Mercado on TV: Drama burst – Black B*itch, Frayed & Playing for Keeps

• Why are we trying to make the next Offspring or Big Little Lies?

Black B*tch changed its name to Total Control (Sunday on ABC) after a backlash over its provocative title. I get why some were offended, but the intent was for an Aussie show to stand out in a crowded landscape. And are we really only going to do this in Australia, while the rest of the world will know it as Black B*itch?

And why such a terrible new title? Total Control sounds like a Schwarzenegger movie, not something so now, so topical and so authentic.

Anyway, Deborah Mailman, Rachel Griffiths and Blackfella Films never disappoint, and this one, whatever it’s called, is right up there with the best of them. Must-see.

The other brilliant new Aussie series is Frayed (Wednesday on ABC). Sammy (played by comedian and creator Sarah Kendall) and her two pasty teenagers lob arrive in Newcastle after things go horribly wrong in London. And this is a hugely impressive debut for Kendall. Must-see.

Frayed is gloriously unhinged. It also pulls off the 1980s somewhat better than Les Norton did, especially thanks to Ben Mingay’s hilarious obsession with Dynasty. Actual Dynasty guest star Kerry Armstrong plays his mother, and she is sensational, yet again. It is a reminder that she is one of our greatest. Why she was wasted in SeaChange, playing the still ditzy, one-dimensional Heather Jelly (seriously Nine, she hadn’t evolved in 20 years?) is one of the great TV mysteries of 2019.

Another mystery is the return of Playing For Keeps (Wednesday on 10). It was pretty average in its first outing, but 10 gave it another shot, only to bring it back more boring and bland than before. Here’s a show, with so much potential, not even trying to make a better impression second time around. Yawn.

With the failure of the dreadful Bad Mothers (Nine) and the struggling Secret Bridesmaids’ Business (Seven), maybe it’s time for Aussie free-to-air networks to stop trying to make the next Offspring or Big Little Lies. They are all chasing the same female-skewing audience and it’s not working so how about trying something fresh? Just think carefully about what you are going to call your show.

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