Rake season one: Making an ass of the law

28 March 2014 - 02:02 By Yolisa Mkele
NOT THE MODEL TYPE: Legal brain Cleaver Greene (Richard Roxburgh), right, battles to save despicable clients so he can service debts
NOT THE MODEL TYPE: Legal brain Cleaver Greene (Richard Roxburgh), right, battles to save despicable clients so he can service debts
Image: NZTV

Recently, legal television shows have been filled with good-looking, well-dressed people with very serious faces reeling from one dramatic event to the next.

Rake, starring Richard Roxburgh, is the latest in the long and storied lineage of the legal television series to hit South African shores and by golly it's funny, and different from others.

Rake tells the story of Cleaver Greene, a dissolute, rakish, but brilliant lawyer in Sydney, who defends the quirkiest and most indefensible people to pay off his rapidly spiralling gambling debts.

''Cleaver is an anti-hero in that he hardly ever does anything admirable or 'likeable'. He is deeply flawed, but in an odd way loveable," said Roxburgh.

The show is a low-budget mix of House, Boston Legal and Shameless that doesn't take itself nearly as seriously as some of its contemporaries.

''Rake is very far from a procedural legal drama. Its focus is essentially on the characters, and the often hilarious entanglements that Cleaver gets himself into," said Roxburgh, who is also the executive producer of a US remake of the show starring Greg Kinnear.

The series opens with Greene volunteering to defend a world-renowned economist-cum-cannibal, played by Hugo Weaving, who is wrongfully accused of murder.

Greene takes the case in spite of significant public and political pressure to find his client guilty because he cares more about the law than he does about justice.

During the show we discover that Greene has a near-miraculous ability to wedge his foot in the lower reaches of his oesophagus.

What makes the show so tear-jerkingly chuckle-worthy is its sheer ridiculousness.

Most of the characters are over-acted but done in such a way as to amplify the hilarity without it becoming farcical. It is also refreshing to watch a show that doesn't look like it pulled its cast out of modelling catalogues.

All of the men are the kind of mildly rotund middle-aged types one sees when shopping at the weekend and the women, while attractive, never reach Rachel Zane (a character in Suits) levels of beauty.

Rakecould well be the funniest legal television series since Boston Legal.

  • Rake premiers on Sunday at 21:25 on Fox Crime Channel 126 on DStv

What others say

'Rake' is a clever look at just how stupidly even smart people behave.

Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times (writing about the American remake)

An affectionate comedy of knockabout suburban manners, appropriately daggy - though the risks the dialogue takes with banality and repetition often render it oddly surreal.

Emma Reynolds, The Australian

Roxburgh and Wyllie are more adorable than Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale in 'American Hustle'. The correct balance of humour and pathos.

Ruth Ritchie, Sydney Morning Herald