Plot: Cleaver Greene (Richard Roxburgh) is not your typical barrister, both in his life choices and his preference in clients. He has a chain of broken relationships, has a passion for a former prostitute, skirts numerous financial issues, and just being an overall sketchy person. But in the courtroom he is able to shine and given some of the clients he has represented, that is a minor miracle. Cleaver loves to defend the kind of clients that no one else would want, hopeless cases or outlandish clients that need help in desperate times. He has no concern over the crimes involved either, from murder to cannibalism. The contrast between his train wreck personal life and brilliant presence in the courtroom is obvious, but somehow he makes it all work. But with new cases around every corner and new temptations each day, can Cleaver manage to stay one step ahead forever?
Entertainment Value: This review covers the original Rake, an Australian dark comedy series that stars Richard Roxburgh. So if you want the American remake with Greg Kinnear, no such luck here. As frequent readers know, I love dysfunction and mean spirited drama in my entertainment, so Rake manages to hit that sweet spot with a ton of both. The series offers courtroom based drama, but soaks it in dark humor that at times, can be pitch black. While we often see eccentric, selfish characters on redemption paths, in this first season, Cleaver has no such aspirations. The show embraces his dark side and makes no excuses, he is just a bad person who happens to be good at his job. I appreciate that approach, as it often feels overly forced when otherwise dark characters are sent on some kind of redemption threads. I found the show to be hilarious, with consistently effective humor. This is achieved through both skilled writing and some terrific performances. I’m sure the subject matter ensures that Rake isn’t for all fans of courtroom dramas, however. This one can be mean, sexual, and deal with some touchy subjects, so know that going in.
As I mentioned, Rake has some great performances involved. Richard Roxburgh leads the charge as Cleaver and he sets the pace for the entire cast. Roxburgh runs with the character’s dark streak and makes the most of it, so it is hilarious to watch him take things so far. I think being allowed to embrace the lesser qualities of the role makes a big difference, as the character wouldn’t be as effective if he was neutered by having to be apologetic or seek redemption. The cast also includes solid performances from Adrienne Pickering, Matt Day, Danielle Cormack, Russell Dykstra, and others. While Roxburgh is the star of the show, the supporting cast is able to provide much entertainment, so they never feel like second class citizens. The show also boasts some impressive guest stars who also stand out, such as Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill, and Rachel Griffiths. I had a great time with this first season and while it only lasts eight episodes, each one is well crafted and there’s no filler whatsoever. I’d much rather have a shorter season with higher quality, than a bloated, longer season. If you like courtroom dramas with a dark humor slant, you should check out Rake: Series 1.