Colin Hogg on television

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Colin Hogg: Black drama in The Blue Rose

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Westie stars ease themselves into more watchable local TV.

The Blue Rose. Photo / South Pacific Pictures
The Blue Rose. Photo / South Pacific Pictures

New local TV drama and comedy arrives a bit like the buses - none for ages, then here they come all at once. And being the little and under-populated place we are, they come with stars who are often very familiar.

Last night two faces famous from the late and legendary Outrageous Fortune popped up in an all-new crime thriller especially written for them by the Outrageous writers, Rachel Lang and James Griffin.

On first sniff, though, The Blue Rose (8.30pm, TV3) was a slightly disappointing flower - not much scent to it and sometimes not much sense either. But last night's was the first episode, of course, and the plot may well thicken interestingly over the next few weeks.

Those Outrageous Fortune exes are Antonia Prebble and Siobhan Marshall, now living in an upmarket world far away from the Westie grunge of their old show. Prebble plays mousy Jane Marsh, a temp at a swanky Auckland law firm, and Marshall is Linda, an angry courier company manager.

The woman whose job Jane has stepped into, she discovers, was found floating face down in the harbour. She was Linda's best friend, which is one of the reason's Linda's so angry.

With almost outrageous speed, the unlikely pair convince themselves there's some dark link between the death and the law company. Everything's dark-hued and tense - so tense it fizzes. And the characters are painted simple - Jane so nice, so easily bullied, you'd walk away from her if she wasn't Antonia Prebble and Linda so crazy only a stage 4 masochist would befriend her.

Jane is that masochist, prepared to sacrifice career, boyfriend and personal safety to get to the bottom of whatever it is that's going on at the big scary law firm she's only just joined. Before you know it, they've managed to guess the password on a mysterious hard drive Jane found hidden at her desk and they're off and running, pursued by an overwrought IT guy (played by Rajeev Varma).

There's also an office bitch (called Krystle), a nasty-looking chap in charge, a nice young lawyer and a mysterious ex-accountant (Jennifer Ludlam).

Those worries aside, The Blue Rose does look terrific, managing to make Auckland just like the sort of place where bodies might float in the harbour and all the good guys are bad.

In another recent arrival featuring an ex Outrageous Fortune star, the new comedy series Agent Anna launched last Thursday night (8.30, TV One). This one is a showcase for Robyn Malcolm, who had the idea for the series, based round the adventures of Anna Kingston, a shy and well-meaning middle-class, middle-aged mother of two forced to take a job in real estate after her husband runs off and leaves her without means.

"I love houses, I just never thought I'd end up selling them," says Anna as she sets out to swim in a sea of sharks and sleazes and snobby ex-friends.

This is a comedy of awkwardness - The Office on the streets of Epsom - and Malcolm catches her hopeless, helpless character perfectly in her awful beige skirt, listening to her "Twelve Steps to Success" CD and trying to convince herself that being nice might be a plus in real estate.

It's a wince-a-minute show, actually a bit grim on first encounter - but maybe that's not a bad place to start. I'll certainly be back for more.

- NZ Herald

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