Warning: Blue Language, Rake

I had to look this one up,

louche /lo͞oSH/ adjective

  1. disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way.”the louche world of the theater”

My all-time favorite television series is the Australian series Rake. I saw it first a few years ago, and, when Covid and hip pain hit, I started it again. It’s hilarious and intelligent satire. The protagonist — Cleaver Greene, played by Richard Roxburgh — personifies “Louche,” the Rag Tag Word for the day. It’s not a show for everyone — for one thing, the word “fuck” can’t bother you — nor can drug use, nudity (partial, it’s TV after all), or a lot of other things that our world doesn’t usually find funny. Cleaver is a defense attorney only a few inches away in character from those he defends. There are even a few episodes when he’s in jail for murder.

The acting is amazing. Not everyone is beautiful or sympathetic; some have no redeeming qualities at all. Others are complex (like real people?) and unappealing in their complexity yet… As absurd and extreme as it is, it’s absolutely relatable…

Rake straddles the high/low cultural divide. Cleaver frequently quotes Yeats, is a fan of Balzac, but remains distinctly Australian, asking one character: “What in the name of Bob Menzies are you doing here?” In the very first episode of the series Cleaver says of Lord Byron: “Bugger me, he was good.” And in the seventh episode of the most recent season, Cleaver tells a priest: “I could out-Nietzsche you at five paces.”


Apparently someone tried to remake it for American TV. It didn’t work — how could it? The article cited above gave this explanation for the show’s failure, “The series was remade for American television in 2014, with Greg Kinnear in the title role, renamed Keagan Deane. Like many Australia-to-America remakes, it fell flat without the humour or darkness of the original, and was cancelled after one season.”

“Humour and darkness.” Yep. I never saw the American version. Until this morning I didn’t even know of its brief existence. The closest I think American TV might have come to the kind of satire in Rake is South Park, The Simpsons and the sainted Beavis and Butthead. It seems that we Americans only mock ourselves with unabashed satire in 2 dimensions…

One of my favorite episodes involves a retired English teacher who’s made it his mission in life, a personal crusade, to destroy the kind of language that’s all too prevalent in our world, mushes of words — jargon — used in business and politics, language that says absolutely nothing, in fact, attempts to obfuscate everything. He sneaks into high level corporate meetings and passes as a consultant. Things go sideways for him when he sneaks into a VERY high level, secret meeting between a leader in the British government and the Australian. He’s picked up, accused of espionage and sent to the highest level of secure prisons. Cleave wants him to appeal, but the retired English teacher just says, “No, it’s all right. My wife is dead. There’s no reason for me to fight this. Look at all the time I’ll have to read!”

If there is a “mission” in this series it’s the exposure of the “shadow-show” of the reality in which we live.

I’ve known men like Cleaver — not as extreme but definitely the same general cut of person. My brother, my friend Denis Joseph Francis Callahan, even my dad to some extent — charming, vulnerable, angry Irishmen who could rant eloquently and get angry over godnose what. I think of Denis one afternoon when I arrived at a community college where we both taught. Our job that day was to read infinite compositions, placement tests telling us which level the students should be placed in. I got there at my appointed hour only to find Denis coming toward the parking lot. I got out of my car.

“Don’t go in there, Gus (nickname). You won’t like it.” He hit a tree with his fist.

“Why? What’s going on?”

“Steaming feminist sacks of shit sitting there holier than though with their little master’s degrees (Denis had a PhD from Notre Dame) pronouncing judgement over a fucking comma! ‘He doesn’t use commas properly.’ Well fuck them. The fucking essay said something. Pedantic, sanctimonious fucks. A comma doesn’t make a writer. Any fuck can learn to use a comma. Ideas make a fucking writer.” He hit the tree again, then pulled back his fist and looked at his scraped up knuckles.

I knew everything then, everything that had happened. Denis got into an argument with a couple of women — the kind of women he did NOT like — got mad and walked out.

“Let’s go get a burger, Den’.”

I knew how to defuse that rage.

“Good idea.”

Another reason I like Rake so much is a lot of the things that annoy Cleaver annoy me. And, like Cleaver, my response to bullshit is poetry.

24 thoughts on “Warning: Blue Language, Rake

  1. It sounds like a show I would love! You’re right, i
    can’t imagine an American audience supporting it, we seem to be an uptight country in so many ways

    • Hypocritical and unimaginative = uptight. I think you’d like Rake. I laugh out loud often. At one point, Cleaver is defending an indefensible client (complicated story). His co-counsel starts out with her life story, how as a little girl in Surrey her dad — a Vicar — taught her about not judging people. Cleaver gets up for his turn and says, “Well, my story isn’t as lovely as my co-counsels. My grandad was a Catholic priest.” I thought I’d lose it…

  2. One of my favourite shows!! No offence, but there is very little American TV that can match the humour and insights of British, Australian, and even some Canadian shows.

