Upper Middle Bogan Season 1 – Two cultures collide with surprising results

Upper Middle Bogan is the brainchild of the brilliant Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope. With an exceptional local cast and inspired directing by Hope and Tony Martin, this Australian eight part series will leave you laughing, crying and most likely cringing more than once.

The series follows the skillfully comedic Annie Maynard as Bess Denyar. Bess is a successful, if not slightly neurotic doctor who discovers that she is adopted and that her upper middle class upbringing is not aligned to her biological roots, which are pure bogan.

For those overseas readers bogan is an Australian (and apparently New Zealand term), which is defined more by a person’s lifestyle than any single one characteristic. If you are not an Aussie or Kiwi please read here for a detailed (and entertaining) definition.

Returning to Bess, her perception of both her world and herself is shaken to its core by this discovery. The process isn’t helped by her very proper and snobby adopted mother, Margaret, played by the extraordinary Robyn Nevin.  Margaret is reluctant to acknowledge, let alone embrace Bess’ birth parents and her siblings, even before she meets them. The multifaceted Glenn Robbins and Robyn Malcolm play Bess’ birth parents, Wayne and Julie to perfection. They combine the delicate mix of parental love, guilt, pride and enthusiasm in embracing the daughter they gave away.

Image credit: ABC
Image credit: ABC

In true comedic fashion nothing goes quite right when the two families meet. There are awkward misunderstandings, resentments and unfounded assumptions made. Some are small, some enormous and they are made from both sides of fence. The charm of Upper Middle Bogan though is what lies just under the surface; for example, the fact that although they clash at nearly every turn, Bess shares the same digestive issues as her sister Amber (played with bogan flawlessness by Michala Banas), an undeniable family trait. Harrison Feldman as Oscar (Bess and Danny’s son) and Rhys Mitchell as his uncle Kayne are superbly cast, their similarities uncanny, from looks through to personality.  There is also the budding friendship between Amber’s son Shawn (played by Dougie Baldwin) and his cousin Edwina (played with uptight superiority by Lara Robinson). Episode 5 is particularly informative for Edwina and is an absolute must for any Angels fan!

Image credit: ABC
Image credit: ABC

While some characters such as Bess’ husband Danny (played with a beautifully straight face by Patrick Brammall) remain one dimensional there is glorious depth given to the surprising friendships which develop. Margaret and Bess’ bubbly sister Brianna (played with unrestrained bogan joy by Madeleine Jevic) strike up a fascinating relationship. While initially based on self-interest and making Bess jealous it quickly evolves into something much more meaningful. The most touching scene though comes courtesy of  Oscar and his humanities ‘my inspiration’ assignment. Oscar is begrudgingly considered developmentally challenged by his parents, sister and Margaret. This perception is once again confirmed when Oscar chooses his uncle Kayne as his inspiration. Everyone is a bit bemused and Danny does everything in his power to persuade Oscar to choose a more ‘suitable’ inspiration. Needless to say all makes sense when Oscar presents his completed movie and it provides an unexpected insight into who Oscar really is and the values he holds.

Image credit: ABC
Image credit: ABC

I have been unable to find whether Upper Middle Bogan has been confirmed for a second season but I for one, hope that it is. It is Australian comedy at its best: witty, intelligent and reflective of the society we live in, even if we sometimes wish it wasn’t. There is so much more to discover about the Wheeler/Denyar/Bright families as they continue to surprise, learn and come to appreciate each other. Not only for their differences but for the unexpected similarities they discover just below their upper middle and bogan surfaces.

Can’t live without your bogan fix? Rediscover season one now.

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