Aside from its Underbelly brand, Nine hasn’t had much luck with Drama series lately. Tricky Business, Cops LAC…. you know the drill.
Together with Rescue Special Ops and Sea Patrol, both of which were more successful, Nine has stuck like glue to procedural-based Dramas. Meanwhile other networks have forged success with melodramas: Packed to the Rafters, Winners and Losers and Offspring.
Finally, as if throwing caution to the wind, Nine finally delivers its first fully-fledged melodrama since McLeod’s Daughters.
House Husbands is a light look at inner Melbourne stay-at-home dads, presumably skewing rather neatly to female viewers and maybe a few blokes along the way.
It’s led by a core of four men: Justin (Firass Dirani), a former AFL star player who works as a bouncer and whose wife has left him for his manager; Mark (Rhys Muldoon), juggling a return to part-time work whilst looking after his five-year-old daughter; his brother-in-law Kane (Gyton Grantley) raising the orphaned niece of his same-sex partner Tom (Tim Campbell); and retiree Lewis (Gary Sweet), now in a relationship with nurse Gemma (Julia Morris) and their primary school daughter.
When the four meet at the local school’s drop-off zone, disaster strikes in the form of a runaway bus (rather unbelievably helmed by their own naughty primary school kids). Bad boy Justin springs into action to avert a fatality, but somehow it turns into a negative for him because he was driving whilst unlicensed. Given he is fighting for legal custody of his children, he faces some sizeable challenges.
Several of the characters are neatly intertwined as something of an extended family. Gemma works at the same hospital as Abi (Natalie Saleeba), wife of Mark. Anna McGahan plays barmaid Lucy, working at the same hotel as Justin.
All four leads are well up to the mark as likeable characters, while Julia Morris impressively makes a lot with a little here. She could prove to be the show’s surprise package. In support roles are Marg Downey, Jane Allsop and Leah de Niese.
Gyton Grantley certainly doesn’t camp up his role as a gay dad by any means, and while intimacy is absent perhaps to avoid alienating viewers, the end result is their sexuality isn’t overt. But as Modern Family learned, avoiding intimacy can also backfire. That the series includes a same-sex couple while the country debates the gay marriage issue will give the writers plenty of room for story ideas.
The most drama it gently tackles in the first episode is between Justin, his separated wife and their custody battle and Firass Dirani demonstrates versatility here.
Created by Ellie Beaumont and Drew Proffitt for Playmaker Media, House Husbands keeps the ball in the air with quirky (if rather daft) subplots and various situations of men behaving badly and crying kids.
The show feels a lot like Nine’s own Winners and Losers: light stories led by an ensemble of four -which is arguably what the network is lacking on its schedule right now. If it can deliver those sort of numbers it will be doing its job very nicely, thank you.
House Husbands airs 8:30pm Sundays on Nine.