Viewers would be forgiven for slowly backing away when they first heard of TVNZ's latest attempt at a local drama, given how variable the genre's been in this country.

And with its promises of intrigue set in a world of very wealthy people behaving badly, The Bad Seed - the five-night TV event currently screening on TVNZ 1 - sounded very much like some of the flawed efforts that have come before. (I'm looking at you, Filthy Rich.)

Production still from 'The Bad Seed', 2018. Photo / Supplied
Production still from 'The Bad Seed', 2018. Photo / Supplied

But those who have dipped their toes into this mini-series so far will no doubt be relieved that The Bad Seed has, for the most part, avoided much of what derailed some of those earlier projects.

Based on two Charlotte Grimshaw novels, the series kicked off its five-night run on Sunday with the murder of a woman in her posh Remuera abode.


The attack takes place across the street from one of two families that are central to the series narrative, the Lamptons. Simon Lampton (Matt Minto) is a well-regarded obstetrician who lives in his beautiful home with his wife Karen (Jodie Hillock), their daughters, and his drifter of a brother, Ford (Dean O'Gorman).

A scene from 'The Bad Seed', 2018. Photo / Supplied
A scene from 'The Bad Seed', 2018. Photo / Supplied

Initially a witness to the violent crime across the road, Simon soon becomes the number one suspect, with Detective Marie Da Silva (Madeleine Sami) determined to pin the crime on him.

As that particular story thread unfolds, the Lamptons also become involved with wealthy couple David and Roza Hallwright (Xavier Horan and Chelsie Preston Crayford), who are on the campaign trail as David bids to become New Zealand's next Prime Minister.

We're now three episodes deep into The Bad Seed's run, with each chapter adding a new layer to the stories of these intertwined families.

Simon has been especially busy, what with that murder investigation he's trying to avoid, at least one affair that we know of, getting caught up in Roza's ulterior motives, and returning to the scene of his violent, extremely dysfunctional childhood.

Production still from 'The Bad Seed', 2018. Photo / Supplied
Production still from 'The Bad Seed', 2018. Photo / Supplied

Since Sunday, we've also been skirting around David's election bid, been introduced to a blogger looking for dirt on Roza, and kept tabs on Detective Da Silva's investigation - all endeavours that have felt a bit uneven at times. The Prime Minister-in-waiting has had very little to say thus far, while the murder inquiry storyline has been a bit paint-by-numbers, which is a shame given a talent like Sami is the one having to work with it.

Prior to The Bad Seed going to air, Grimshaw said an initial screenplay she saw for the show was cliched and outdated to the point that she wanted to set it on fire. And even though new writers have largely wiped that cliche-riddled slate clean, it still feels like some residual rubbish was left behind.

During a disagreement with his wife, for example, Simon spits out: "Now you're trying to plunder my soul?" I don't know about you, but that sounds nothing like what a real person would say to their spouse when they're tired and angry at the end of a long day.

The story is also fond of a little groan-inducing metaphor. Around the same time Simon becomes a murder suspect, his arborist brother Ford is examining a rotting tree in the backyard. "Everything falls apart" when the inside is rotten, apparently. Subtle.

But those are all minor quibbles considering the overarching storyline is still compelling. There have been some good twists and turns, including one quite sensational reveal during the second episode.

And I'm genuinely intrigued as to where The Bad Seed will go over its final two nights, particularly with Ford. O'Gorman has been quite excellent as this delightfully roguish brother whose demeanour has become more sinister with every episode.

The show is also beautifully shot with the kind of moody undertones that feel perfect for viewing on the darker, cooler nights that have finally arrived.

The Bad Seed is far from the model TV drama, but even with its faults, it serves up a very good case for more small screen adaptations of New Zealand fiction. I'm hoping this is just the beginning of such a trend.

The Bad Seed continues on TVNZ 1 tonight at 8.30pm