TV serials often tend to favour cop, hospital, and lawyer concepts simply because they offer a vast number of story possibilities and audiences haven’t yet signaled that they’ve tired of them. As such, it’s pretty rare that we see anything new on television. Crownies is the latest lawyer drama to hit the airwaves. It does nothing new with the genre, but it does what it does quite well. And sometimes, that can be more than enough.
Crownies is a 22 part series that sets its focus on a group of young solicitors working as Crown Prosecutors. They’re all young, nubile sorts who seem to be just as committed to their clients as they are to the culture that surrounds the legal profession. It’s a fairly simple concept that allows for a lot of relationship drama as well as tense emotionally wrought scenes with clients who have suffered severe hardship. Stories like these are the bedrock upon which TV dramas are built.
There is a lot to like about Crownies as a series. Beyond the strong cast and solid production values, the show offers a considered, nuanced approach to the relationship hierarchies that exist within an environment such as this.
Crownies goes to considerable length to show that there are two cultures at play within the (fictional) Office of the Department of Public Prosecution. While the series primarily looks at the young solicitors working in the department, it goes to great length to highlight the difference between them and the Barristers working at higher levels. The youth are filled with the passion that comes from being in your mid-20’s and developing relationships with those around you, while dealing directly with the highly emotive situations that surround their clients. Meanwhile the Barristers have been through all of that and have come out at the end with their profession dominating their lives, having developed far more mature relationships (both professional and personal) with their peers.
Viewers may find themselves surprised by the tone of this series. With so much of the emphasis from Publicity on the ‘sexy young lawyers’, the show is actually a relatively subtle show with a quiet air about it. There’s no flashy camerawork, sharp edits, or pumping soundtrack. Instead, the world of Crownies feels somewhat muted in comparison to most other legal dramas. The show reminded me a lot of the tone I felt from the US drama series 100 Centre Street (produced by Sidney Lumet).
Crownies isn’t likely to have all of Australia talking about it after it airs (beyond a number of people finding it ‘boring’ and switching off), but I do think that the show will generate a loyal viewership through its run. With a quiet, nuanced tone and somewhat complex character interplay, the show will play well to a more traditional ABC audience. One that, I feel, is hungering for an Australian production just like this.