Now leaving ... The Shire

If a show fails, but no one is watching, has the show really failed at all? Let's find out.

Previously on The Shire, Ten decided the reputation of Sutherland Shire in the south of Sydney hadn’t taken enough of a beating, so they created this show. They decided the English language hadn’t taken enough of a beating, so they coined the term dramality. And they decided they didn’t need no stinking viewers, so they aired their dramality The Shire on commercial television at otherwise inoffensive hours of the evening.

It didn’t work. By any measure. And tonight as the series stumbles to a close, these wizards of dramality attempt to wrap up all the strands of the lives we care so deeply about...

... and now that we’ve got one more shot from behind of that girl at the beach in the bikini out of the way, they’re going to give us a final update on this bunch of spelling mistakes.

The Players
, narrator, hero, boyfriend, son, all round good guy ...terrible fisherman.
Gabby, Mitch’s girlfriend, only able to attend the first part of any scene.
Andy, Mitch’s mate, Tegan’s golf pro.
Simon, Mitch’s mate, absent. Never seen at the same time as Mitch’s dad. Coincidence? I think not.
Michelle, Mitch’s Mum, Neil’s former Gabby.
Beckaa, plastic and drastic, able to dislocate jaw to get it on with Kris
Stace, Beckaa’s BFF (gay).
Kris, Beckaa’s BFF (seeking benefits and/or treatment).
Tony, Beckaa’s father, financier and limo provider.
Joel ‘Rif Raf’, “rapper” hoping to see the quotes removed from that description.
Michelka, Rif Raf’s girl
Moukalati, Rif Raf’s boy
Sabina, Michelka’s bestie
Sophie and Vernesa, a.k.a. Verphie, if these are the best things about The Shire then it should be ... oh it was.
Kerry, bar manager, bali dreamer, Matt’s not-quite-girlfriend
Tegan, friend of Kerry, rockchick, golfchick, balichick. All round good chick.
Matt 'Spock', Kerry’s not-quite-boyfriend, short-distance relationships only.
Folksy, Spock’s special friend, if only Kerry would go to ... I don’t know ... Bali.
Nickee, lingerie model, Michael’s girlfriend / enabler.
Michael, Nickee’s boyfriend, other girl’s special florist.
Megan and Courtnii, Nickee’s friends and lingerie colleagues.
Boogie, Megan’s ferret ... and we never get to say goodbye.

Paul Kelly picks up his final residual cheque for Dumb Things and The Shire opens its final episode with a sunset ... how apt! And so begins the race to resolution.

Nikee and Michael are the first over-flogged horses out of the gate. A montage of a champagne bottle, a dozen roses and Nikee sprinkling petals over a bed precedes her explaining that she has forgiven Michael for sending flowers and text messages to another girl and will now punish him by appearing in soft porn in a hotel room. This scene sends the sort of message to the men of Australia that we used to rely on septuagenarian supreme court justices for.

Michael arrives to see a bed draped in petals and Nikee in lingerie and is confused. Did he send those flowers? Did he send them to Nikee? Is she dressed for him or for work? Finally, once he works out that this is exactly what it seems to be – a hotel room with a camera crew and a limited props budget – he feels more at home. Then he privately (that is, in voice over) acknowledges that he has problems, and that he started them all, but he explains, BUT ... now that Nikee’s learning to trust him again things will be better. He has problems, she’s changed and that should fix things. I take it back, septuagenarian justices are positively progressive compared to this situation.

Nikee on the other hand believes that the past is the past, and the future is the future, and with such a linear view of time she rationalises not talking about the past means it doesn’t exist. And this, I suspect, is supposed to pass for resolution of that plot line.

Verphie are inducting Jacqui into the sisterhood with some bubbly and note that post makeover she looks remarkable ... remarkably like she did pre-makeover, only with a bad spray tan. This has inspired Verphie to makeover more people people from head to toe. Clearly this was intended to be a new plot strand, however as this is the final episode, it just means a fashion show. Of course. Because that’s what happens in dramality.

As such Verphie are going to makeover some ordinary people - which will require them to find some – and then have them walk down a runway, that a crowd will turn up to see, for no discernible reason.

Back in the hotel room, Michael has resolved himself and Nikee ... well she got close to resolving a few times there, but Michael resolved quicker then she hoped. But that’s ok! There’s nothing wrong with that! It’s in the past, so her non-resolution doesn’t exist.

Michael is hoping to perform again later as they’ve got the room all night, but the camera crew are only here for the next fifteen minutes, so he’ll actually be forced to "polish his motorcycle" on his own.

In the park, Kerry is walking the dog, and Tegan, and yes I avoided the obvious joke there because when it comes to The Shire, the cheap shots just take themselves. Kerry it seems, has decided to move to Bali, where they have major fashion designers she can export to Australia using a website and where no one has seen this show. Tegan wonders if Kerry realises no one in Australia has watched this show either? She also asks her if she has told her not-quite-boyfriend Matty. Kerry confirms that she has not-quite-told him. They just got “kind of to a good place” she explains and she feels she could be risking that ambiguous near neutral state of affairs by leaving him and their script writers ... and their story budget.

After the break, Michael is indeed polishing his own motorcycle. Literally. And OF COURSE we are going to meet new characters tonight. Meet Renay, Nikee’s mum, who has a dog on her lap and a chip on her shoulder.

Renay is cheesed off. Possibly with Michael’s behaviour towards her daughter, possibly because he is cleaning his none-too-subtle-compensation, overly large motorcycle in her backyard for no obvious reason. Michael tells Renay he wants to marry her daughter and Renay is happy, as she knows that now he’s got that out he’ll leave. Except he doesn’t. So she pressures him about when they’ll marry. And he doesn’t leave. So she asks about holding an engagement party. Here. Right here. In the yard. Right where your motorcycle is standing. Michael is really pleased with how enthusiastic Renay is about the engagement. So much so he decides to stay there all day with his motorcycle.

