Winners and Losers

By David Knox on March 4, 2011 / Filed Under Programming, Reviews 33

Underdog females are everywhere on television: in Laid, Offspring, Spirited. Make room for four more: Bec, Frances, Sophie and Jenny.

Winners and Losers is the newest addition to TV’s expanding slate of non-procedural dramas. Seven, which has acknowledged its female skew, now unveils four gals in their 20s. These are inner-city girls on the go, with busy lives cluttered by boyfriends, family, work, gym, dating, iPhones and Facebook. Some live with family, some with a partner and some sharing a warehouse apartment. Presumably there’s a big chunk of the audience that will see a lot of themselves here.

The opening sequence of this contemporary slice of life is cleverly conceived as a montage with an upbeat song (The Cure). As a Facebook invitation to a school reunion interrupts the lives of the four ensemble characters we instantly see how they are linked without necessarily weighing the point-of-view too much one way or another. By the time we zero in on individual stories we already have some understanding of how they fit together.

Rebecca (Zoe Tuckwell-Smith) lives with her boy-next-door bloke (Blair McDonough). Frances  (Virginia Gay) has a corporate job in a Melbourne skyscraper and her own PA (Damien Bodie). Sophie (Melanie Vallejo) is busy with a one-night stand (Scott McGregor) and Jenny (Melissa Bergland) lives at home with her rather daggy, working class family (Denise Scott, Francis Greenslade).

A high school reunion initiated by the very attractive Tiffany Turner (Michala Banas) acts as the catalyst for the four disparate friends linking up once more. During their school years they were the subject of peer-group ridicule. Now under pressure to prove their lives have amounted to something (in only 10 years?), each has hesitations about attending.

“Things would be a whole lot easier if Tiffany had gotten fat,” sighs Jenny.

Similarly, Sophie has failed to realise a medical career and Johns Hopkins Hospital (no less!) keeps calling. That’s some calling, one that I’m not sure was particularly convincing. There is a hint of a deeper personal issue, deflected by constant partying, drug taking and sex.

When the girls eventually front for the reunion they are immediately cut down to size by Turner and her co-horts in bitchy tones reminiscent of Muriel’s Wedding, but without the extreme caricatures that made us laugh. As a resut they are collectively annoying.

But the four draw strength from the bullying and hatch a plan to upstage their longtime nemesis.

“Women ostracise,” insists Frances, “We spread rumours. We do not hit.”

If you are not already familiar with how the Winners aspect of the title features I won’t spoil it for you…

One of the most promising aspects of the series is the casting of the supporting players. It’s great to have Denise Scott, Francis Greenslade (who like Rafters‘ supporting players look set to provide some light relief) and Damien Bodie. Lawrence Mooney is also here. I think I even saw a cameo by Jansen Spencer.

Of the four lead characters Melissa Bergland has the more interesting trajectory, but the broader audience will probably warm to Rebecca (Zoe Tuckwell-Smith).

Aside from a fleeting fantasy moment the opening episode plays it safe, without straying too far into comedy or poignant drama. Personally I would have preferred it to stake a claim a little more. Although it would be tempting to brand the show a “winner” or a “loser” the truth it probably lays somewhere in between.

But opening episodes are all about set-up. It does end on a note that gives it plenty of room to explore, provided we are interested enough in the characters. With such a dominant female point-of-view there is a risk males may quickly size this up as a ‘chick flick.’

As well as a moment of drug-taking there is also an “F” Bomb dropped, which may suggest a 9:30 timeslot. I guess that’s staking a claim….

While the series is created by Bevan Lee, the opening episode is co-written by Lee and Margaret Wilson. Directed by Nicholas Bufalo and produced by Maryanne Carroll (City Homicide), this is another vehicle from Seven’s well-oiled in-house production line.

Overall Winners and Losers feels like the female counterpart to the underrated male dramedy Last Man Standing. It aims its arrow squarely at the very modern woman, who are notoriously complicated creatures, but loyal to the genre when the target is hit.

(Seven is yet to announce an Airdate.)

33 Comments »

  1. franz chong May 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm -

    This isn’t a Sex and the City Copy everybody.The Modern day version of that is known as Desperate Housewives not Winners and Losers.

  2. franz chong May 18, 2011 at 1:20 am -

    It does rather well considering the lack of decent alternatives elsewhere.Not everyone loves Crime Shows or Police Dramas or whatever else there is like documentaries or out of date sitcoms so a good fresh alternative which is none of the above is welcome.

