Australian politics on TV

I recently watched two television series produced and set in Australia. One was Secret City and the other was Rake. The former is a political espionage drama while the latter is a comedy-farce. How they both portray the Australian political-legal-police-internal security systems in less than flattering, to put it mildly, showing them as utterly corrupt and venal. Both shows portray the Australia-China relationship as a highly fraught one, and in Secret City, the US is shown manipulating Australia to serve its own foreign policy ends.

Here’s the trailer for the second season of Secret City.

Rake plays up this dysfunctionality for laughs. Its central character is an utterly dissolute lawyer addicted to gambling, alcohol and other drugs, and sex whose complete lack of self-control results in him constantly alienating his family, friends, and colleagues. In the show, prime ministers are replaced every few weeks because of internal party coups, judges are bribed or otherwise influenced, the police follow the political whims of ministers, and so on. The US president, although never named, is portrayed as an idiot, so that part is accurate. This show also illustrates that Australian broadcast TV takes a much more relaxed attitude to nudity and sex and language than the US.

Here’s the trailer for Rake.

I was curious as to how Australians viewed the way that their country was portrayed in these shows. I know this blog has Australian readers and would be interested to hear from them.


  1. lizziemcd says

    I actually have some second degree connections to Charles Waterstreet, the lawyer that Rake was based on. My friend was working for him, and he stole her law textbooks and sold them so he could buy drugs. So the character portrayal seems fairly accurate!

  2. neilgodfrey says

    I’m a baby-boomer Australian and have never been tempted to watch Secret City — entirely because the trailer presents the show as a hyper-Americanized plot and drama-action. Maybe I’m misjudging and should give it a fair go, but I cringe at the thought.

    Rake? Sounds good. I see it has Hugo Weaving, an actor I like, in it. If I didn’t have more serious things to be doing and if I could learn to lighten up more I’d probably be able to enjoy it with the right company. Maybe I will catch up with some of it one day.

  3. Mano Singham says


    Yes, Secret City very much follows the American thriller model. The plot of the first season was quite preposterous but the second season was better. Don’t expect too much from it or overthink it, as I am prone to do. You have to just go with the fast-paced flow.

    As for Rake, the show is pretty funny but be warned that Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill, Rachel Griffiths, and Cate Blanchett only make guest appearances in single episodes. The regular cast is pretty good though. The title character starts off being completely dissolute, a compulsive gambler, drinker, druggie, and hits on pretty much every woman he sees. In later seasons, the gambling and drug taking are toned down and his main problem becomes his compulsive lying to gain an immediate advantage even if it causes more serious problems later.

  4. dangerousbeans says

    I haven’t seen those shows, but from your description they sound accurate

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