded by a bunch of obnoxious couples that can do nothing but discuss the banalities of their upper-middle class lives? It’s boring, unpleasant and at times it’s downright irritating. Welcome to Wonderland, a new Aussie drama beginning next week on TEN.
The central conceit of the show is that a bunch of people are living in an apartment block in Sydney called Wonderland – an Australian solution to Melrose Place if you will. The characters include tightly wound lawyer, Grace (Brooke Satchwell), notorious womaniser Tom (Michael Dorman) , PR worker and bride-to-be Dani, her fiance Steve (Ross) and his sister Miranda (Anna Bamford). Also joining them are married couple Collete (Emma Lung) and Rob (Ben Mingay), as well as Brazilian exchange student Marcos (Carlos De Santos). For the record, I had to cheat and look up a cast list for this review, because after the episode finished, I could confidently name about three characters.
We enter the story on the day of Dani and Steve’s wedding. That’s about it in terms of plot. Oh and Tom is a commitment-phobe who is constantly bedding Wonderland’s new residentss, so he signs a contract vowing to abstain for a whole year. I sense sexy shenanigans may be afoot in the future. If anything else happened over the course of the hour, I’ve already forgotten it, which probably speaks for how memorable it was.
I’ll admit that I was snickering a little during an awkward marriage proposal by Tom’s girlfriend smack in the middle of someone else’s wedding. The cast seems to play off each other quite well, and by the episodes end, there were a couple of hints towards story arcs that could potentially be interesting if you squint a little. I just wish the whole thing didn’t feel so generic. Unfortunately, that’s about all the positivity I’m willing to grant here.
Set in Bondi Beach, the aesthetics are nice. Unfortunately, that’s symptomatic of the entire show. Surface, not substance. Ten have ordered 22 episodes of this straight off the bat, and I can only hope for their sake that things pick up, and that they pick up fast. Given that scripted Australian drama is a field I’d very much like to end up in one day, I try to always keep an open mind when something new makes it to the air. My initial thoughts upon viewing promo material for the show were that it all seemed very bland. Unfortunately, watching the opening episode did little to quell those fears.
Above everything else, I felt disappointment when I was watching this. I felt like there were wasted opportunities at every bend. Wonderland might be the new address of Australian drama, but it’s certainly not the address of diversity. There’s that Brazilian student who pops up every now and again, and apparently Dani has a greek background, but apart from that, we’ve got a bunch of white, heterosexual, conventionally attractive late-twenty-somethings.
If Wonderland was setting out to be a cross-section of contemporary Australian society, exploring the ups-and-downs of adulthood in this fast-paced world, then they’ve missed the mark by several thousand kilometres. This sort of representation might be acceptable for Channel Nine reality shows, but I expected a lot more from TEN.
The bottom line? Wonderland is an hourlong Frankenstein-ing of trite romcom scenes, in a world populated by generically attractive characters who do very little to separate themselves from the pack. Decent performances from the ensemble help to elevate the material, and the production values are generally quite high, but that’s about it. If things don’t improve in subsequent episodes, I certainly won’t be moving in.
Wonderland premieres Wednesday 8:30pm on TEN.