You can see the logic in sandwiching Rosehaven between Upper Middle Bogan and The Last Laugh – established, popular favourites help launch the newcomer – problem is, unfamiliar, slow-paced Rosehaven’s such a contrast to the well-established characters and fast-moving storylines of Upper Middle Bogan that it looks less good than it possibly is. Or maybe not. It’s hard to tell after just one episode.
Upper Middle Bogan starts with the Brights moving to a much-anticipated new home which Danny has designed. This is his meisterwerk, a house of such architectural brilliance that an import only magazine is coming to interview him about it. But when the rest of the family finally clap eyes on it, Danny’s minimalist dream home quickly goes from much-anticipated to irritating, wanky laughing stock to something each member of the family thinks they can improve upon, with amusing results.
By the end, the house is almost a character in its own right. Something that along with Brianna’s quest to get onto reality TV with her partner Younis should provide laughs-a-plenty for the rest of the series. In contrast, Rosehaven, like the sleepy rural town it’s set in, took a more relaxed pace when it came to setting up characters, plots and laughs for the future.
When we meet best friends Emma and Daniel, they’re about to move out of their shared flat in inner-city Melbourne as she gets married and he moves back to his hometown in rural Tasmania to help out at his Mum’s run real estate agency. They’re both full of hope and optimism for their new lives, but within days, possibly within hours, of Emma’s Bali honeymoon kicking off, she realises she’s made a mistake and, not keen to face her family just yet, she flies to Tasmania and surprises Daniel just as he’s coming to terms with the fact that he’s back in the rural town he gleefully escaped a decade ago, trying to run a small business that he doesn’t know how to run. Oh, and some of his Mum’s tenants used to bully him at school, and he really doesn’t know how to deal with them.
As a set-up to a fish-out-of-water sitcom goes, this is textbook. Except, sometimes, it’s hard to know where this is heading and who the main players are. The townsfolk we meet are the standard mix of mildly eccentric rurals, but we don’t spend long enough with them to get a sense of whether we’ll meet them again or not. Similarly, Emma and Daniel are pretty nothing characters. Sure, they have a lot of smart ‘n’ sassy US-comedy-type exchanges, but it’s difficult to get sense of why they’re such good friends. This isn’t Seachange inland or Housos gone rural (phew!) but perhaps it would be better if it was: at least those shows were good at establishing themselves in episode 1.
Will Rosehaven sustain interest over the coming weeks? Hard to tell. But as first episodes go this wasn’t a stand-out. And, consequently, episode two doesn’t feel like a must watch (although we will watch it). Upper Middle Bogan on the other hand, with its well-established character dynamics and good writing, is more than welcome back on our screens.