Writer / Producer Jason Herbison has come to know British viewing tastes through his success with Neighbours, which serves him rather well in his third mystery thriller, Heat.
Take secrets and lies, throw in an alluring Australian backdrop, a property-porn abode, sexy stars, rising teen talent and a UK soapie import, and you have the latest 10 / Channel 5 melodrama from Fremantle.
Following Lie with Me and Riptide, the new series takes place in the Victorian bush in a sweltering summer and centres around two families.
Sarah (Pia Miranda) and Steve (Danny Dyer) drive their two teens Mia (Matia Marks) and Tom (Matteo Annetta) for a holiday at the glam retreat of Brad (Darren McMullen), Louise (Jane Allsop) and teen son Kip (Hunter Hayden).
Living off the grid, Brad and Louise own an isolated, sprawling property surrounded by bushland, complete with kangaroos, cockatoos and kookaburras.
But rippling underneath these happy families are all kinds of secrets that are repressed, whispered in hushed tones, and dismissed in fake smiles.
Short-tempered Steve, who emerges as the bad guy of the piece, is accused by daughter Mia of having an affair behind Sarah’s back.
“You need to wake up, he’s having an affair and it’s all going to blow up in our faces,” Mia tells her mother.
There’s a wall of secrecy around a wrist injury concealed by teen Tom and there are shadowy actions taking place behind an unopened door in the house deemed “off limits” to visitors.
Added into the mix is Mia’s hunky boyfriend Jet (Richie Morris), who sneaks onto the property for clandestine meetings with his girlfriend -which infuriates Steve upon discovery.
Concurrent with this tinderbox of emotions is a distant bushfire serving as a metaphor as it (slowly) makes its way towards the house of dysfunctional families.
A little more speed on the disaster-element of the story would be welcome, with two episodes focussed on the house of cards (or is that matches?) ripe for calamity.
That said, this is the best of the three miniseries from Herbison & co. thus far with sure-footing on the relatablity of characters and plot moves that feel more restrained.
Pia Miranda is torn as young mother Sarah while Darren McMullen keeps improving in his relatively-new career as actor. Danny Dyer is deliberately unlikeable as the grumpy dad in disarray and it’s great to see Jane Allsop in a principal role. Matia Marks and Richie Morris turn up the sex factor, accompanied by some disposable pop tunes.
The series keeps dropping hints about the tyranny of distance via poor phone signals, natural river breaks and roads closed, that you just know will combine with an unstoppable fire force for maximum peril when it finally arrives. But for at least half the series, we are in the drama of warring families rather than a natural disaster recreation.
Herbison nevertheless crafts an engaging dose of drama (very digestible at just 4 episodes) showing Britain that Australia remains a captivating escape never far from danger.
Heat screens 9pm Wednesday on 10.