Wentworth Prison, Channel 5, with Danielle Cormack, Catherine McClements, Nicole da Silva PREVIEW

EP1 NO PLACE LIKE HOME BEA IS ARRESTED IMAGE PROVIDED BY CHANNEL 5
Bea is arrested in Wentworth Prison. Pics: C5

Rating: ★★★½

Channel 5: starts Wednesday, 28 August, 10pm

Story: Bea Smith arrives at Wentworth Prison on remand, charged with the attempted murder of her husband.

YOU’D HAVE TO try really hard to muck up a prison series. All those desperate people caged together is drama under a magnifying glass with the sun beating down.

One of the best in recent years was Oz, the HBO series from the late 90s that launched the channel’s output of groundbreaking shows. More recently Prison Break was a hit for Fox TV.

But the mamma of the genre is undoubtedly Prisoner: Cell Block H (Prisoner in its native Australia), the women’s jail series that became something of a cult in the UK. Now Foxtel, an offshoot of Fox, has ‘reimagined’ the series as Wentworth Prison, featuring new and original characters from the old show, which ran from 1979 to 1986.

EP1 NO PLACE LIKE HOME FRANKIE STAMPS HER AUTHORITY IMAGE PROVIDED BY CHANNEL 5
Leader of the pack – Franky

Sex, drugs, strip searches and a riot at Wentworth

And packed to the bars with dramatic conflict it certainly is. We’re introduced to life inside in the company of Bea Smith, who arrives on remand traumatised by events leading to her being charged with the attempted murder of her husband.

EP1 NO PLACE LIKE HOME JACS TAKES ON FRANKIE IMAGE PROVIDED BY CHANNEL 5
The riot sees Franky challenge Jacs (left)

Before she is even out of the prison van she has seen another prisoner give a guard a blowjob in exchange for a ciggie. But Bea’s trauma is really just beginning.

She stumbles on a couple of inmates making love in her cell, is forced to courier drugs into the prison, stripped searched, and then caught up in a prison riot. And that is just the first episode – with a further blood-soaked twist coming as a cliffhanger.

Rivals Franky and Jacs

Its selling point is that Wentworth Prison is more extreme than Cell Block H, with torture and murder also

EP1 NO PLACE LIKE HOME BEA SUFFERS AT THE HANDS OF HUSBAND HARRY IMAGE PROVIDED BY CHANNEL 5
Bea’s backstory – at the hands of abusive husband Harry

thrown in. Bea is initially a piece of meat thrown between rival gang leaders Franky, who is beautiful, charismatic and scary, and Jacs, who is older, domineering and scary.

But the violence is leavened by flashbacks exploring an inmate’s story in each episode. And then there is also the prison politics, with governor Meg Jackson clashing with her soft-hearted deputy Vera Bennett.

Wentworth Prison has intriguing characters and plenty of dramatic possibilities, to say nothing of the tension and edgy atmosphere. It’s already been recommissioned for a second series in Australia, and could be in for a long, eventful stretch on Channel 5.

Cast: Danielle Cormack Bea Smith, Catherine McClements Meg Jackson, Nicole da Silva Francesca Doyle, Kris McQuade Jacqueline Holt, Leeanna Walsman Erica Davidson, Kate Atkinson Vera Bennett, Celia Ireland Elizabeth Birdsworth, Shareena Clanton DoreenAnderson, Aaron Jeffrey MatthewFletcher, Robbie Magasiva Will Jackson, Jake Ryan  Harry Smith, Georgia Flood Debbie Smith

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