Times­lot a slap in the face for Aussie drama that packs a punch

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FOR a minute there I thought I was go­ing to have to write about The One this week. (‘‘It’s more like I know some­thing’s go­ing to hap­pen, I just don’t know what ex­actly,’’ says Va­lerie ‘‘ The Psy­chic Grandma’’ Brad­shaw.) But— tremen­dous re­lief— the ABC’s pulled some­thing out of I have no idea where and here’s The Slap.

It’s just in the nick of time. I’ve been re­assess­ing my rela- tion­ship with the ABC — or ABC1 any­way — won­der­ing just what it is I get out of it. It’s not en­tirely their fault, they’re on a low in­come these days.

But they’re not hip­pies, they’re not great at pro­duc­ing any­thing cheap and us­able. So I don’t know if they’ve been sav­ing up their money, or maybe Screen Aus­tralia only says yes to two shows a year.

And about that other show. Crown­ies. This is where things go bad. Crown­ies is pretty good. Or it’s cer­tainly not bad. I can’t com­mit to the 22 bill­able hours or how­ever many there are in it — too many, re­ally — but there is no plau­si­ble rea­son why it has to be moved from its times­lot. Other than the es­tab­lished fact that Thurs­day night is one of tele­vi­sion’s killing fields. But Crown­ies is be­ing moved to make way for one of the best dra­mas the ABC has had in years— The Slap.

Ask your­self why The Slap isn’t on a Sun­day night. It’s not like there are more im­pres­sive, ur­gent pro­grams the ABC has to show us. Any­way, all we can do is watch The Slap and be glad it got made at all.

I’m up to the fourth episode, and I’m lov­ing it. I think so far I’ve liked the first episode the best, where the ac­tual slap takes place. The sense of some­thing loom­ing is right there from the start. It’s Hector’s birth­day party, he’s go­ing to be 40 and he’s into every­thing — from the cig­a­rettes he’s try­ing to give up but fished out of the bin in the kitchen, to the bag of drugs one of the guests has brought along, to his kids’ teenage babysit­ter — and the whole day feels as if it’s spi­ralling some place dan­ger­ous.

This is adult tele­vi­sion, and there’s so lit­tle of that around.

I love see­ing a lot of ac­com­plished ac­tors all at the same time as well. Usu­ally it’s about one prop­ping up a lot of strug­gling satel­lites.

I don’t like Thurs­day night, though. It’s stupid. It’s also one of the small­est au­di­ence nights of the week.

Can’t have it all, I guess. The Slap pre­mieres on ABC1, Thurs­day, 8.30pm

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