Mercado on TV: Strife, The Royal Hotel, and Stan’s doco Ben Roberts-Smith: Truth on Trial

‘It’s Paper Giants crossed with Offspring but sadly, a pale imitation of both’

Strife (Binge) is the new Aussie series about the creation of a women’s digital publishing empire. With Asher Keddie in the lead role, it’s a bit Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo (Stan) crossed with Offspring (Paramount+) but sadly, it’s a pale imitation of both.

Strife’s biggest problem is that we’ve seen all this before, and this version has nothing new to add. Everything revolves around an unlikeable, privileged editor Evelyn (Asher Kidder), which makes everyone else in the cast an afterthought.

It’s a shame to see talent like Tina Bursill, Matt Day and Jonathon LaPaglia being wasted in favour of lame workplace gags about tampons. Strife thinks it’s edgy, but it’s not. Nor does any of Strife ring true, which seems odd given it’s based on Mia Freedman’s autobiography about Mamamia.

Asher Keddie in Strife

Another local production that has similarly dire script issues is The Royal Hotel (next Friday on Binge). Two Canadian backpackers head to a remote outback mining town to get work as barmaids because apparently, they can’t find a job anywhere else in Australia. Seriously?

Not surprisingly, the one pub town is overpopulated with drunk men who leer at the girls. A sense of dread keeps growing about what awful thing might happen, only for – plot spoiler – nothing to happen, except for an absurd ending.

Any suggestion that this is a new version of Wake In Fright (1970) is wishful thinking. Despite some incredible drunk acting from Hugo Weaving, and great performances from Julia Garner, Jessica Fenwick, Ursula Yovich, Daniel Henshall, James Frecheville and Toby Wallace, The Royal Hotel is a dead end.

Will movies on streamers hurt cinemas?

It’s also very odd programming in the lead-up to Christmas. The Royal Hotel is being streamed just three weeks after opening in cinemas, instead of waiting out the usual three-month window. Having once owned an independent cinema, I wonder how any of them will survive into the future with strategies like this. If you’re making a movie for a streamer, you should bypass cinemas, instead of using them to build buzz (and the same applies to Saltburn, which opened in cinemas on November 16, and is now being rushed onto Prime from December 22).

Anyway, rant over, and surely there must be something decent worth tuning into? Indeed there is, and it’s the latest in the Revealed documentary series (Sunday on Stan) with Ben Roberts-Smith: Truth On Trial (Sunday on Stan) telling the astounding search for justice from legendary journalists Chris Masters and Nick McKenzie.

Amongst grubby chequebook journalism, and the rush to give every comment a headline, no matter how vile or untrue, it’s good to know that good journalism can still thrive. Along with Nine newspapers colleague Kate McClymont, they are the best in the business.

Chris Masters and Nick McKenzie in Ben Roberts-Smith: Truth On Trial

Welcome to TV Gold: 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 – [email protected].

This week: Strife, Time, The Royal Hotel, Ben Roberts-Smith: Truth on Trial

Three big drama releases this week, all featuring strong female lead characters plus we have another Australian documentary original from Stan.

The three dramas are Asher Keddie as a character “inspired” by Mia Freedman in Strife (Binge, series); Julia Garner and Jessica Henwick as backpackers in The Royal Hotel (Binge, movie); and Jodie Whittaker, Bella Ramsey and Tamara Lawrence on the wrong side of the law in the second season of Time (BBC First, series).

Time (Season 2)

Andrew also talks about the Australian original documentary Ben Roberts-Smith: Truth on Trial (Stan) and James has a preview of Archie, the dramatized biography of Cary Grant, a series they will be discussing next week.

Listen online here, or on your favourite podcast platform.

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