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Pop CultureDecember 13, 2017

The new show from Offspring creators puts the West family to shame


Alex Casey watches Sisters, the new Aussie dramedy from the people who created Offspring and Puberty Blues.

The bad news is that we have definitely reached peak capacity for movies and TV comedies about the chaos that ensues after a lifetime of secret sperm donation. After that Vince Vaughn nightmare Delivery Man, I thought it was over, but here we are. The good news is that Sisters, the latest iteration in the strangely specific yet popular genre, isn’t half terrible. After a dying IVF pioneer Julius Bechley confesses to using his own sperm with thousands of his fertility clients over three decades, the Australian dramedy follows the three women who all become connected by one old man who was very, very bad at his job.

Made by Imogen Banks and Jonathan Gavin, the same creative team behind Aussie comedy comfort food Offspring and Puberty Blues, Sisters is a women-fronted series about what happens when you lose – or gain – a massive part of your identity in your thirties. When hundreds of people come forward as suspected ‘Bechley Babies’, for some reason only three of them are women. The trio all lead vastly different lives, and are forced to figure out their relationship with each other on top of figuring out themselves. Just like its television relatives, it’s a family drama with as many stupidly funny moments as there are poignant ones.

There’s Julia, who has been caring for Julius on his deathbed, only to escape late at night for quick booty calls in her local bar. Played by Maria Angelo, Roxy’s the shambles of the bunch, trapped in a bedpan-emptying twilight zone as the only child (or so she thought) of a dying parent. “I just want to feel alive and like… alive” she says, downing wine under red lights before having to return to her grim reality. The initial fierce protectiveness turns to a crazed optimism when the news breaks, her nuanced performance a reflection of how people oscillate when their lives are turned inside-out.

She is joined in the sisterhood by Kiwi Antonia Prebble as Edie, a highly strung lawyer with intimacy problems who couldn’t be further away from the West family. Almost immediately, Edie introduces what is sure to be a huge part of the Sisters plot: the pending legal action and squabble for the Bechley fortune. Prebble is suitably tight-laced, nails an Australian accent without going full Crocodile Dundee, and remains one of our superstars of the small screen. Completing the trio is Roxy, a vacant children’s entertainer whose life is run by her controlling, Dance Moms-style mother (played by “Magda” Szubanski).

Given the cartoonish premise, Sisters can afford to be a little ham-fisted at times. Julius’ secret is revealed to all the women such as a newspaper thrown over the fence and an unspeakably loud newsreader announcement. Although each sister is different to the next, the children’s entertainer Roxy feels a lot less thinly drawn than her two new siblings. She pops pills between takes and ends up in rehab, but nothing about her seems tragic or even troubled. Perhaps it’s just a sad state of affairs that we can assume all child stars are screwed up simply by existing.

With the full first season available now on TVNZ Ondemand, Sisters isn’t going to move your world off its axis but would certainly make for a breezy summer binge. It’s a show carried by women that feels like it has a bit more edge than its older Aussie siblings. Just like Offspring and Puberty Blues, Sisters strikes the same balance between dumb jokes and real life, and is a great reminder this Christmas that there are always families out there which are more dysfunctional than yours.

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