It’s been a while since ABC Drama has had a true hit.

Is Cleaver Greene the man to turn its fortunes around?

Rake is a symbolic move on the part of the national broadcaster. The 8-part series represents a renewed push to produce contemporary Australian stories and has won a brash Thursday primetime slot.

Set in Sydney, Rake is an offbeat drama spearheaded by the dynamic Richard Roxburgh as a barrister whose personal life is in disarray, contrasted by his success on the courtroom floor.

As a man Greene is rudderless. There are prostitutes, cocaine dealers, the ATO on his back,  playing part-time dad to the teenage son from his former marriage and being late with child support.

He is snarly, condescending, untrustworthy, given to excess and temptation. This is a bloke who attracts trouble…. when he isn’t dreaming or indulging.

He confides in his call girl Missy (Adrienne Pickering), in sessions that are all-too-brief to soothe his many personal grievances.

“This economic climate is turning every decent bender in this town into a reptile. First my bookie, now my brothel keeper. 12,000 years I’ve been coming to this place. You think I would have accrued some frequent f***er points by now…” he complains.

Greene is also an ardent champion of hopeless cases.

His current case involves a Professor facing a murder charge after advertising on the internet for a dinner date  willing to be consumed. Hugo Weaving plays a cannibal claiming his victim committed suicide. No doubt based on a infamous crime in Germany in 2001, the case is one that Greene is determined to win, despite the disgust of those in his own law firm.

At a dinner party with friends, Greene is able to defend his ethics, which he says sees him win his cases “only 51%” of the time.

“The very reason I get lowlife crooks off is because I care about the law. It’s justice I don’t give a toss about,” he says.

Unlike the eccentric cases that were featured in legal dramas LA Law and Boston Legal, Rake doesn’t have its tongue in its cheek. Instead it is played straight with the reckless Greene providing the colourful extremes.

The supporting cast is solid with restrained performances by those appearing as colleagues, family and friends. Geoff Morrell is terrific as a NSW Attorney-General under fire for hiring the cannibal Professor as an economic consultant. He upholds a line in public but is frank with Greene when he exits a brothel at the same time.

The show has also attracted a stellar guest cast with A-list names. Hugo Weaving is downright spooky as the man who sees no crime in eating his fellow man, and is more concerned that his wife (Sacha Horler) is disappointed with him. If we get performances this good every week it will be worth tuning in for those alone.

Greene shows early signs of a cavalier attitude to women (whether as conquests, workmates or even reporters on the telly), while the script by director Peter Duncan is yet to carve out some female characters who will stand outside of Greene’s shadow.

Scarlett (Danielle Cormack), the wife of his best friend Barney (Russell Dykstra), goes as far as to say, “I’m a woman. I internalise everything until I explode.”

There is a suggestion that Greene could become romantically involved with her.

That Greene is flawed is a dramatic attribute. That he is so unlikeable is rather more concerning. Television is rarely embracing of those we do not like, but if we are fascinated by what makes them tick there is a way forward. There can certainly be no charges that he is one-dimensional.

Roxburgh revels in a charismatic, if sometimes dark, role. He is also a co-producer and co-creator of the piece.

Rake is a step in the right direction for ABC Drama, and a change from the many procedural dramas that dominate our screen. It’s nice to have a drama led by character rather than plot. This is a show that seeks a considered viewer, prepared to entertain an imperfect cavalcade of characters and the many facades of Sin City.

Now the verdict lays with the audience.

Rake airs 8:30pm Thursdays on ABC1.


  1. Great cast and casting in each episode. Production, direction, music and writing…topnotch. Never thought I’d hear Pass the Kerosene, brilliant! I hope that helps The Picklemen. Another season to be broadcast here in California, I hope. looking forward to it.

  2. This show is awesome. In 8 episodes, it’s had virtually everything in it. Richard Roxburgh is great. All his line deliveries are perfect. The supporting cast also great. Bring on more

  3. Lads , job well done I must say. I’ve watched the entire first series and I have thoroughly enjoyed every episode. To the Producers and the network – Please continue making this interesting and enjoyable home grown Australian drama. Most of the crap on television , including foxtel , I cannot stomach, the mainstream commercial free to air stations who have sold their souls to the multi-national supermarkets Coles and Woolworths and provide for our viewing displeasure NCIS , CSI’s , Mentalist , , Biggest Losers , all reality cooking shows , big brother , Law and Order’s, – mediocrity mediocrity mediocrity – No thankyou .
    It’s good to see some Australian’s putting their creative talent together to produce a fine example of Aussie Television. This show has kept me entertained and I rate it highly. I give it 5 stars. Keep the series rolling on Cleave, Andrew and Pete , it has plenty of life left in it lads.

