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“ALP: Thought Crimes Unit” – what to expect with the new cast and the new series

2 June 2019

3:25 PM

2 June 2019

3:25 PM

Big changes are in store for season five of the ACTU/ABC/New Daily-Union Super/Guardian Media hit TV drama “ALP: Thought Crimes Unit”, streaming on Stan (formerly known as The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age).

The last season, already thought by the viewers to have been the most disappointing so far despite its star cast and a promising build-up, ended with a shocking finale, whose controversial ending still divides the audience and the entertainment industry.

The ultimate plot twist, which saw the elite team of social justice detectives under the leadership of Captain Bill Shorten, rumours of a seedy past far behind him, spectacularly fall short of collaring surprise nemesis, Scott “ScoMo” Morrison, has shattered and angered the show’s faithful viewers and saw the finale’s rating crash through the floor, particularly in the tough TV market of Queensland.

“Who the fuck wrote the script? Benioff and Weiss?” tweeted one devastated viewer, TonyJones69. Another fan of the show, PiratePete, concurred: “I haven’t been so disappointed by a final episode since the republic referendum.”

As the dust slowly settles, it looks like it will take a lot of work for the creators and the cast of “ALP: Thought Crimes Unit” to regain the viewers’ trust and to return to their previous stellar ratings.

We can report today that rather controversially, season five (yes, it really is that many leaders since the show first appeared featuring fresh-faced Captain Rudd, grippingly sent mad in the role) will see a surprising change in the show’s direction, from an edge-of-the-seat, dark crime drama (described as one critic as “perfect Canberra noir”) to a much lighter entertainment. The producers are hoping that introducing some levity and humour will help the show reconnect with the mainstream viewers.

Gone is the unpopular lead character, Captain Bill Shorten, whose stewardship of the fictional social justice department proved quite controversial over previous series. Many critics and the majority of viewers (if “TV Week” online polls are to be believed) always thought that the show enjoyed its high ratings – consistently higher than the rival News Corp/Sky series “Game of Tones” – despite rather than because of its male lead, who simply wasn’t able to recapture the charm of his debut performance in the critically acclaimed telemovie “Beaconsfield” and his subsequent underrated masterpiece “Underbelly: AWU”.

In his place, the creators of “ALP: TCU” are now set to elevate the previous supporting character, Lieutenant Anthony “Albo” Albanese, the tough, street-smart detective from the wrong side of Sussex street. Show insiders say the much-loved Albo has run a tough campaign that saw other potential contenders for season five’s lead one by one drop by the wayside, including the previous rising star of the show, Sergeant Jim Chalmers, who is now set to play Beto O’Rourke in the Fox comedy “Honey, I Shrank My Campaign”.

If Albo is a shoe-in and the viewers’ choice, other casting changes will prove more controversial with the show’s faithful fan base.

In particular, tongues in the entertainment industry are already wagging about the producers’ shock decision to replace Lieutenant Tanya Plibersek, in with what one show insider rather cattily described as a-blonde-for-a-blond with a “younger, prettier, American model”, Senior Sergeant “Nobody’s Gal”Kristina Keneally. The critics of this controversial choice point to Keneally’s disappointing, short-lived appearance on the long-running Channel 9 family favourite “NSW Premiers” as well as her wooden and underwhelming performance on season four’s finale. To add fuel to the fire, stories are circulating that Keneally’s promotion to the show’s top cast comes at an expense of a minor but much loved character, Apple gadget obsessive Multicultural Community Liaison Officer Ed Husic.

As Plibersek steps back to the supporting cast in order to spend more time with her family, also gone from the top credits is Detective Chris Bowen, the hard-working but plodding supporting lead, thought by many TV critics as a rather boring character actor in a role that always required more fire and panache. Bowen has been, perhaps unfairly, dismissed for too obviously striving to emulate with the multi-Logie winner, Paul “Mad Dog” Keating, who was a favourite among the parents’ of the show’s current generation of fans.

A surprising addition to the core investigative team is Richard “Dick” Marles, previously best known as the host of the Victorian edition of “The Faction is Right” game show and a Sky News’ poodle-care series “Pyne & Marles”.

In fact, the only lead character returning in season five is the tough lesbian Asian-Australian Detective Penny “Two Don’t” Wong. She is expected to add some gravity and her trademark wisdom to the rather inexperienced cast.

Will the radical revamp of “ALP: Though Crimes Unit” convince the disenchanted audience who have threatened to switch their viewing allegiance Hallmark Channel’s tear-jerker “Jacinda”? Only time will tell, but for now all we can say: stay tuned and stay woke.

Arthur Chrenkoff blogs at The Daily Chrenk, where this piece also appears.

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