Calum Henderson writes about (mainly terrible) television.

Calum Henderson: Westside romps its way down nostalgia lane

Rita West (played by Antonia Prebble) is out of prison and back to sorting out the family affairs. Photo /. Supplied
Rita West (played by Antonia Prebble) is out of prison and back to sorting out the family affairs. Photo /. Supplied

The first big revelation to come out of Westside season two: Walking In Light by Th' Dudes. The 1979 single may have avoided the Nature's Best ubiquity of the band's other hits, but it's still an absolute belter of a tune.

That disco beat! Peter Urlich's 'Kiwi Mick Jagger' vocals! Dave Dobbyn's searing double-tracked guitar solo!

The song's opening bars provide a perfect soundtrack to the opening scenes of the Outrageous Fortune prequel's season premiere, as Rita (Antonia Prebble) returns to the iconic West family brick-and-tile after being released from Christchurch Women's Prison. Dobbo's climactic solo arrives not a minute later, as she reunites with husband Ted (David de Lautour) in a toilet stall down at the tavern.

After the first series tore through the 70s like a Kiwi Forrest Gump, with various historical New Zealand events playing out in the background of each episode, the new series opens in the summer of 1981. A pretty chilled out year, no major social or political events to speak of - certainly none that John Key can remember anyway.

Rita arrives back in West Auckland to find her family has predictably gone to the dogs while she was behind bars. To be more precise, they've gone to the Horsemen. After a run of juvenile delinquency, her son Wolf (Reef Ireland) has ended up living with the local biker gang as a prospect.

Ireland bears an uncanny resemblance to Grant Bowler, the grown-up Wolf from Outrageous Fortune, and is the other big revelation of the second season so far. He makes an impressive debut as the young career criminal who later in the season will, it's safe to assume, cross paths for the first time with the teenaged Cheryl.

Getting Wolf back from the gang is Rita's first priority as a free woman, but as Ted warns, "it's a delicate political situation". Relations between his crew and the Horsemen have been on thin ice ever since a gang member called Cannonball broke his mate's girlfriend's jaw. "That was not good," the wry old gang leader admits to Ted at one stage, "but she had just glassed Cannonball in the face."

There's a slightly oddball, Ronald Hugh Morrieson quality to its shady characters and larger-than-life crime capers.

Given the choice between comedy or realism, Westside leans instinctively towards comedy - there's a slightly oddball, Ronald Hugh Morrieson quality to its shady characters and larger-than-life crime capers. It's fitting for a show that seems like a hell of a lot of fun to make, from wardrobe or hair and makeup recreating 1981's hottest bogan trends to the set designers going to town on period Tupperware pieces.

Rita's old pawn shop in particular is overflowing with vintage tat, along with a box of rare Clarice Cliff pottery her employee Eric has been stealing to order for the Horsemen. "What kind of girly gang collects art deco ceramics?" Rita wonders. One with an equally strong-willed matriarch - this one with a penchant for colourful antiques - calling the shots. Once she and Rita get to talking they're soon on a fast track to doing what the men couldn't and sorting out the simmering conflict once and for all. "Jesus Rita," Ted spews, "it's a long game!"

Everything seems to be neatly resolved by the end of the first episode, which culminates in a slapdash boxing match between Ted's mate Phineas and the aggressively-mulleted gang man Cannonball. It may not be altogether convincing, but it leaves a clean slate from which to restart the new season.

By now, we know exactly what to expect - a darkly comic mix of disorganised crime, family melodrama and unabashed Kiwi nostalgia.

An earlier version of this review had Th'Dudes guitarist Ian Morris as the singer of Walking in Light.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 09 Dec 2016 20:52:09 Processing Time: 387ms