It stars that fine actress Marta Dusseldorp as, of course, the tenacious, scary litigator of the title with those chiselled good looks and that mischievous, often cutting, wit.
Dusseldorp also carried the recent Seven series A Place to Call Home, luminous at the centre of Bevan Lee’s ambitious Douglas Sirk-like luxuriant melodrama.
Crownies was based on the grimly Orwellian real-life NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which, at the time the series went to air, had been recently headed by the admired and feared Nicholas Cowdery. The 22-part show observationally followed five young solicitors, dramatically highlighting the moral and ethical dilemmas that naturally grow out of the prosecution of alleged “wrongdoers”. They lacked legal experience, and their lives were filled with the same aspirations and fragile relationships of other young men and women. Yet they were the first point of contact with the police who investigate terrible crimes, liaising with the victims and the sometimes aggrieved witnesses.
Janet King pushes the Crownies model harder towards the HBO approach. It’s more a kind of televised novel, in which chapters unfold as part of a larger whole through which the creators - Screentime’s Des Monaghan and Greg Haddrick - can allow for surprises and unexpected detours.
Dusseldorp’s King returns from a year’s maternity leave determined to prove she’s still got the drive and competitive edge but she finds a different DPP. She falters in her first case against sexual predator Alex Mareno (played by the ubiquitous but always interesting Darren Gilshenan), but is determined to convict high-ranking cop Stephen Blakely (the imposing John Howard), a police assistant commissioner who has admitted administering morphine to his terminally ill wife.
The first episode, written by Haddrick (The Society Murders, The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant) and directed by the equally redoubtable Grant Brown (Underbelly, Rush) fluently moves into action-thriller style after persuasively re-establishing the returning Crownies characters. It’s a delight to welcome back Peter Kowitz’s cantankerous crown prosecutor Tony Gillies.
Janet King, ABC1, 8.30pm