One of my favourite TV programs of recent years has been Rake. For those who don’t know it follows the adventures of a dissolute and lecherous Sydney barrister, Cleaver Green. He’s always getting himself into awful scrapes and the most unlikely of situations thanks to a big mouth, an insatiable thirst, and a lustful nature that doesn’t know when to quit. He has a heart of gold though, and is loveable in that head-shaking isn’t he an immature rogue kind of way. Hell, he’s just made for trouble.
I think there have been three seasons of Rake, all starring Richard Roxburgh, who is superb as Cleaver, and a great supporting cast. It’s brilliantly written, and has you laughing and groaning in equal measure. It’s that sort of show, but Cleaver is a hero.
Anyway, so it’s become such a cult classic here that the American’s got interested and decided to make their own version. Why no? Though there are aspects of the show which seem very Australian the Yanks are smart enough to get by that. And so they brought in the Australian producers of the show, cast Greg Kinnear in the role of Cleaver (though he’s called something different), and off they went.
Unfortunately this is another one of those stories of an imported TV idea going wrong in American hands. After a half season the show folded, and that was that.
The other night I discovered why it folded. I caught the American Rake late one night and couldn’t recognise it from the Oz version. For fucks sake the whole show is centred on the character of Cleaver, who must have redeeming features to counter-balance the absolutely disastrous things he does. He’s a narcissus sure, but he’s also one of the good guys basically. The show aint going to work unless you like him.
For reasons I cannot fathom the American Cleaver seems to possess all of his bad qualities, but none of his good. In the American version he’s boorish, insensitive and totally lacking in scruple. Cleaver, for all of his faults, is a hugely charming personality, while this one isn’t remotely.
What possesses such clever men to take something and get it so fundamentally wrong? You could argue that they are too clever. He’s good, they think, but what if he tweak this, and change that? And so they change the recipe when the secret is to change as little as possible.
This was hugely disappointing, just as the American Kath & Kim was (but that was never going to work). I’d rate the Australian Rake about a 9 – this one might scrape a 3.