Mercado on TV: Nine’s new Pearl Bay and ABC’s new-age Les Norton

• SeaChange is a bit clunky as it tries to fill in all the gaps

SeaChange returns on a new network (Tuesday on Nine) with a new Pearl Bay after the location moved from Victoria to northern NSW, which is slightly disconcerting at first, because who can’t still picture that town in their heads, despite it not being on TV for nearly two decades? The good news though is Brunswick Heads looks terrific and tropical (sorry Barwon Heads) and it’s so seamless, somebody should investigate if the local fish co-op closed its doors just so this show could move in and take over.

In one of those amazing TV coincidences, both Laura (Sigrid Thornton) and Bob Jelly (John Howard) return to town, after long absences, on the same day, and literally bump into each other. I don’t remember these characters being so over the top, and next to the laconic (scene-stealing) Kev (Kevin Harrington), they come across a bit cartoonish at first, but both settle down by the second episode.

SeaChange is a bit clunky as it tries to fill in all the gaps, but viewers are forgiving of anything if they love the show enough. After all, if a soap villain can be buried alive, dug up as a rotting corpse, and still come back from the dead to cheers from fans (The Freak is back!), then Pearl Bay, which was always a wackier and more off-kilter place than Wentworth, can do whatever it likes.

Directed by Wayne Blair, who also plays a local radio DJ (a la Northern Exposure), new cast members like Brooke Satchwell, Dan Wylie, Katrina Milosevic and Darren McMullen, get off to a good start. Let’s hope though that there is more in store for Heather Jelly who still comes across as a one-note wimpy wife. After Kerry Armstrong’s blistering and multi-faceted guest role on Neighbours, let’s hope she gets to show another side or two here too.

Les Norton (Sunday on ABC) is another show that has had to re-jig its past so its plays better today. Just as SeaChange is now noticeably more diverse, the original Les Norton novels have been toned down and brilliantly re-worked for a modern audience. Some purists may jump up and down but I reckon the “new age” Les (played by newcomer Alexander Bertrand), backed by another incredible Aussie cast (David Wenham, Rebel Wilson, Hunter Page Lochard etc), is a winner.

Corruption is an ongoing theme in SeaChange and Les Norton and it is also at the heart of The Boys (Amazon Prime). For anyone sick to death of Marvel movies, this is the perfect antidote to skewer an overworked genre. A ruthless corporation (led by Elizabeth Shue) pimps out superheroes (including Outrageous Fortune’s Antony Starr) to cities, but behind the capes and costumes, the good guys can be very bad. The Boys is startlingly violent and deeply cynical, but in a world where Sunrise has to apologise after demonising their core audience as “dole bludgers”, is it any wonder we want larger than life heroes to save us, or seachanges to escape to?

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