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    Mercado on TV: Ladies in Black transition from film to TV is seamless and brilliant

    Ladies In Black (Sunday on ABC) is the latest Australian movie to be turned into a TV series. This version re-casts every one of the original characters, which is a bold move to make considering how many others needed at least one actor for continuity. There is nothing to fear though, because it all clicks from the opening moments, meaning the transition from film to television is seamless and brilliant. 

    The original movie, set in 1959, was a beautiful ode to the era of dressing up in your finest clothes to go department store shopping in the city. Nothing bad happened in the film and everyone got a happy ending but the TV series, now set in 1961, needs some drama. That makes the vibe less joyful, but it’s not a deal breaker. Perhaps one of its messages is how the innocence of the 50s is changing dramatically in the 60s.

    Mercado on TV: Ladies in Black transition from film to TV is seamless and brilliant

    Women in Black: Magda (Debi Mazar) and newcomer Lisa (Clare Hughes)

    Every performance in Ladies In Black is spot on, and any actor putting their own stamp on the original characters does so without taking anything away from the perfect portrayals seen in the film. Everyone, from Claire Hughes, Jessica De Gouw, Azzi Donnelly, Russell Dykstra, Huw Higginson, Sacha Horler, Thom Green, Ngali Shaw, Julian Maroun, Todd McKinney, Peter O’Brien, Kate Box and Carlos Sandor Jr, is wonderful. 

    The scene stealers, however, are Debi Mazar (Magda) and Mirando Otto (Mrs Ambrose) as they snark at each other through clenched teeth. Their ongoing battle for sales, prestige and control of Goodes’ store is quite delicious. Otto’s character is new, but she is very much a welcome addition. 

    Australian movies that spawned TV series

    The first Australian movie to become a TV series was Alvin Purple. Graeme Blundell starred in the hugely successful 1973 movie and 1974 sequel. His 1976 TV series proved to be hugely controversial and not very funny, leading to industrial action at the ABC. 

    It took much longer for The Devil’s Playground (1976) to get a TV follow-up but the wait was worth it because Devil’s Playground (2014) with Simon Burke (Tom) was superb. Given the results of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse came out in 2017, perhaps a third and final TV series could wrap up this story even more.

    Ladies in Black: Virginia Ambrose (Miranda Otto)

    The Heartbreak Kid (1993) was quickly turned into Heartbreak High (1994) and the reboot series (2020) is now a global sensation for Netflix. Although Alex Dimitriades, Doris Younane and Nico Lathouris were in the movie and original TV series, only Scott Major (Rivers) has appeared across all three versions.

    Romper Stomper (1992) became a TV series for Stan in 2018. Dan Wylie, Jacqueline McKenzie and John Brompton all revisited their roles, but the series had limited appeal, given the awful events from the film. 

    Stan also commissioned two TV series of Wolf Creek (2016) following two movies. John Jarratt will soon return as outback killer Mick Taylor but it will be for a third movie, not another TV series.

    The new TV production of Ladies In Black is from Bunya Productions and they have form in this area. Mystery Road (2013) and Goldstone (2016) continued with two series of Mystery Road on TV (2018 and 2020) along with a prequel Origin (2022).

    ABC is commissioning another series of Mystery Road: Origin and that is great news. Surely it is only a matter of time before they make a similar announcement about Ladies In Black, which is close to being the best local drama of the year.

    TV Gold: New episode of Mediaweek’s weekly TV podcast

    Listen now on your favourite podcast platform for 30 minutes of TV reviews and recommendations every week from Mediaweek’s Mercado on TV columnist Andrew Mercado and editor-in-chief James Manning.

    We want your comments, feedback and questions –

    This week on TV GoldLadies in Black, Clipped, The Cleaner

    This week on TV Gold, a US docudrama with two Australian lead actors, a quirky UK comedy and a much-anticipated Australian drama.

    Clipped (Disney+, 6 episodes) tells the story of the owner of the LA Clippers NBA team and the trouble he got into over secretly recorded racist comments. Playing the wife and the mistress of the Clippers owner are Aussies Jackie Weaver and Cleopatra Coleman.

    The Cleaner (ABC/iview and BritBox) stars Greg Davies as a cleaner working on murder scenes after the police finish with the scene. The two series feature some notable guest stars including Helena Bonham Carter, Mark Lewis Jones, Harriet Walter and Zoe Wanamaker.

    Ladies in Black (ABC/iview, 6 episodes) continues some of the storylines from the 2018 movie of the same name. The key cast is Debi Mazar, Miranda Otto, Jessica De Gouw and they are joined by newcomer Clare Hughes who has an impressive screen presence in her first professional role. A huge supporting cast includes Sascha Horler, Carlos Sanson Jr, Ngali Shaw, Todd McKenny, Krew Boylan, Gemma Ward, Hazem Shammas, and scene-stealer Peter O’Brien as a flamboyant fashion photographer.

    Listen online here, or on your favourite podcast platform.

    The post Mercado on TV: Ladies in Black transition from film to TV is seamless and brilliant appeared first on Mediaweek.

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