Elsewhere, Rif Raf is in a recording studio after being discovered by a studio owner who is willing to risk accepting large amounts of cash for pointless activity. Rif Raf is happy. Happy because his headphones fit. Happy because the sound engineer is so good at his job that he asks Rif Raf about his headphones. Happy because the engineer is nodding like a man happy in the knowledge he gets paid no matter how awful this is.

Rif Raf raps about Cronulla (“I got a riot in my head and I ain’t talking ‘bout Cronulla.”) and the green and gold and Aussie accents, while explaining in voice over that the microphone is his lover and he is going to make love to it and the microphone will ... love it. As far as lyrical gangstas go, Rif Raf is the sort of criminal who takes charity chocolates without paying.

Rif Raf has a bit of a cry about the fact that he has so much to say ... he is in fact lost for words explaining that he has a lot to say. The producers continue to play his backing track underneath this eloquent expression of verbosity just to highlight the irony of his lack of lexical “talents.”

Michael is buying a ring for Nikee from family friend Hernando, a jeweller who has seen members of his family coming for generations. Michael starts at the 600k mark before choosing a 9k ring. He is stunned when Hernando mystically guesses that pregnancy could be a factor in this proposal. Sure it’s not true, but how could he know it almost was?! He continues to ponder this mystical man as he walks out of the shop, under the sign reading Up The Duff Engagements.

Kerry is breaking bad news to Matt in the traditional way of the people of The Shire, which is to set up an outdoor cinema and never show a film. Sure she means to show a film, but she never does. She also means to tell Matt that she’s going  overseas. Instead she fails dismally to explain her plans, instead hinting at a short sufing holiday. “I’m moving. To Bali. For good.” She doesn’t say. And she doesn’t say this over a course of about five minutes. Wow, even now, at the very end, The Shire can deliver the sort of scintillating drama that wet cardboard can only dream of.

It’s night time in The Shire so Verphie are dressing up strangers and insulting them. And these are the most random strangers that a half-witted casting director could find and make “ugly” with ill fitting clothes and a stupid look at short notice.

Verphie identify their victims as “confused” which is clearly accurate on a number of levels. They then MC their own fashion show and introduce their six, now-glammed victims: Terry Target, Tina Tights, Harry Highpants, The Tomboy, Doctor Sandals and Goth Girl are all presented and shockingly look better in clothes that fit.

It has to be said. This fashion show is officially the stupidest, most vapid and frankly bland excuse for television The Shire has turned out yet. Congratulations Team Shire, you took your own inept benchmark and lowered it.

Verphie finish off by discussing their destiny to make people who aren’t as hot as them ... not as hot as them, and that sums them up nicely.

At a barbie by the beach Mitch is performing The Shire’s patented genetic test on his “dad” Neil by throwing him two objects to see if he can juggle. Neil throws one of the objects up and down and Mitch is satisfied. That’s his dad. Then Mitch’s mum Michelle arrives and has a conversation that is branded “awkward” by Mitch and “similar to every other conversation on this show” by the rest of us. Everyone is all smiles, Mitch’s parents are getting along well AND escaping the contract that says they have to see each other ever again.

Joel a.k.a. Rif Raf’s mum Tina can’t believe that he is leaving. Leaving for London, where he feels his music (you remember, the stuff about being Australian, The Shire and singing in an Aussie accent) will be more accepted. Hmmm. Tina is even more shocked when he reveals he isn’t coming back. Tina really hasn’t wrapped her head around this “your show has been axed thing.” Everyone has bought a one way ticket, Rif Raf is just choosing to make his less metaphoric.

Michael is playing trust games with Nikee because he likes visual metaphors. He is making her walk with her eyes closed along a beach, escorting her to a secret location where he has spent the remainder of his story arc’s budget on a cabana made out of an oversized tablecloth from an Italian restaurant.

As a plane flies past dragging a “Will you marry me?” banner, Nikee says “Get f----d” and frankly the sheer honesty of her response is starkly refreshing, entertaining and of course ... not the actual response. After a moment away with the camera where she explains that “no means yes” (seriously these two are a lesson in caveman political correctness) Nikee takes the ring and Michael ecstatically admits his life can begin now. At the end. How poetic.

The night before they head to Bali, Tegan and Kerry head to a party where Kerry is accidentally faced with having to tell Matt that she’s leaving the country indefinitely ... tomorrow. She rightly recognises that he’s a pig for not responding well to that bombshell. His selfish adherence to his previously stated position of not wanting to be in a long distance relationship, based on the failure of their last effort at exactly that is the sort of mean-spirited consistency that her flaky ill-defined dream really doesn’t need right now. However having tied herself in knots to justify that she was right, she and Tegan hop in a cab to the airport.

Mitch is saying farewell to his dad and admits to falling in love with him then and there, and fair is fair, this is actually a decent scene. It only took nine episodes to get here. Kudos.

As taxis race to get out of The Shire before someone stops handing out the cabcharge cards, the music swells and the montage begins. “Change is tough” Mitch tells us in voice over as we see him kiss Gabby, Michael kiss Nikee, Verphie kiss their fifteen minutes goodbye, Matt acknowledge its over and Beckaa and Kris making a quick credits cameo as they laugh at Stace for eating food.

“Goodbye Shire” says Kerry, “Hello Bali” says Tegan. I reall hope that isn't the introduction of a spin-off.

“Home will always be here” signs off Mitch as we gaze upon a sign reading:

You Are Now Leaving The Shire.

(And thank God’s country for that).

The story Now leaving ... The Shire first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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