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Dodgy 'Prisoner Cell Block H' remake deserves to be kept behind bars


Nicole Da Silva (centre) in Wentworth Prison TV show

Nicole Da Silva (centre) in Wentworth Prison TV show

Nicole Da Silva (centre) in Wentworth Prison TV show

Old television shows don't die these days. They aren't allowed to just peacefully slip away to be interred in the TV graveyard anymore.

Even if something wasn't particularly good the first time around, it's no barrier to it being repackaged and regurgitated, as a television reboot, a big-screen film or even a stage musical.

You might remember (if you're lucky, you might not) 'Prisoner: Cell Block H - or as it was called in its native Australia, plain old 'Prisoner.'  They weren't allowed to call it that when it was shown here and in Britain, because the title conflicted with Patrick McGoohan's 60s cult hit 'The Prisoner.'

Not that anyone in their right mind would confuse the two. A glorified soap set in a women's correctional facility, 'Prisoner: Cell Block H' was, by any sane viewer's judgement, dire.  The acting was hideously, hilariously dreadful.  The scripts and dialogue were hammy and hackneyed.  The sets were cheap and wobbly.

When Aussiephilia was at its height in the 80s, thanks to Paul Hogan in 'Crocodile Dundee' and Kylie and Jason in 'Neighbours' the hipsters appropriated 'Prisoner' for its supposed camp guilty-pleasure value and spread a layer of arched-eyebrow irony across its crapness. Because that is what hipsters in the 80s did.

And now 'Prisoner' has been given an official remake, only this time it's called 'Wentworth Prison' - or in its native Australia, plain old 'Wentworth.'  The production values are much higher and the acting a bit more respectable.  But the direness remains, at least in last night's opening episode, more or less intact.

Emboldened, perhaps, by the strides forward taken by the likes of HBO, Showtime, and Netflix, 'Wentworth Prison's' makers have gone down the gritty, grown-up route - which essentially means squeezing as many off-the-peg women-behind-bars cliches into the episode as possible.

In the first scene, a prisoner on the Wentworth-bound bus fellates a guard in return for some cigarettes.  In the second, a different lag pees herself while standing in a corridor.

Mere seconds later, our hapless heroine, newly-incarcerated naif Bea (Danielle Cormack, looking frightened under a tumble of curls seemingly borrowed from Tin Tim), opens her cell door to find a couple of naked inmates having sex on her bunk.

One of them is Franky Doyle, the current "top dog" who runs every racket in the prison.  Franky is a tattooed lesbian - although not sufficiently lesbian to frighten the heterosexual horses.

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As played by the sexy Nicole Da Silva, who parades around in a tight white top and tiny shorts most f the time, Franky is as menacing as a Pussycat Doll.

Poor Bea, who's been banged up for trying to kill her abusive husband, is coerced into helping smuggle drugs into the prison and soon finds herself caught in the middle between Franky and her old (and older) adversary, the supposedly terrifying Jacks (Kris McQuade), who's just been released from solitary after what appears to be a lengthy appointment with her hairdresser.

'Wentworth Prison' smells strong of cheese, that that hasn't stopped it going down a storm Down Under, where it's already headed for a third series.  IT all suggests Australian television taste haven't improved much since the days of... well, 'Prisoner: Cell Block H.'

Orange may indeed be the new black, but for now anyway, 'Wentworth Prison' is most definitely not the new orange.


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