Russell Baillie

Russell Baillie is the Herald’s entertainment editor

TV Review: Outrageous Fortune finale

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 Outrageous Fortune 's final episode starring Robyn Malcolm as Cheryl West. Photo / Supplied
Outrageous Fortune 's final episode starring Robyn Malcolm as Cheryl West. Photo / Supplied

It started with a wedding and an off-screen funeral.

It ended with another backyard nuptials, a restored Valiant and, fancy that, a piss-up.

In between, the last and by no means the least of Outrageous Fortune's six seasons found time to bang up its leading character in prison and somehow thrived. Oh what a clever show.

Cheryl West went inside on a murder charge, which in an odd way let her offspring - and the actors playing them too - finally cut the strings to her leopard-print apron.

With the charge dropped in the penultimate episode, Cheryl was able to go home to that familiar brick house and let the show wrap things up nicely.

Last night delivered a satisfying, if uneventful, conclusion. That's unless you count the 3News/Campbell Live build-up earlier in the evening to the end of a TV era.

It was a finale that left no questions unanswered. Other than perhaps, has it ever rained in West Auckland in the last five years? And why stop now with these ratings?

But it was all still neatly elliptical and felt like all part of a greater plan by its award-laden creators.

At the beginning of season one back in 2005, Cheryl West declared the clan was going straight after a life spent, as the phrase goes, being known to police.

Her then hubby, Wolf, was back inside. In season six it was Cheryl who was the remanded jailbird after fatally wounding Detective Sergeant Zane Gerard on her front steps at the conclusion of season five when the bad cop raided a backyard wedding.

Last night ended with another as Van married his Russian import sweetheart as the sweet conclusion to season six's romantic comedy subplot.

But the latter parts of this series have had big deep darker currents.

Pascalle and Wayne's relationship, which blossomed while her mum and his girlfriend - being the same person, Cheryl - was locked up, was the show's last big dare.

It at least made former cop Wayne fallible after a long time spent being the only upstanding member of society among the leading characters. And it made both actors - Kirk Torrance and Siobhan Marshall - the emotional hub of this final series.

Meanwhile, Loretta (Antonia Prebble), the character with the greatest arc and wardrobe improvements of the past five years, has basically become Cheryl II, albeit while being a mother of one and a brothel-keeper of many colourful employees.

Also in the final episodes, the screen sleight of hand when Antony Starr as Van has been acting opposite himself as Jethro has long gone past the hall-of-mirrors novelty factor into something remarkable.

While largely out of the the spotlight this season, Robyn Malcolm's final scenes last night capped the greatest combo of actress and character our small screen has ever seen. Even if the final show required she do some fairly standard-issue hysterics, mostly involving Pascalle, along the way.

Why has it worked? Because it's always been a clever show happy to play dumb. It might have started out as local low-rent answer to The Sopranos but the show it most resembles in a way is The Simpsons.

Outside the family core, most everybody else is living breathing cartoon character. Why else would we have put up with someone like grandad all these years?

That combo worked a treat right up to the end. The final shot had our Cheryl gazing from that famous deck out across the West Auckland as the guitars of Th'Dudes' Be Mine Tonight fanned the glow in her cigarette.

Nice ending. Great show. You will be missed.

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