So after much promotion, Sisters finally premiered last night.
The job of a pilot is to establish a show’s premise and characters and set up story arcs for the season. This pilot managed to accomplish this beautifully. What I didn’t expect was the chapter-like introduction to the three sisters: Julia (Maria Angelico), Roxy (Lucy Durack) and Edie (Antonia Prebble). It was something that I had never seen before and it was well executed, as while rarely used writing techniques can provide a breath of fresh air to a TV show, if they drag on, especially a technique like this, it can bore and confuse the viewer. While the pilot does go back-and-forth between the three of them, it doesn’t go out of its way to knock the viewer on the head with the chapter technique.
In the first chapter we are introduced to Julia Bechly, the daughter of IVF pioneer, Julius Bechly (Barry Otto), who is portrayed as a clutzy and awkward woman, and a devoted albeit struggling carer to her father. Her disastrous first date with Sam was the first comedic moment of the episode and a fine one to start with, the payoff later in the episode was beautiful, but I’ll get to that. She is the first out of the three sisters to find out about Julius using his own sperm when he provided IVF treatment. The fact that she found out by reading the paper left on the front lawn made chronological sense, as well as sense as a whole as she should be the first to find out.
In the next chapter we are introduced to Roxy Karibas, a children’s entertainer who is struggling with an unidentified medical problem that has lead her to overdose on painkillers. While it’s clear as day that Roxy is someone who loves attention, to me it wasn’t so clear if she actually had an addiction or whether her stage mother, Diane (portrayed brilliantly by Magda Szubanski) is just as dramatic as Roxy is and sees her issues for more than what they are. While Roxy isn’t the first to find out about Julius’ actions, she is the first IVF child to come forward. While Roxy is an attention seeker and I briefly wondered a con artist, I appreciated the writers’ choice to reveal that Roxy has most likely turned out that way due to the influence and parenting choices made by Diane.
In the next chapter, we are introduced to Edie Flanagan, a solicitor who appears to have it all–the perfect job, the perfect marriage, the perfect life in general. However this is torn to shreds within seconds of her introduction in a marriage therapy session with her husband, Tim (Dan Spielman). While I enjoyed the honest scenes of Edie expressing her dissatisfaction of her sex life with Tim, what I appreciated even more was the payoff later in the episode, which again I’ll get to.
After these three chapters, the floodgates open with Julia organising a party for all of the IVF children to meet each other and this is where the fun really begins. The first surprise, for Julia anyway, is discovering that Sam is actually her married brother. The second surprise for Julia is discovering that her former childhood friend, who she apparently despises now, is her sister. The third surprise for everyone is that even though there are hundreds of brothers, there are only three sisters, and that right there is where the premise of the show is officially established. I loved Roxy’s behaviour on stage, cheerfully and happily encouraging everyone and her subsequent disappointment when she discovered that there are, in her own words only “three of us”.
The fallout of both the revelation of Julius’ actions and the discovery that there are only three sisters was executed beautifully and clearly will be explored throughout the season. I enjoyed Edie’s tense interactions with her own mother, Genevieve (Catherine McClements) about the situation, providing a nice insight into their clearly strained relationship. I was also pleasantly surprised by Genevieve revealing to Julia that her mother went to see Julius for treatment and then fell in love with him. Julia’s subsequent reaction of kicking her mother’s grave in anger was incredibly heartbreaking and well acted by Angelico. Diane kicking Roxy out of home for wanting to find out for sure whether Julius is her father was equally heartbreaking. Edie’s reaction of asking her assistant to play devil’s advocate on the possibility of a class action against Julius provided necessary variety within these reactions, not to mention their hook-up was a beautiful and unexpected payoff to the marriage therapy session earlier in the episode, revealing one of the major reasons behind her marital woes and unsatisfactory sex life.
While the premise of the show revolves around the actions of the girls’ father, I’m also interested in seeing the development of the relationships with their mothers. Interestingly both Diane and Genevieve have tense relationships with their respective daughters and both emphasise to them that Julius “helped a lot of women”. Due to the fact that Julia’s mother is dead, we’ll only ever discover what their relationship was like from Julia’s and possibly Julius’ perspective, something which I hope is touched on further, other than through Julia’s obviously regular visits to her mother’s grave. I’m also interested in seeing Edie and Julia’s history of being childhood friends, and Edie stealing Tim away from Julia explored further.
On smaller notes, I’m wondering whether Julia will end up with Isaac (Charlie Garber), Julius’ protege, or Tim, that being said I’m hoping there’s no love triangle business as that is a cliche that has been done to death. I also felt that Julius’ informal list of his patients, through the baby photos of his IVF children on his wall, was genius. I also appreciated the small twist of Julia turning out to be Julius’ first born child, as well as the girls possibly being the eldest out of all of the children.
Overall this was an excellent pilot, which did its job establishing its premise, characters and story arcs. For those who feel the premise is unrealistic, if you Google it, you will be surprised to find the amount of cases of “real life” doctors actually having done this. The performances and the writing so far have been superb and I’m looking forward to reviewing the rest of the season.
-Julia took the wine being spilled on her like a pro, turning the dress around was an absolute bonus and probably something I’d consider if I was in a similar situation.
-Joel Creasey as Oscar, one of the IVF children, was an unexpected highlight of the episode. I’m wondering if his appearance is a cameo or whether he’ll appear throughout the season. Not only did I love his first appearance and reaction to meeting Julia, but also his subtle actions throughout the party.
-One little writing nitpick I have is how Julia would have been able to give her siblings the right “show bag” at the party, when she was seen filling them with birth records or patient files. I’m open to being wrong about what she was stapling and putting in the bags, it may have not been birth records or patient files at all, but that’s what it looked like.
-Special mention for the episode goes to Magda Szubanski, although I’m aware of her distinguished career, this is the first time I’ve seen her in a dramatic role.
-Roxy’s, Julia’s and Edie’s behaviour when they were on stage at the party perfectly reflects their personalities.
–Best one liners:
- “I don’t want to know you’re not my daughter” (Ron to Roxy)
- “I’m hanging up…I love you” (Diane to Roxy)