The Prime Minister’s daughter
ABC Me, Saturday January 1 5:30 p.m.
Point of order, Mr President: it is certainly not the next one At home with Julia.
The ABC’s new commission on life at The Lodge is a series of forceful twists that take seriously the intersection of personal relationships and political will. As bolshy as The Prime Minister’s daughter that is, he understands that finding a happy medium between what matters to you and those you love is a difficult and inconstant compromise. Doing it when your mother has just become Australian Prime Minister only increases the difficulty factor.
Moving from her Perth home to Canberra’s best residential address is more stressful than satisfying for Catalina Parkes Perez (Cassandra Helmot): Climate change protesters greet teenage girl and widowed mother Isabel (Claire Fearon) and The Lodge is full of staff silently judging newcomers. “A dry sense of humor, John Howard reminds me,” Chief of Staff Henry (Lewis Fitz-Gerald) remarked to Cat, inflicting a surprisingly ill burn on a veteran public servant.
With the exception of Zoey Bartlet’s work on West wing, screen stories about first children tend to be comedies about privilege and freedom. Cat may be irritated by the restrictions early on – the Australian Federal Police must allow her to cycle to school – but the show’s underlying vision of politics and activism is thankfully contemporary.
The teenager wants to protest her mother’s environmental bill – whose stakeholders include a large polluting company – but her private beliefs have public ramifications. While Isabel’s political affiliation goes undeclared, her centrist approach emphasizes compromise and inclusion. Her daughter, with both the certainty and the urgency of youth, wants change. How the future is shaped by successive generations is a powerful theme running through history.
High school scenes have an updating wit and brevity Distraught. Cat wants to be herself, but everyone relates to her through her mother’s lens. She is mocked by American “diplomat” Miro (Nya Cofie), while Chief Georgina (Amelie James Power) assumes they will be adversaries because her father is the leader of the opposition. Adolescence is really a perpetual vote of no confidence in this scenario.
Cat’s new friends include the Deputy Prime Minister’s son, Ollie (Jaga Yap) and Sadie (Natalie English), who provides the two-party character of the overly talkative eccentric. They are his associates in the mysterious plot that comes to the fore: which sabotages Isabel’s leadership before it barely begins. As detectives, they are determined but prone to literally tripping over their own feet – embarrassment is a constant danger.