TL;DR – This is a show that is filled with clever writing, full of compelling characters, interesting stories, and heart you rarely see.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Authenticity, this is something that content creators across the world are desperate to achieve because it is what modern audiences crave, even if they don’t quite know what it is. Add to this it is easy for people to notice when something is out of place when it is something close to them, like the lives of tradies, or small shop owners, or people living in apartments. So it is a bold move to set a new drama series in a setting that is deeply familiar and even bolder when you pull it off with style.
So to set the scene, The Heights revolves around the people that live in and around a block of apartments called The Tower. While the area around is starting to rapidly gentrify, The Tower is made up of low socioeconomic residents just trying to make their lives a little better. One day as everyone was out enjoying the sunshine with a BBQ and a game of soccer the fire alarm of The Tower rings out. This causes all kinds of frustrations for the residents like Hazel (Fiona Press) who have to evacuate when everyone knows it is a false alarm. When all is sorted, everyone goes back to their lives when a soccer ball gets kicked into a garden but when Pav (Marcus Graham) goes to collect it he discovers a newborn baby among the veggies. Pav an ex-cop runs the baby straight to the local hospital (it was quicker than waiting for an ambulance) into the hands of Claudia (Roz Hammond) a doctor that is new to the hospital and area. Everyone begins wondering whose baby could it be, but there is a lot on everyone’s plate, like a wake and a closing of the local pub, starting a new school, finding a new job, and 100% not telling your mother than you are studying education and not business. Now, from this point onwards, we will be looking at the season as a whole, or at least the first 16 episodes, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
A show like this lives and dies on its characters, because this is what will drag you in and make you want to come back each week, and this is one area where The Heights excels. This is partly because every character in the show has the depth to them and you see that both in the writing and in the performances. Like Kam (Yazeed Daher), on the surface he is the business freak always trying to find the next opportunity, however, why is he doing this, well because his extended family who he loves is crammed into a single flat so he is saving money so he can help them move out. You have Iris (Carina Hoang) who at first is this brash small shop owner that is always trying to upsell her customers, and everyone always wondered why they shop there. But then she is a pillar of the community and she is always there when people need her, though that help might be creating a tinder profile for her son Sully (Koa Nuen) to help him find someone. Or Mich (Calen Tassone) who sort of lives a carefree life, but who has a need to find out more about where he came from so he can understand who he is now. These are just three examples from a wonderful ensemble cast that you want to find out more about.
One of the reasons why the characters work as well as they do is that the writing has this feel where it is both natural but really tightly constructed. Now this means that you do have to get used to the fact that people run into each other with a coincidence factor that would have Star Wars go ‘I think you need to tone that down a bit’. But it also means that each conversation can be like a tennis match as people go back and forth, and it is really compelling. It also helps that there are these moments where the show says exactly what you are thinking, to the point where both me and two other characters yelled in unison ‘shut up Ryan’.
the season, of which we have gotten to see the first 16 episodes, there are a
lot of stand-alone moments, but there are also a lot of threads that permeate throughout
the show. There is the local pub that Hazel runs and is happy to sell off
before finding out that she can’t because it is now part-owned by her estranged children including Ryan (Mitchell
Bourke), only have this be even more complicated when she has to also raise
Patch her grandchild. You have the continuing will they, won’t they relationship
of Pav and Claudia, made all the more amusing as their kids try and help them out
and Pav’s ex-wife Leonie (Shari Sebbens) finds herself involved somehow. While
the show has its more straight forward moments like uniting Australia behind one
single notion, which is that Dane (Nicholas Di Nardo) is a total ass. It is also
perfectly fine with tackling really important issues
such as the impact gambling addiction can
have on families.
More than this, well for me at least, everything so far is just gravy because I would be recommending the show simply for how it shows excellence in creating and championing a diverse cast. In this show we have young and old, we have people with physical issues from a long life, a short life, and a hard life, we have multiple Indigenous characters, and people from across the globe. None of these characters feels like there are here in some sort of token capacity because they are completely integrated into the story. It is a snapshot of Australia, and it also rings true to setting that they are going with because it is set in a similar area to where I grew up in and also currently live. These people are my neighbours, my friends, I know those struggles, because they have been my struggles. I know that feeling of wondering which meal you are going to cut out while your friend from money is more concerned about someone eating their cheese. So there were these moments that felt raw and real for me in a way that I rarely see on television. In many ways, The Heights shines a light on show after show that develops the same homogenous rubbish, all because it too hard to incorporate diversity. It is not hard if you put the work in, and here in The Heights, they show how much more depth you can get from a show if you put that effort in.
In the end, do we recommend the first season of The Heights? Yes, very much so we do. Now, this is a show that does fit in that soap opera space, so if that is not your jam then this might not be the show for you. However, after seeing so many bland ½ an hour dramas that spend all their time doing as little as possible, this is a breath of fresh air. It is funny, full of compelling characters, interesting stories, and heart you rarely see.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
he’ll be talking about International Relations,
or the Solar System.
Have you seen The Heights yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Heights
Directed by – James Bogle, Andrew Prowse & Renee Webster
Written by – Warren Clarke, Romina Accurso, Hannah Carroll Chapman, Peter Mattessi, Megan Palinkas, Faith McKinnon, Tracey Defty-Rashid, Magda Wozniak, Miley Tunnecliffe, Katie Beckett, Mithila Gupta
Created by – Warren Clarke & Que Minh Luu
Production/Distribution Companies – ABC (Australia), Screenwest & Matchbox Pictures
Starring – Marcus Graham, Shari Sebbens, Calen Tassone, Roz Hammond, Bridie McKim, Fiona Press, Mitchell Bourke, Dan Paris, Saskia Hampele, Phoenix Raei, Yazeed Daher, Carina Hoang, Koa Nuen, Cara McCarthy, Kelton Pell, Alex Williams, Amir Rahimzadeh, Andrew Hale, Bernie Davis, Jasmine Sadati, Liam Graham, Nicholas Di Nardo & Noel O’Neil