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Janet King season 3 review (ABC TV)

It’s been six years since Marta Dusseldorp first played Janet King on Crownies, the 22-episode legal drama which didn’t quite live up to the ABC’s sky-high expectations and was cancelled after just one season.

But Dusseldorp’s presence as the tough and fearless prosecutor proved to be one of the show’s more successful elements, inspiring the ABC to commission a spin-off series, Janet King, in 2014.

The first two seasons of Janet King proved to be popular — thanks in part to the following Dusseldorp gained from her brilliant leading performance on A Place to Call Home — and a third is due to air from next week.

Those first two seasons took the often sprawling and uneven tone of Crownies and focused in on one character, her work, and the world surrounding her. But if Crownies lacked focus, the third season of Janet King could do with a little of its unruly spirit and sense of fun.

For this season, Janet finds herself working as part of the National Crime Commission, and investigating corruption in professional sport and match-fixing. The first episode kicks off with the death of a young, naive cricketer, caught up in a massive betting scandal.

Janet goes in hard on the people surrounding him, including cricketing legend Clay Nelson (Don Hany), who was a hero to the younger cricketer. But she soon discovers that the web of corruption is far more intricate than she first understood. More lives are claimed and performing enhancing drugs come under the spotlight as she tries to untangle and uncover the truth.

The series is more of a mystery than a legal drama, as Janet attempts to understand a series of interconnected situations, and work out who exactly is at the top of this ladder of crime. It’s a similar premise to the one covered in the second season, but the plotting is not quite as neat and quickly becomes convoluted.

The writers have clearly tried to shift the focus entirely to the world which Janet is attempting to unpack and understand, but the audience doesn’t get much of a chance to know any of the characters within that world. Despite the fact that there’s plenty of danger and violent incidents in most episodes, the stakes feel rather low.

The second season faced plenty of criticism for inaccuracies in the legal elements of the series, and it seems there’s been some attempt to correct that this time around. In fact, in the first episode, the writers even seem to acknowledge how strange it is that Janet seems to be constantly physically involved in investigations best left to police.

But the upshot of that decision is that the series can sometimes get bogged down in legal detail, although it still doesn’t feel particularly authentic.

Dusseldorp’s presence gives the whole show a much-needed zing, although few of the supporting characters are given much space for development. It’s a shame, for example, to see Peter Kowitz so under-utilised as Janet’s colleague and unlikely ally/father figure, Tony.

We also don’t get to find out all that much about Janet’s evolving relationship with her new partner Bianca (Anita Hegh), even though they’re working together on the investigation.

Newcomer Geraldine Viswanathan impresses as the precocious but arrogant young analyst working under Janet, and the character starts to show some development towards the end of the first four episodes, upon which this review is based.

Hamish Michael’s performance as Richard Stirling has been a highlight of both Crownies and Janet King, and it remains just as compelling in this third season, with Richard having stepped out from under Janet’s wing to find a successful career as a defence barrister. The character has matured — at least to some degree.

While fans will enjoy this return to Janet’s world, and the loveable characters that populate it, the series doesn’t live up to the storytelling standard set by the first two seasons. It’s still passable entertainment, but the whole show suffers from some pretty uninspired writing.

Janet King airs on ABC TV Thursdays, from May 25, at 8.30pm

20 responses to “Janet King season 3 review (ABC TV)

  1. This show is Wonderful, Addicting, and one of the BEST that I’ve seen in a long time. I hope it last for a long time!!!!

    I do agree about season 3 having too many stories , but “Janet King” makes me want to watch the show. I think a lot was trying to be achieved but missed the mark a bit. The writing needs to return to season past, but the acting from all is TOP!

    This is a show, many layers to the characters and much more that can develop for season 4!! Yes a season 4.

  2. Well, having watched the entirety of both series, I can’t wat until series 4. Give me more Janet King and her merry band ofbarristers, cops and perps.

  3. I find myself agreeing with other commenters that this season of Janet King is boring – dull story, flat and poorly used secondary characters – and I found Crownies much more engaging.