    Jenny does remind us all a little bit of Ugly Betty in some ways.

  3. Sarah May 4, 2011 at 4:19 pm -

    I’m so dissapointed, the premise of the show is great, but the majority of the cast lets the show down! I watched last night’s episode (3.5.11) and physically cringed, the idea of going out to “lose your viriginity at 27″…please. yes I’m well aware it’s a drama and these are fictitious characters but the acting is becoming weaker and weaker every week. The character of Jenny is turning into a joke!
    hope it improves I really want to enjoy it…:(

  4. Barbara April 26, 2011 at 7:06 pm -

    I am enjoying Winners & Losers. I don’t really get into many TV shows but this one has captured me. Love the Australian feel to the show and I don’t think it is daggy. I am disappointed it is not on tonight. How much royal wedding stuff do we need to endure!

  5. Lynne April 6, 2011 at 8:35 pm -

    Packed to the Rafters is a heartwarming, well developed family series which showed aspects of modern family life with adult children, the good and the bad. To have the parents included as an integral part of the family and their needs/desires/failures included in the show was wonderful. As an adult in the same age demographic it was great to have a show to which I could relate. To replace it with winners and losers which shows the constant dramas and self absorption of the young adults from generation “whatever”, childish tit for tat and vengance, and includes parents only as window dressing has alienated me entirely. This type of show is well represented on television already. Quite frankly if I want to watch an entertaining show about young adults behaving badly I will watch reruns of Summer Heights High and at least get a laugh………

  6. Voyager March 25, 2011 at 2:03 am -

    “Winners” is another depressingly amateurish drama with that all-too-familiar homemade Channel Seven feel. The intention is clearly an empowering chick show in the same vein as Sex and the City, but the four key characters aren’t drawn with any of the boldness and insight of even the Sex and the City caricatures. Worse, the male characters are mere appendages. Like so much recent Aussie drama (Offspring being a prime example) Winners seems hellbent on insulting and alienating male viewers. And like Offspring it left me asking: who are these writers and what’s their problem?!!!

  7. Nat March 23, 2011 at 11:14 pm -

    I was dissapointed although i only caught the last 20mins or so as thought i was taping it and wasn’t! I thought it was cheesy. They won the lottery?!? Seriously!?! I’ll give it one more shot but doubt i’ll be watching it after that. It just tried too hard and failed as far as i’m concerned. :(

  8. Natalie March 23, 2011 at 4:59 pm -

    It was very dissapointing. Full of so many cliche’s (such as the school reunion where losers take on the bitch from school), cliched characters – 4 girls (2 blondes, a brunette and a redhead) and the acting was woeful, particularly the male characters. I think the school reunion scenario was a bit odd as well for this age group – not as if late 20 somethings wouldnt know what everyone else has been doing for the last 10 years since the advent of Facebook.

  9. John March 23, 2011 at 4:45 pm -

    @deedeedragons – Melbourne actually does look that good from Point Ormond in Elwood. Also from Brighton. The photo appears to be taken at one of the two – probably Elwood.

    It is refreshing to see Melbourne filmed the way many residents experience it. It is not all like City Homicide – drab grey, damp laneways and flat.

  10. Randall March 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm -

    Old scenario ( ups and downs of 4 gal pals) and clunky story line.
    Something clever, well written and original please!
    And why do Australian sitcoms and movies always have to lack
    any Aspiration, in terms of sets, visuals, locations etc.
    Just look at the interiors of Packed to Rafters and Winners and Losers.
    Who lives in all those grotty clutters of 70’s furniture, dinky props and rich clashing colour schemes?
    Get a decent art director and set designer.
    Hardly a reflection on contemporary middle class urban Australia.
    Give the viewer a chance to relate to these people.
    Deja vu, all over agian.

  11. effdee March 23, 2011 at 12:58 am -

    I was expecting something slightly different to what I saw, so was disappointed.
    Seeing next weeks promo tells me what it will be like so I won’t bother with that, but will give it another look in a few weeks after it’s settled in a bit, could be good.

  12. Debster March 22, 2011 at 11:50 pm -

    I am extremely disappointed!
    This show has had more advertising than anything else I have seen and it was a let down,
    I have been a fan of Sex and the City, and felt this was a very sad copy.
    The characters are unlikeable and I could not connect with them at all.
    The storyline seems fake and a very watery copy of S&TC. I won’t be watching it again.
    Austalia has had some brilliant dramas with ‘The Secret life Of Us” and ‘Love My Way’,
    We are not Americans, we are Aussies!
    Let’s not make a pathetic copy, let us lead the way!
    We have brilliant actors in this country, so let us use them to their full potential!

