I live by a simple code of TV-watching and channel surfing in Australia: when there’s nothing else on TV, leave it on SBS. You will almost always be greeted by something interesting.
Summer has always been the dumping ground for TV, with reruns abound and inferior low-risk programming. Ten has already stuck by this convention by putting Friends (which is supposedly the highest-rating show in Australia) every evening at 7.00.
So, I was mildly surprised when I was faced with a choice of Journeyman on Ten, a 20th Century Fox sci-fi about a guy who randomly time-travels to the past and East West 101 on SBS, a local crime drama featuring an Aussie-Arabic good cop-bad cop slant.
On any other day, I would’ve chosen Journeyman. But from the 1st day that I watched the advert, I know I don’t want to miss East West 101. I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t.
East West 101 was excellent.
It was hyped with the leading characters being a partnership of an Anglo-Australian detective Ray Crowley (William McInnes) and his Arabic-Australian counterpart Zane Malik (Don Hanly). However, the first episode (out of six) focused more on Malik as the protagonist, with Crowley being his hardline superior.
The backdrop of the show is in the Western suburb of Sydney, especially Lakemba which is renowned for its Muslim community. This lends a certain charm lacking in glitzy or ghetto-ish American shows. The cast is also multi-cultural, without any obvious tokenism.
However, East West 101 shines the most with its gritty portrayal of cultural clash. This episode portrays a misunderstanding between the police and the Arabic community, leading to an eerily familiar scenes of house raids on innocent confused families.
The portrayal of the Muslim community, and Malik himself was spot-on and not cringe-worthy at all, up to the women hastily putting on headscarves as strangers intrudes on their homes. Most of the time, they think of the cops or authority as being up to get them, as a consequence from the distrust of the public towards Muslims/Arabs following 9/11.
Surprise, suprise, being SBS, they had even managed to sneak in a love scene between Malik and his wife. I’m guessing there’ll be a minor outrage over this bit, just wait and see.
This was a top-notch show, and I’m looking forward for the rest of the series. Above all, I hope Australian viewers will realise that Muslims/Arabs are just like everyone, just with different cultures.