Harrow – home entertainment review

The ABC has a (deserved) reputation as a standard-bearer for Australian television production. Aunty’s latest crime drama, Harrow, does nothing to harm that. Okay, it might not have the fun of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries or the grit of Jack Irish; but this is a solid drama with enough intrigue to keep you coming back.

Harrow follows the now well-established pattern for crime shows. Each week there’s a different crime for the “team” to solve; but the series has an overarching plotline that runs through all the episodes.

Our hero (?) is Dr Daniel Harrow (Iaon Gruffudd), a forensic pathologist. He works for the Queensland crime lab, alongside helpful intern Simon Van Reyk (Remy Hii) and prickly colleague Dr Lyle Fairly (Darren Gilshenan). Outside work, Harrow is dealing with rebellious 18 year-old daughter Fern (Ella Newton) and ex-wife Stephanie Tolson (Anna Lise Phillips). Harrow’s work involves liaising closely with the police, usually the no-nonsense Det. Nichols (Damien Garvey). But the arrival of the smart and attractive Det. Soroya Dass (Mirrah Foulkes) to the homicide squad changes the dynamic. But everyone is puzzled when a set of unidentified bones – encased in concrete – is discovered in the Brisbane River.

Harrow brings a distinctly Australian angle on the police procedural show – notwithstanding that the lead character is a Brit. For a start, it’s set unapologetically in Brisbane, and makes good use of locations. Many of the characters are the type of people you might encounter in everyday life. Plus it has the “Aussie-est” actor since Bill Hunter in the form of Damien Garvey.

The writers, led by Stephen M. Irwin (the recent Wake in Fright mini-series) create mostly relateable characters. It must have been tempting at one point to have made Harrow the kind of socially awkward savant so beloved at the moment. Yes, I’m looking at you, The Good Doctor. They’ve chosen however to make him brilliant but personable; a much better combination I think. That also sets up the love interest with Det. Dass as the series progresses. But even the more minor characters, like Harrow’s ex Stephanie, are treated carefully.

British actor Ioan Gruffudd (UnREAL) leads the cast with an easy charm as the titular Harrow. He certainly looks the part, and plays it mostly quite understated without being entirely “safe”. Mirrah Foulkes (Hawaii Five-O) lends a touch of glamour as the savvy Det. Dass. Ella Newton (Newton’s Law) gets perhaps the “flashiest” role from an acting perspective as the fiery Fern; while Anna Lise Phillips (Crownies) has a more constrained role as Stephanie. But I dearly love Damien Garvey’s performance as Det. Nichols. He not only has a pivotal role in each episode, but also delivers some surprisingly funny jokes.

While Harrow might not be ground-breaking, it’s another feather in the ABC’s cap. This is quality drama, well-written and expertly crafted. And that’s a lot more than you can say for a lot of Australian TV shows currently.

Harrow screens every Friday night at 8.30 p.m. on the ABC; and you can catch up on past episodes via ABC iView.

David Edwards

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