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Plenty of Room for Laughs and Drama on 'Five Bedrooms'
August 12, 2020  | By David Hinckley

The Australian dramedy Five Bedrooms starts with a premise that seems so lazy you want to wave your hand and change the channel.

But then Five Bedrooms, which premieres in the U.S. on Wednesday over NBC's new streaming Peacock network, pulls the insidious trick of creating internal drama intriguing enough that you want to keep watching it.

The setup unfolds immediately. Five people have been thrown together at the "singles table" at a wedding. After some awkward conversation, a bit of inappropriate behavior, and more than a few drinks, they decide to buy a five-bedroom house together.

What could possibly go wrong?

Naturally, the house turns out to be a $2.5 million disaster, starting with plumbing that doesn't keep the water inside the pipes.

The real disasters, though, lurk in the largely untold stories of the five residents, who have told themselves and each other that they are going into this venture purely for real estate purposes.

A house gives you a sense of stability, they declare, and besides, it's a solid financial investment.

And who are the people making this solid investment to give their lives a sense of stability?

Ainsley (Katie Robertson), who periodically acts as narrator to fill us in on backstories, works with Lachlan (Hugh Sheridan). He's her boss.

For six years, Ainsley has been in love with Lachlan, who reciprocates her affection when it's convenient. He calls her his "work wife" to distinguish her from his actual wife, Melanie (Kate Jenkinson).

We all know this story. Even Ainsley knows it. She just wants to believe it will end differently.


Melanie periodically throws Lachlan out, because of Ainsley and other stuff, but Melanie and Lachlan stagger on, an alliance of masochists, and Ainsley remains on the fringe, clinging to her slender thread.

Among those telling Ainsley to cut that thread is Heather (Doris Younane), Ainsley's long-time landlady and apparent best friend. Heather is married to a dope named Colin (Alan Dukes), which has given her a view of relationships that's wary bordering on cynical. She will continue to figure heavily in the story even after Ainsley moves into her new house.

Elsewhere in that new house, we have Ben (Stephen Peacocke), who just turned 30 and has never found a way to tell his traditional Indian mother that he's gay, which means she divides her time between over-mothering him and trying to fix him up with a nice, single, Indian woman.

We also have Liz (Kat Stewart) and Harry (Roy Joseph), both successful professionals who work very hard at creating the façade of having everything in their lives under total control.

Liz and Harry got a little carried away at that wedding, which Liz tells Harry can never happen again. Harry says okay, if that's how you want it, I'm cool with it, even though he's not.

By the end of the first episode, at least one of these surreptitious dramas has exploded, offering the certainty that more will follow. We have also come to root for almost all the characters, including the ones we really like (Ben), the ones we want to smarten up (Ainsley), and the ones who need to put down the mask (Liz).

As all this might indicate, Five Bedrooms falls into the wildly popular current category of dramedy, somewhere between classic sitcom and classic melodrama. Toward that end, each episode runs 45 minutes, splitting the difference between traditional half-hour comedies and traditional hour-long dramas.

A capsule description of Five Bedrooms doesn't necessarily make it sound enticing. At a moment when fresh TV is hard to come by, it has surprising allure.

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