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Madeleine Sami and Antonia Prebble in Double Parked (Photo: Supplied / Design: Archi Banal)
Madeleine Sami and Antonia Prebble in Double Parked (Photo: Supplied / Design: Archi Banal)

Pop CultureJuly 28, 2023

Double Parked was a double pregnancy with half the fun

Madeleine Sami and Antonia Prebble in Double Parked (Photo: Supplied / Design: Archi Banal)
Madeleine Sami and Antonia Prebble in Double Parked (Photo: Supplied / Design: Archi Banal)

After eight weeks of hopeful viewing, Mad Chapman reviews Double Parked.

Everything about Double Parked appealed to me, very specifically. It’s a show about gay women (love those) wanting to have a baby (fun!). It’s a comedy (love to laugh) with a foundation of real life drama that is the very considered and often fraught process for gay women to conceive (also love to cry). It also has a lot of the names I love to see in a New Zealand production. Promoted as being created and written by Alice Snedden and Chris Parker, and starring household names Madeleine Sami and Antonia Prebble as the leading couple, Double Parked felt like a show specially designed for me to love it.

And yet… I didn’t. The series finished last week with the eighth and final episode, having never figured out what exactly it was. The plot is straightforward enough, though it requires some heavy suspension of disbelief in the pilot episode to get onboard: a lesbian couple despair after two years of trying to conceive through IVF using their flatmate’s sperm. They all get drunk and go for the DIY option with the non-IVF partner. Two months later, the couple realises that they’re both pregnant (turns out the IVF nurse accidentally read the wrong file). 

Throughout the eight episodes, there were moments that felt like attempts at genuine drama, a couple of surprisingly tender moments, and scenes that bordered on sketch comedy. Altogether, it formed a confusing and disappointing whole.

It took about four episodes for me to pinpoint why Double Parked, and specifically Nat (Sami) and Steph’s (Prebble) relationship, felt off. I just couldn’t buy that they were a couple at all, let alone a committed, in love, long-term team looking to grow their family. Initially, I thought it was the casting. Despite enjoying both Prebble and Sami’s various other acting projects, there was a distinct lack of chemistry between the two. Steph and Nat feel like they just met (and definitely wouldn’t date) rather than like long-term lovers. Moments of tension arise from the most basic miscommunications, the sort of bad comms that couples either work through early or quickly break up over. 

Both characters make decisions that just don’t make sense, largely because the characters themselves don’t make sense. Nat is the masc one – a sporty teacher who’s great with kids, definitely wants children of her own, and seemingly never once considered, in two years of IVF through her partner, that perhaps she could carry the baby herself. Steph is femme, seems to come from money, and decides, after two years of trying to have a baby using their friend Johnny’s sperm, that she wants Johnny to sign a baby pre-nup in case Nat – who dated Johnny as a teenager and now treats him like a brother – tries to run away with him and the baby. That legal document, introduced in the second episode out of the blue, is the central cause of tension in the series. Like I said, it doesn’t make sense.

Madeleine Sami and Antonia Prebble in Double Parked

After seven episodes of essentially the same conversation over and over, the climactic Big Fight happens when Nat finds the document (which randomly happens at Eden Park, in another Nat decision that makes no sense). Later, Nat describes her relationship to a nurse, seemingly shocked that her and Steph aren’t on the same page: “We are good at the hard conversations. We are lesbians, we chat about our feelings. We talk about this stuff all the time.” It’s a short monologue that is grounded in broad truths. Lesbians are known for moving shockingly quickly in relationships (“U-haul lesbians” being the term for those who move in together shortly after meeting), with the justification being that when women date women, they skip through the months of communication guessing games and just say how they feel. If that were true then yes, lesbians chat about their feelings all the time. 

But the lesbians in Double Parked don’t. While the premise might be about lesbians and a situation that could only exist with two women partners, everything else feels like it could be applied to literally any couple.  

There’s so much fertile (ha) ground to explore in queer relationships, IVF and pregnancy. I tuned into Double Parked hoping to see an examination of the way female relationships are unique, free from many (though certainly not all) of the heteronormative expectations within straight couples. One of the few experiences where those roles can feel somewhat unavoidable is when one carries a baby while the other doesn’t. So what happens when two women experience pregnancy at the same time? Fascinating dynamic!

But instead of exploring the varied and specific intricacies of such a relationship, Double Parked is essentially a show about a couple that can’t talk to each other. Which is, unfortunately, a boring premise. Steph was the one trying to get pregnant in the first place so her pregnancy is the pregnancy, with all the emotions and anxiety and physical change. The fact that Nat is also pregnant – the woman who didn’t think she wanted to carry a baby at all! – is largely ignored beyond small asides. In fact, if you replaced Nat with a male character, the show would be the same. 

Every week I waited for the show’s heart to reveal itself (hence putting off this review until the show had aired in its entirety) and every week I was left disappointed and wondering where it went wrong. A closer look at the creative team behind the series hints at an answer. While the show was promoted as being a dual effort from Alice Snedden and Chris Parker, by the end of the series, Snedden’s name is nowhere to be found in the credits (presumably other work projects pulled her away). And while Parker is a funny and warm writer, he’s hardly the first name I’d suggest to tell the story of two pregnant lesbians.

I was excited for this show. It had all the right ingredients and names attached, and I wanted so badly for it to be good. Instead I got double the pregnancies and half the fun. 

Keep going!