Even though the wives in Prisoners' Wives (Prime, 8.30pm, Thursday) are on the outside and not behind bars, the drama has a definite Prisoner or Bad Girls feel to it.
From last night's debut episode we experience the isolation of Gemma, Francesca, Lou and Harriet, all doing their own time as social outcasts in the big bad judgmental outside world.
No-one is more vulnerable than the petite and very pregnant Gemma blissfully married to Steve, dramatically seized by the police in a raid and arrested for murder. It seems that Steve, played by the actor who was TV's last Robin Hood, got himself involved with dodgy dealings but is no career criminal.
Gemma's reaction to Steve's incarceration is bewilderment and disbelief and actress Emma Rigby does a sterling job of allowing a thousand emotions to cross her pretty face as she wakes up to the full picture.
She tries to hide Steve's crime, even though it's made front page news and fields a brutish interrogation by a bullying detective who says she's either a liar or incredibly thick to stand by her man, thus verbalising the viewers' own frustrations with Gemma's slowness in twigging.
At first Gemma rebuffs friendly overtures from Francesca, the top dog of prisoners' wives whom she meets during visiting day at Sheffield Prison. We know that will quickly change.
Francesca is blowsy, ballsy and beautiful, a veritable big-hearted Elsie Tanner married to an international drug dealer, up for an 18 -year lag. A lonely woman, she shares her MacMansion home with her two kids who come home from their private schools to sneer at her loyalty to their father as she tries to keep two worlds going.
In contrast, Lou lives on an estate and is bringing up her young son as best she can, pretending to him that Dad's away building a top secret sports stadium, while Harriet is the unknown quantity wife, often seen muttering to herself in her car parked outside the prison.
No doubt these four will form a bond and perhaps pool their talents to earn a quid. Lou is already dealing in marijuana, but it will be Francesca, our version of Cheryl West (Outrageous Fortune) who is the obvious choice to captain the team.
Prisoners' Wives shows promise despite a contrived moment when Francesca comes to Gemma's rescue to fix a burst water pipe.
- © Fairfax NZ News