A crack­ing ex­er­cise in naval gaz­ing

Sea Pa­trol 8.30pm, Nine

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Ian Cuth­bert­son

IN the great Aussie tra­di­tion that brought you two sea­sons of Pa­trol Boat ( sea­son one, 1979; sea­son two, 1983) and six sea­sons of Wa­ter Rats ( 1996- 2001) comes Sea Pa­trol, a big bud­get, 13- episode minis­eries based on the Royal Aus­tralian Navy Pa­trol Boat Ser­vice, whose job is to po­lice and pro­tect our na­tion’s coast­line.

We care about our borders, we care about our fish stocks and, as the Prime Min­is­ter once said, we like to think we can de­cide who comes here and the man­ner in which they come.

So if Blue Heel­ers, in which Sea Pa­trol lead Lisa McCune made her television de­but, can be a hit for 13 years, surely a 13- part minis­eries star­ring the good lady, with a bud­get big­ger than the latest Packer wed­ding and a fo­cus on border se­cu­rity, can also be a rat­ings win­ner. The Nine net­work will be hop­ing so.

Al­though her role as Lieu­tenant Kate McGre­gor, ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, ( XO to her su­pe­ri­ors) is cen­tral, McCune shares the bridge of the HMAS Ham­mer­s­ley with her threat­ened and slightly pushy boss Lieu­tenant Com­man­der Mike Flynn, played with hairy- chested viril­ity and al­pha male con­trol is­sues by Ian Sten­lake ( Stingers).

There’s a string of other, mostly male, char­ac­ters to stretch the plots and heighten the predica­ments, with lots of amuse­ment at the ex­pense of the hap­less ( and sea­sick) 18- year- old bo­sun’s mate Billy ‘‘ Spi­der’’ Webb ( Jay Ryan).

Nat­u­rally, Flynn and McGre­gor have his­tory of the in­ti­mate kind, al­luded to only as ‘‘ that other thing’’. The sex­ual ten­sion will doubt­less sim­mer away like a laksa on the stove for the en­tire se­ries. The Ham­mer­s­ley is a small ship, you see, with cor­ri­dors like a sub­ma­rine, and XO McGre­gor is a big ship kind of gal.

The other wo­man on the ship is nav­i­ga­tor Lieu­tenant Nikki Cae­tano, played with mild cat­ti­ness by Saskia Burmeis­ter. She and McGre­gor have a his­tory, too, but of a dif­fer­ent kind.

With a theme wor­thy of James Bond and glo­ri­ous footage of our coastal wa­ters and shores, Sea Pa­trol sweeps over you like a well- made fea­ture film. It looks ter­rific and, de­spite a cer­tain pre­dictabil­ity in the set- up and char­ac­ter types and some un­likely touchy- feely stuff nes­tled amid the blokey ban­ter (‘‘ you did a great job, mate’’, ‘‘ you’ll make a great dad one day’’), there’s enough go­ing on to en­sure viewer ap­peal.

Tonight an in­ter­cepted boat, fish­ing il­le­gally in Aus­tralian wa­ters, is ap­pre­hended, but an on­board cook­ing mishap cre­ates a drama of its own. Mean­while, a re­searcher strug­gles to sur­vive paral­y­sis on the blighted shores of Bright Is­land.

Dou­ble trou­ble for HMAS Ham­mer­s­ley and a crack­ing be­gin­ning to a promis­ing new show.

Rid­ing a wave: Lisa McCune stars in Sea Pa­trol

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