  4. this is absolutely fantastic one of the few things worth watchin on tv generally,i hope the ABC is looking at continuing with more series,after this one,about time someone did something that is as true to real life as this one…
    Well done ABC keep it coming, i think you now have thousands of rake addicts,so dont let them go into withdrawal by leaving it at only one series……
    10 out of 10 for production,scipt writing,and of course cast members, Brilliant.!!!!

  5. Just watched tonight’s episode of Rake…it is just getting better and better! TV is usually not worth recording…Rake is! We are proud of you ABC.

  6. Alex (the 2nd)

    Rake has turned out to be a great show. bloody well done, great aussie talent. whats more fantastic is that our old mate tv hating @Mike was dead set wrong its rating is head off

  7. Watched four episodes and still a fan. It’s getting better every week. Wiity, over the top yet heart wrenching. Roxbourgh has been accompanied by fantastic talent. Couldn’t get over Lisa McClune’s role – I had no idea she could ooze so much sex appeal. Can’t wait to see Sam Neill’s performance this week.

    BTW as others have done – you shouldn’t compare this to any other show including the brilliant Boston Legal. Why? Rake is unique because it’s fair dinkum Australia. The main protagonist is the modern larrikin and I think we should encourage more local talent instead of the drivel you find on commercial channels.

  8. I like it – it’s intelligent, sharp and witty. I’m getting so tired of the American police shows on other channels. It’s just nice for a change. He almost reminds me of a modern, grubbier version of “Rumpole of the Bailey”.

  9. Rake is not bad – it’s just a shame that’s it’s not as good as it could be. It’s not as funny as it could be, nor as dramatic. And Richard R is always cold on screen, even though he no-doubt thinks that he’s hot stuff (he is a co-producer of this). Last night’s ep had a lot of shots of middle-aged naked people on the the job. Not a great look. The ratings dropped accordingly.

  10. Rake is a little like ‘House’ with a scammel, it is a little over wordy and Clever comes across a little too confident. but I will give it time; but not too much.

  11. @ Ducko, I thought people were allowed to express an opinion, or are you one of these types that only allows an opinion when it aligns with your own. Talk about hypocritical. Ducko, not only do you let an opinion affect your responses about a television show, you also accuse a person about having no life for posting, yet you do exactly the same. Some therapy and education so you can learn what an anology is might be of benefit. Deep breaths Ducko, deep breaths.

    @ Trix, your argument sort of unravels there. You do not need to experience something in life to make an informed decision. You base your opinion on the available information on hand. So far the information I have found on Rake is that the show is puerile, shallow, egocentric and laughably trite. If you think you can find brilliance in it, gold star for you.

    Trix a promo is designed to actually want to make the viewer want to watch, not just leap out at you. If it doesn’t then it has failed. Do you actually comprehend people are not going to sample every single drama on tv to see if they like it?

  12. @Mike, precisely due to the fact that promos are designed to leap out and grab viewers’ attention, they often fail to reflect the light, shade and subtleties of programs, as well as how a series develops from its inception through to conclusion. I have no issue with others not seeing the brilliance in programs that I do, but I struggle to respect an opinion when it’s not informed. And I think it might be an idea to heed your own words and accept the fact that some people really will like Rake. Just not you!

  13. Trix, how exactly is the promo supposed to be out of context? You do realise that promos are supposed to portray the show in the best possible light in order to grab viewers, don’t you. If a promo is smug, pretentious and completely unflattering, of course most people won’t tune in.

    Trix, you fail to realise, that I have a life beyond plonking myself in front of a tv and watching any old thing they decide to put on the idiot box. Boring? No, it’s called trusting my judgement and knowing my tastes. I don’t like cliches and I like Richard Roxburgh even less.

    Why don’t you not worry about what I think of the show and just watch it for your own benefit. Not everyone is going to like Rake, I think you really need to accept that.

