We love an Aussie YA TV series here at No Award, and we also love Indigenous media. So bring on Ready for This, an ABC3 series about five Indigenous teens from around Australia, who all excel in various fields — “various” here meaning “music” and “sport” — coming to live at a Sydney boarding house while they study.
And, spoilers, it’s pretty great.
Like Dance Academy, which which it shares some writers, Ready for This is a mixture of boarding school tropes and other tropes, but this time the boarding house is run by Christine Anu, and while Dance Academy was Very White But Actually Less So Than The Average Australian Drama, Which Just Reflects How Low That Bar Really Is, Ready for This has exactly one white regular.
So far, so good. But is it actually entertaining?
YES. YES, IT IS.
If you enjoyed Dance Academy, or if you like contemporary YA, or if you have fond memories of Heartbreak High, this is a Jolly Good Series. Some of the acting is a bit ropey, as happens with teen dramas starring actual young adults, and some of the dialogue is on the nose, as happens any time an Australian sits down to write a script. It’s not perfect. But it’s good.
Episode one is a double, introducing us to the main characters and letting them bond as they deal with a new city and their haunted boarding house. (It’s available on iView until 4 November!)
The characters are a nice mix: Ava, a Torres Strait Islander whose amazing singing is hampered by her shyness; Zoe, a sprinter from Darwin who is facing real competition for the first time; Levi, a footballer whose family has a longstanding feud with Zoe’s; Dylan, a violinist who’d rather produce electronic music; and Lily, who wants to be anywhere else.
I’ve been known to complain that, when Australian TV remembers to include Indigenous teens, they tend to be borderline delinquents. Ready for This avoids that trap, as you’d hope with a cast this size. Lily is the only one getting warnings from the cops, and she’s acting out after the death of a loved one. The rest of the kids are high achievers — even, in Levi’s case, getting to be the cool, popular guy that all the girls love and all the weedy boys fear and loathe.
The cast has various levels of experience, and it shows. Aaron L. McGrath (Levi) has just come off a major role in Glitch; Madeleine Madden (Zoe) has had various guest roles, and is about to be a regular in Tomorrow, When The War Began, but most of the others have had a couple of bit parts in Redfern Now, and maybe a short film or two. But no one embarrassed themselves, and all showed a lot of promise.
(Steph notes: ARE YOU TELLING ME an actual Indigenous person is going to be starring in the abomination that is Tomorrow?)
(Liz responds, YES, in a role that was originally written as white, so maybe it will address Australia’s colonialist history and maybe not be 100% terrible? But I’m not holding my breath. On the other hand, Madden is DELIGHTFUL, and I might end up watching it just for her.)
It’s awkward, it’s sincere, the editing in the trailers is straight out of 1996. But it has heart. It’s clever. It has a whole scene of dialogue in Torres Strait Creole. The soundtrack is great, and once I’ve got more than three songs in the Spotify playlist I’m making, I’ll share it with the world.
Give it a look, on iView if not ABC3. I note with some concern that iView is giving more prominence to established imports like Wizards vs Aliens than to its own Indigenous drama. It also doesn’t have much of a presence on the ABC3 site yet — just one page featuring an outline and the trailer, whereas Dance Academy got a full subsite. I hope that it’s not being set up to fail. I myself will be supporting it wholeheartedly.