    • No offense taken. I very very very seldom watch American TV for that reason. Even the dramas lack something human. American tv makes me think of little girls playing with paper dolls, moving the stereotypical characters around an idealized house. To me it seems that non-American film and tv is more subtle, with more levels and more humanity. One beautiful, quiet British film I love is A Month in the Country. It could not be made in the US. Technically possible but that’s all.

      • I have to agree with you Martha. I haven’t see the movie A Month in the Country, I’ll have to look for it. There are many hidden gems out there.

        • Kenneth Branagh and Colin Firth both very young. It’s made from a book that I haven’t read — but I think it needs to be a movie because of what it’s about. ❤

  3. Rake sounds like a show I’d like.

    And I truly identify with Gus. It is why I have a low opinion of academia in general while I have a very high opinion of some of the people in it.

    Comedy is like chocolate. I often feel like the darker the better.

    • I think you have a high opinion of Denis. Gus is me. My “nom de plume” is Gus Lamont, short for Augusta Lamont. Kind of an inside joke between me and Denis. And I agree with you about comedy.

  4. I’ve never heard of these shows and now I’m wondering if they are available on Netflix… I have to agree with Denis – commas do not a writer make (or in this case unmake). It has always been about the idea, the vision, the story….

    • I agree with Denis. Any idiot can learn to use a comma. I know that for a fact because I mastered it. I figure with grammar if you can get it right, get it right and that’s what I told my students. It’s important to care; good punctuation — good grammar — is basically good manners. But no; it doesn’t make a writer a writer. I think I first saw Rake on Netflix. I recently watched it on Amazon Prime and then on Acorn.

  5. A video of one of our PMs having a hissy fit was released once. He said a lot of fucks. I think Rake captures the Australian character quite brilliantly. Often my TL tells me I shouldn’t use “damn” in my posts because of my international audience!!! I think he means my American readers. He is probably right. I should use fuck instead.

  6. Worst, longest, most boring Writer’s Group meeting I sat through? Two sanctimonious fucks, with degrees, debating over the use/non-use, whys and wherefores of the……’Harvard comma’ – Sigh – they were both male – so, for me?

    I Do so LIKEY (pop-culture slang, no?) Denis and his worldview shared here, AND you, for telling the story in all it’s wonderful, fuckfilled glory!

    Cuz yes, to me? The best ideas, stories and perspectives just shine through – in all their typo ridden, grammatically wrong, misspelled beauty – and those who are trying to change the rules? Forge forth into new paths, or trending ‘moments’ to ‘try’ just now?

    Meh – maybe/maybe not – we shall see, eh??? Until then? Me? Just grateful I don’t have a degree or ‘status’ in the fields you and Denis do – I would lose my mind trying to show up and ‘serve’ in those arenas, in a way expected by those who asked me…. 😀

    • The best stories don’t shine through if everything else is jacked. Good grammar is good manners and respect for one’s work and the need of others to understand it. That said, good writing doesn’t hang on comma usage. Idiot show-offs argue over the Oxford comma. Smart people shut up and use it. You might enjoy the cute/funny book Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.

      • Thanks for being ‘kind’ – it WAS the Oxford comma! Sigh – one of the big schools, and my swear to goodness! Until you replied? I had no idea I had mis-labeled it in my mind/memory – I did search the web, and got into so many rabbit hole debates to try to learn why folks who were so passionate over, (cuz yes, I was bored silly, and all) BUT, figured I just didn’t ‘know/understand why important” I asked a librarian and English teacher in my circle, to ‘splain’ it to me – 😀 Sigh –

        I guess, to my ‘brain’ reading of words by others is trickle, then a creek, then a stream, then a river – one just flows into the next or it doesn’t – either rocks, dams, diversions and tributaries show up too often or too big, or they don’t –

        I will confess – I’m struggling with the ‘use the pronouns requested by interviewee’ article a couple of weeks ago – the pronoun used was “their” over and over –

        I figured I read to fast – was missing the introduction of another person in the household, the fact the interviewee had two personalities or another mental challenge/way their brain works???

        But, that reminded me too, of another Writer’s Group meeting – same group – all same players – most of them published in one forum or another or made their living via words – back then? (2017) they all shared the fact – over many years of ‘trying’ to write a story without using a single gender connected pronoun? And not confuse the reader?