  14. @Mike, do you actually watch anything on TV? I’m curious that you’d make a judgement on 8 hours of drama time based on a 2 or so minute promo which is out of context, non-indicative and gives only the merest of views of the depth of the series (and is also created by a promo person at the station, not by the creators of the program). Gee, it’d be really boring to decide before you try that something is total crap. I love having my preconceptions of programs shattered from time to time!

  15. @ Nathan. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and smells like a duck. What are the chances of it being a duck. I want Australian shows to succeed, but it seems for the past few years they have been bogged down by terrible writing. I’m not going to like something just for the sake of it and it just being locally produced.

    The ABC doing something new would mean they actually make something new, fresh and relevent, not a nasty pastiche of reused cliched concepts, attitudes and characters. Rake is anything but new.

    @ Son, I think where House works (I don’t really know as I have never watched an episode) is that it is able to draw on the supporting characters a lot more and have a semi ensemble feel to round out Hugh Laurie’s character. Rake just seems to be based around Roxburgh, there’s no room for anyone else.

    @ Trix, why would I subject myself to an experience I know I am going to loathe (Trust me, I know myself better than some internet poster)? I have seen the adverts, and believe me it was more than enough and given the level of superficiality surrounding the premise, that is all that it is deserving of.

    @ Ducko, was there any point to your comment? My first comment was a general comment not directed at any one individual. Feel free to relish Rake, I hope you enjoy it. There’s no need to feel threatened by others that do not share your opinion.

  16. Looked great from the promos but I was slightly disappointed from the first ep. It was still good, but I guess I had set the bar as high as legal shows like Boston Legal which this wasn’t like. But that said, this has some good ingredients, and there’s a lot to like about it so it may develop into a good show. Will keep watching to see how it develops.

  17. You must watch and form your own views. I watched it and enjoyed it and agree with most of the comments – congratulations to the ABC for trying something new – we’ve got to encourage them. For the past few years I have despaired of the ABC ever doing anything right in drama, and wondered if anyone internally had actually read Rain Shadow, or EofE 1&2, or BOR123, before commissioning them. Rake is good – but it’s not great – it’s a little self-conscious, and we’ve seen men who refuse to grow up and whose live’s are a mess quite a few times, but it may settle in to some funny and complex plotting. We need more and diverse Aussie drama from dear old Aunty and this is a great start.

  18. Unlikable characters have worked in the past, Larry David, House, Geoffrey Geiger (Chicago Hope) and lots more, but they thrived because they could stand up to a challenge and we understood them. If Rake surrounds himself with weak women then, likeable or not, he’s weak by association and he won’t have our respect. So hopefully the very skilled creators have got this covered.

  19. @Mike yes we should all be shot for being positive toward a new show, quick where’s the firing squad, at least the ABC is trying something new, did you ever think of that before you decide to put the death mark on the show, at least they are embracing online media in a new way, do you see the commercial channels doing that, no you don’t. Heaven forfend they should do something new.

    • Agreed re some unlikeable characters have worked. House is a great choice because he fascinates us.

      Some FTA networks have offered new shows online before on air. Sea Patrol’s first season did this.

  20. Wow, can’t say I’m shocked at the review David, knew you’d like it. What has shocked me is the handful of positive responses.

    It truly looks abysmal. Though, there’s no need to dwell, I’ve said it all before.

    Though, I particularly love this comment,
    “i think this will be the best local drama on commercial TV this year”. Says a lot about its audience really.

    David, the verdict will be terrible ratings, as always (sans Spicks, Midsomer and Gruen), as it seems the ABC is no longer relevent to the majority of Australians, much like SBS, namely due to poor content. It seems nearly every timeslot is a death slot.

    As a wild guess I’m going to say 500,000.

    Very clever of the ABC to pre-empt its pitiful ratings with the excuse of it being online already.

  21. Finally something that isn’t family based or police based or lonely heart based drama. Finally a channel does something different, something that breaks the mould. Bring it on!

  22. “a barrister whose personal life is in disarray, contrasted by his success on the courtroom floor.” – Now that does sound like your real life barrister, or at least the ones I’ve worked with in Sydney. Sounds like something to not miss. More “Rumpole” than “LA Law”.

  23. Bring it on !! I’m really looking forward to Rake, its all there for us Aussie Drama lovers, Home grown great actors, interesting story lines and best of all NO AD’s.

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