I was looking forward to new Australian comedy/drama Winners and Losers, which follows four best friends from an all-girls school who were losers in high schools and meet up again at their school reunion. It looked very female-centric, with the men being secondary a la McLeod’s Daughter’s and I rather like Virginia Gay.
I was bitterly disappointed.
In the beginning, our four protagonists, Frances (Gay), Sophie, Rebecca and Jenny fluctuate between disinterest and uncertainty about attending, although they all end up going. There is a scene with Rebecca and her fiance Matt where she admits that she doesn’t want to go with Jenny, who she is still friends with, because Jenny is fat and sensitive about her appearance and likely to spend the night getting upset, which Rebecca doesn’t want to deal with. However it was intended to be played, it came across as Rebecca saying ‘well, I’m a skinny blonde so I’ll be alright, but I don’t want to go with the fattie’. Yeah, way to support a mate.
To start off with, the school villianness who organised the reunion, Tiffany Turner, makes Regina George from Mean Girls look like Mother Theresa. Imagine if Regina had spent ten years planning a school reunion just so she could heap more misery on the girls she had made miserable in high school. That’s Tiffany. She heaps the cruel barbs as if it’s still 2001. She refers to Jenny and Sophie by their high-school nicknames (Gross-Out and So Wong respectively), she makes a point of informing Rebecca that she once slept with Matt and she jeers when she finds the four of them pow-wowwing in the bathroom ‘just like old times’ (when she would drive them in there in tears). If it had been played as satire, it might have been funny, but as far as I could gather, Tiffany was played perfectly straight.
Once they all get there, the cattiness comes into full force. Nothing makes the other women at the reunion happy; Sophie has lost half her body weight (I’d say more like two-thirds, judging by the high-school photo she shows) and looks gorgeous, but she went into personal training instead of medicine, so she’s a ‘loser’. Frances has a MBA from Harvard but she isn’t married so she’s a ‘loser’. (Tiffany, meanwhile, is twice-divorced with a figure about as realistic as Barbie’s but is a ‘winner’… I know the writers must have been making a point somewhere in there, but it was lost on me.) There’s an implication that Tiffany has dug up a bunch of humiliating photos and called it a nostalgic slideshow, but it ends early for our protagonists when Jenny, fed up with Tiffany’s cruelty, gives a speech about how all anyone came for was to dispariage everyone else and that Tiffany was a loser who was faker than ever. It’s pretty much the only good bit of the episode.
The four women go out for their own reunion, which culminates in buying a lottery ticket. (More on this later.) They vow to remain in touch, and Frances makes an effort to get the ball rolling, but really, I found it difficult to care. None of the women came across as really interesting, and I found Rebecca’s comments about Jenny particularly unsupportive for a so-called friend.
At the end of the episode, they’ve won $8m… and it looks like next week brings up the fact that Jenny didn’t actually go in. Cue tears and tantrums about her not getting ‘her share’, I’m sure. If it had been over a more trifling sum, fair enough, but really, ladies, what can you do with $2.6m that you can’t do with $2m? I realise it’s easy to say when it’s hypothetical, but I don’t see money in that kind of proportion worth squabbling over, and I don’t think it will make a very good foundation for a show that’s supposed to be about friendship.
I mentioned McLeod’s before. Ironically, like McLeod’s this show passes the Bechdel test spectacularly, to a point that I’m not sure there was a single conversation between two men, let alone about something other than a woman. But it just goes to show that you that you can pass the Bechdel test and still have a lousy script stuff with trite characters on your hands; the reason these women talk about something other than men is that they spend all their time disparaging women with varying degrees of cruelty.
At least there’s one good thing to say about this show: it appears to be the lowest-rating debut for an Australian series in some time, despite the heavy marketing campaign and plum timeslot, so hopefully it won’t be around for too long.