“Janet King” is a new Aussie drama with a lesbian lead

Australia, you have been doing some good work lately. I mean it: for a long time I just thought of you as the place that gave us The Wiggles and where my ex-girlfriend moved, but I may have to forgive both those grudges in light of your recent TV offerings. I fell madly in love with Wentworth last year, and now there’s another gritty, crime-centered drama with a lesbian lead: Janet King.

Janetking1If someone from Australia could explain this outfit or even just the rope, that would be great. 

Viewers will remember Janet (Marta Dusseldorp) as a character on the 2011 dramedy Crownies, where she played a fearsome prosecutor who just happened to be a lesbian with a wife and two babies in her womb. I searched really hard for videos of the apparently “hot” relationship between Janet and her wife Ashley but APPARENTLY Australian lesbians have better things to do than make sex scene compilations on YouTube. (I HOPE YOU CATCH THE DRIPPING SARCASM HERE BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY THERE IS NO NOBLER PURSUIT THAN CURATING LESBIAN SEX SCENES AND SETTING THEM TO SARA BAREILLES SONGS).

The show was tragically short-lived, which I blame partly on its title; if you want people to take your lawyer show seriously name it something badass. Law And Order. The Practice. MOTTHERFUCKING JAG. Anyway, this show picks up a year after Crownies ended, with Janet coming off maternity leave and returning to work.

Janetking2So long, babies!

The show is designed as an eight-part series, with an overarching corruption plot as well as case-of-the-week subplots which are adorably Australian. At this point, the whole “conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of the system” thing is familiar to anyone who has ever seen a cop show, but Janet King is distinguished by its actors. Among my favorites are Linda Badir, who is a brilliant, compassionate woman who begins to crack under the strain of working sex crimes cases.

Janetking3Your face is a crime.

There’s Richard Sirling, who is deeply endearing as Janet’s loyal but bumbling assistant.

janetking4I want that haircut?

But most of all, Marta Dusseldorp is stunning. Every review I’ve read of her character uses some expression like “razor sharp” or “tough as nails,” and it’s true that her face does look like it was carved out of a diamond, but the most rewarding part of her performance is the way she seeks out nuance. Janet is driven by an intense desire for justice and professional success, but an even deeper need as a mother to have hope for the world. You will fall in love with watching her wrestle principle and pragmatism. And even though the show is two parts plot to every one part character development (a ratio I really wish could be reversed) her adversaries never hesitate to bring up her status as a mother or a lesbian if they think it will hurt her. The scenes we do see of Janet’s home life are more about the challenges of balancing career and family than Hot Times Down Under, but it’s a real and authentic depiction of a same-sex marriage at a time when Australian gays are living through a pretty significant backlash. (Also her wife is really sweet and and underused which makes her the Tara Maclay of this show which terrifies me.)

Janet King premieres February 27 at 8:30 p.m. on ABC1 (just in Australia for now, sorry ladies). I’m not into cop shows as a rule, but this one has me hooked. So tell me, Aussies, will you tune in?

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