  4. I thought the best episodes of Crownies were the those in which Jane Allen was among the writers. She seemed to focus on thorny legal issues while making the drama and/or comedy interesting and watchable. I see from IMDB that after being involved in the first series of Janet King, she is not involved any more.

  5. I am finding Janet King extremely boring. I have tried every week to watch it but unfortunately I think it’s time to stop watching.
    Why can’t we make drama’s like the British. Excluding Delicious which was garbage.

  6. I am disappointed with this series so far. I was excited to see that Don Hany was also starring but he was given such a bad script it would have been impossible for him to do anything with it. There must be different writers and directors as it is not up to the usual standard. It was very wooden, predictable and unbelievable. Such a shame – maybe it will get better. Even the addition of the young and arrogant research assistant is very formulaic. What has gone wrong?

    1. Hubby and I concluded it was the script not the acting that was making as squirm and groan. We were staying in a hotel at the time of viewing and for some reason (later resolved) the signal kept dropping out to all kinds of strange zinging and popping noises – which naturally we got into with our own spirited versions, to liven things up a bit.

      All in all a memorable hour of hilarious comedy.

      1. PS. Someone really ought do an hatchet job on that new BBC dog, ‘Delicious’, currently screening on the ABC. Despite the vague attractions of Dawn French and Amelia Fox, the dime store writing relies on the scattered rubble of every boundaries breach known to man or woman (including incest, and that ultimate doozy knows as Death) for its cringeworthy plottage.

  7. “Those first two seasons took the often sprawling and uneven tone of Crownies and focused in on one character, her work, and the world surrounding her. But if Crownies lacked focus, the third season of Janet King could do with a little of its unruly spirit and sense of fun.”

    I enjoyed Crownies more than Janet King and was dismayed when the ABC abandoned it. “Sprawling”, “uneven tone” and lack of focus don’t mean much to me. Its strengths were the social and legal issues it seamlessly incorporated into the plot lines and the bright young cast which delivered them each week (not to mention the unruly spirit and sense of fun). It may not have attracted a large audience, but while that can’t be ignored it shouldn’t be a determining factor for the ABC.

  8. Not only did I love this series but it led to my watching The Crownies. These two series are outstanding. The TV programs in the USA have been “dumb downed” so much that its refreshing to be entertained by such refreshing acting. Once again, critics just don’t get it – it’s fiction .. it’s entertaining … the actors can act!!!

    1. How true! Dumbdowned describes US TV and Hollywood BS to a T. Cable gets it right some of the time but the Aussies and Brits do it right.

      1. Agreed. Americans, we are too dumb to recognize dumbed-down programming. The US TV industry gives us exactly what we want: shallow, vapid plots with narcissistic characters devoid of kindness and empathy. We need a societal overhaul.

        I’m just hoping other countries won’t follow us down this short-sighted path of marketing to the bottom of the barrel.

    2. I agree with you. I stumbled on this show in season 3. Watched one episode and loved it. Went back and watched season one and two first then continued for season 3. Most Outstanding drama in a long time I must say. I was left wanting more though. Janet has many personal demons to figure out before she can really grow any further. It would be great to watch how Marta can portray that struggle. Love all the other actors as well.
      Here is hoping they ignore the somber comments and focus on what can be done for season 3.

  9. This series has been and from the sound of it continues to be quite boring because of the dominance of the central character played with one dimensional steely jawed determination which appears to amount to her acting technique.

    Ensemble works are far more interesting and entertaining as, despite some flaws, Crownie was. Let the commercial stations do the soap operas…

  10. I find with Critics of Tv and film that they cannot just watch it for what it is ,fiction and let it be the eye of the beholder that either likes it or loves it instead of trying to force their opinions on us out here in Viewer World !!

    1. Thank you… Precisly what I was thinking. It’s fiction people and who cares that Janet was the center of attention.. From what I saw there were other things going on as well like Owen and his determination to crush Janet for some godly unknown reason. There are other characters as well & strong ones for that matter. It wasn’t ALL about Janet.. Even though the show is called Janet King (Der).

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