There are moments in Clickbait you’ll recognise from the world of social media.
From dating apps, cat videos, viral videos and confessions to fake news, deep fakes and voyeurism.
Tony Ayres (The Slap, Nowhere Boys, Glitch, Stateless) and Christian White (Relic) have created a US drama filmed in Melbourne -with the exception of some US exteriors.
Nick Brewer (Adrian Grenier) is a high-school teacher married to Sophie (Betty Gabriel) who, after bickering with his sister Pia (Zoe Kazan), vanishes from view. But a video emerges online which resembles that of a hostage. Bloody-faced and grim, he holds up large cards: “I abuse women. At 5 million views, I die.”
For Pia it’s a distressing sight and one she barely comprehends but she convinces Portland Detective Roshan Amir (Phoenix Raei) of the gravity of the situation, while embarking on her own detective work, largely in Nick’s circles.
They include colleagues (Ian Meadows), family members (Elizabeth Alexander, Camaron Engels, Jaylin Fletcher) and teen hacker (Jack Walton). But while the hunt is on to find her brother and shut down the website, the clicks and views increase with every passing minute…. a dramatic ticking time bomb.
Episode 2 shifts the perspective from Sister to Detective, where Det. Amir is on the outer with his boss, mostly for being a Muslim-American in a crew of alpha-males. Writer Ayres, who cleverly served up contrasting perspectives in The Slap, adopts a similar concept here albeit with less inspiration from the iconic Rashomon.
Episode 3 will dramatise the perspective from The Wife and complicate this deck of cards.
Yet the more the series progresses the more it gravitates from serious social comment to family melodrama and the promise of holding a mirror up to the consequences and participation of social media is gradually diluted. This is terrain that Black Mirror has mined so successfully, if with more extreme concepts…. while it’s fun on Black Mirror it’s altogether serious here.
Amongst the cast, Zoe Kazan gives a strident performance which makes her less sympathetic, but Phoenix Raei, seen more recently in Stateless and The Heights, holds his own as the hero cop, complete with solid American accent. While you’ll spot a few Aussies in supporting roles -Renee Lim, Andrea Demetriades- it’s fantastic to see veteran performer Elizabeth Alexander back on screen.
Clickbait proves that American drama can be shot down under far more convincingly than the old Mission Impossible or The Pirate Movie (to name a few) which is great for crews and some performers. But when we remain uniquely Australian, as The Slap did so successfully, it’s a far more enriching experience and arguably a more authentic way to go viral.
Clickbait screens Wednesday on Netflix.