  13. Tee March 22, 2011 at 11:46 pm -

    Rubbish. They played four weeks of rafters then “season finalled” it 34 days exactly after it first came on. I knoe thos because i tweeted my excitement that new season rafters was back on and then tweeted my dissappointment 34 days latet. Ch7, wht the h is wrong with you?!?

  14. Mackeral March 5, 2011 at 3:24 pm -

    Well all I can say is as a man in his 30’s this show is one I definitely Won’t be watching.

  15. Allie March 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm -

    Sounds a bit to me like Muriel’s Wedding meets Cashmere Mafia crossed with Sex in the City with a light sprinkling of Offspring. We should be thankful that it is not another police procedural.

  16. franz chong March 4, 2011 at 11:37 pm -

    Will be interesting.I am thinking More of an Australian Sex and the City minus the fancy fashions and New York

  17. tomothy March 4, 2011 at 7:51 pm -

    @ Matt: Re: Casting
    I thought Virginia Gay (Second from left) looked closer to late 30’s but she was born in 1981, so will be 30 in real life this year.
    Agree about Melissa Bergland, her character does look a little fake, and when I saw the pilot almost a year ago, I thought her look reminded me too much of Garcia from Criminal Minds.

  18. Jerome March 4, 2011 at 6:02 pm -

    TEN sure are cutting it fine if they are going to make a new drama and air it this year. 7’s dramas usually have 10-12months between first announcement and airdate. Ten would have to do it in half that time. I can’t see how they are going to make their quota.

  19. Tony H. March 4, 2011 at 5:49 pm -

    I thought this was a documentary about 7’s rivalry with 9. We all know which is which.

  20. David Knox March 4, 2011 at 4:50 pm -

    In January TEN indicated more drama announcements soon. Then trouble hit….. partly why I am wondering if Neighbours is ripe for 6pm slot.

  21. moog March 4, 2011 at 4:33 pm -

    Usually a huge skeptic of these kind of shows, but this actually looks good/real!
    Will be tuning in. After all, it couldn’t be as bad as Laid.

  22. DC March 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm -

    Any word on Channel 10’s new dramas David…..we are over 3 months into the year and not one aussie drama on channel 10!! Surely their not going to make their drama quota for 2011!

  23. MuchoTB March 4, 2011 at 3:39 pm -

    Look for this on Mondays when conviction kitchen finishes in April

  24. Goonies March 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm -

    Looks woeful to me which probably means it will be another winner for 7.

    There’s no accounting for taste!

  25. Rob March 4, 2011 at 3:11 pm -

    The Secret Life Of Rafters.

  26. Matt March 4, 2011 at 1:00 pm -

    Looks fine except the larger girl with glasses looks fake and far too much like a caricature for a show like this which is trying to portray realism, and the woman second from the left looks like she’s in her 30s or 40s, not her 20s. Would’ve preferred more realistic casting.

  27. FlossAus March 4, 2011 at 12:37 pm -

    Oh David, you reminded me how much I miss Last Man Standing, and how Seven were a tad hasty in axing it. It had actual laughs, some real chemistry and great male leads.

  28. Bill Murray March 4, 2011 at 12:14 pm -

    Looks very Secret Life Of Us esc

    be interesting to see how it performs. I think a sunday 2030 could work wonders

  29. DC March 4, 2011 at 11:52 am -

    It’d be a waste to put it in a 930 timeslot….it’ll never get an audience big enough to justify its budget! Why if it has 1 F-word and some drug use must it be a 930 time slot when underbelly was packed with the F word and other expletives, constant sex and drug use and never had any problem being at 830??

  30. deedeedragons March 4, 2011 at 11:05 am -

    I’m sorry but that picture is totally false, Melbourne never looks that good.

  31. Jack March 4, 2011 at 10:04 am -

    this could be the new McLeod’s Daughters.

  32. Craig March 4, 2011 at 8:45 am -

    Looks interesting, could be another hit for Seven.

    I would think they would like it after the Rafters but then wheat about Parenthood? If they do that I hope they wait until Parenthood it ended for the season before putting this new show on.

  33. Andy March 4, 2011 at 8:30 am -

    Ahhh… I was waiting for the premiere date at the end of the article. C’mon Seven, schedule this thing already. Looking forward to an Aussie show I might watch.

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