        They tried often and failed – This is the only memory in my brain that keeps me not feeling as bad that I had to read that op-ed/round-up of folks affected by health care changes, four times, before I decided, “Maybe I’m missing it, or maybe, it’s just the preferred pronoun??? I don’t claim to know, for sure, and chafe over my mind that stumbles, tries and STILL asks questions, while I’m reading – It’s a testament to any writer I read, I think, that I get drawn into the story and don’t ask any questions until AFTER I read it – that, is my ‘monkey brain’ at it’s finest/worst – both/and – 😀

        • That preferred pronoun stuff is bullshit. There is no way in the world to make everyone happy. People that get hung up on that piss ass stuff (Oxford commas, preferred pronouns etc.) don’t know what writing is or that grammar is a tool and like all tools it is the servant of the user but, at the same time, if the user doesn’t take the time to master and understand the tool, it won’t work. It’s that “It’s a poor workman who blames his tools” think. Good writing is clear writing. It’s writing so other people can understand what you want to say. That’s it. That’s the goal. A good writer serves his/her story or idea and does the best he/she can by it. I use his/her but I’m happy with the male neuter pronoun — he. It just pisses some people off. You piss off your audience, you don’t have one any more.

          Writing groups? I was in one for a very brief time and realized that people who write, write. People who talk about writing, might not write. I’m not young. How do I want to use my time? People are also petty, competitive, envious and not all that intelligent. Put them in a group and all that comes out. As for the much debated Oxford comma? It doesn’t matter AT ALL unless, without it, the sentence is unclear. That’s it. That’s the whole test.

          A reader is not a writer. Plenty of poorly written books are very popular and that’s cool. Plenty of beautifully written books are never read. That’s cool, too. The reader is part of a market, the writer may write to that market or might not. The book might miraculously coincide with a new market. The absolutely worst book I’ve ever read was a major best seller that no one hears of any more. It had its moment. That doesn’t mean that books that aren’t written to the market are better than those that are. No two writers are doing the same thing. When I judge books for the contest for which I am a judge my criteria are simple. Would it reach its audience first and foremost, does it fulfill its purpose. If yes, what obstacles exist in its journey to a reader? the LAST thing I judge is its writing, the quality of its writing. I’m judging books for people to read; I’m not teaching the writers how to write (thank God).

          • I write to write – I once thought I would be a ‘writer’ but have all but given up on that – for over 11 years now – I’m grateful I’m not a teacher, or writing for publication to be ‘sold’ fronts – although I write content for others to tell their story – in the way they wish to, that I can live with being a part of it’s creation – 😀

            For myself? I just read, write and publish here, as the last stop on what I’m trying to make sense of, on many fronts, learn more on, for other perspectives to be aware of – and to attempt to organize it all in my mind, in a way that doesn’t drive me crazy or leave me completely confused over myself ….

            Some of those ‘writer group’ folks were the same ones I wrote for their biz, my duties for part-time job, and they were my boss, colleagues, etc.

            And I didn’t understand “Da Rules” of it all – I brought in my first draft, that I carved out, to ‘try to just write, what I wanted to write about” for the meeting –

            While I came prepared with notes feedback for others on their drafts – I missed the point, I guess – I thought it was about reading first drafts, giving feedback on the emotions evoked, the struggle to finish the ‘story wanting to be told/confusion, etc., ‘ but just to say, sometimes,

            “Um, this form/genre you are writing in? Not my preferred, thus, what could I have to really tell ya that would be useful to you?”

            But always, whether I was bored, or paying close attention, my prefs as reader or not – typos, etc….

            In that group? It was just hard to miss what was torturing their soul over and over and what just flowed out of them, free as bird, seemingly without effort –

            And I gave feedback best as I could, to mention such things – cuz to this day – I still believe, true artists journey through their world and take us on their journey, too – we may not always see/grasp the wildflower here, they see, or miss the roadstop cafe & bathroom they so sorely needed just then, and leave a map, best as we can, for others?

            But still – against all odds – the artist and the art lover, just show up and sometimes? The dance begins and feels as if it will never end….

            And sometimes they change, we change, or we both change and the language we each spoke/heard before?

            No longer meshes together in one dance as well as it once did – and, in the end – it is what it is….

            I JUST learned, my Mom didn’t like a Gentleman in Moscow – she read it, told me in letter that she had, and commented on it, simply because all here ‘book friends’ said she should read –

            Sigh – I told her, “Wish I had known you didn’t like it when you read it – I would never have recommended The Secret Life of Hedgehog – which you didn’t like, either – to me, I saw rather the same overarching themes, but….

            😀 Sigh – even recommendations for ‘what I’m reading now” and how folks say things – can be misleading! 😀

            Language and communication – our greatest gift and biggest challenge –

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