Rake is an Australian Broadcasting Company program that is into its 5th season, four of which are available on Netflix. That this show is sent out over the air rather than via cable shows the profound difference in what  the Aussies will tolerate versus their English speaking American cousins.  The title refers to the series’ protagonist Cleaver Greene played by one of the program’s creators – Richard Roxburgh. Spoilers ahead.

Cleaver is brilliant barrister whose personal characteristics and circumstances continuously have him on the border of law and sanity. He regularly snorts cocaine, he abuses alcohol, he’s in love with a hooker at a legal brothel in Sydney who leaves the business to go to law school and becomes the fiance of a prosecutor who enters state parliament without knowledge of her background with Cleaver or prostitution. His 15 year old son is sleeping with his 28 year old English teacher in Cleaver’s apartment; he’s divorced from the boy’s mother. The teacher eventually leaves the boy for a younger ‘man’. Cleaver sleeps with his best friend and closest associate’s wife; he feels bad about it afterwards. He’s a compulsive gambler who can’t pay his gambling debts and routinely gets beaten up by his bookie’s enforcer. He’s been up on charges before the Bar Association nine times, but always manages to just escape. In one episode he manages to get get his ex-hooker girlfriend, his ex-wife, and his best friend’s wife simultaneously into his bed. He’s forced to sleep on a couch. He routinely gets criminals off sometimes using perjured testimony. He gets a renowned obstetrician and his wife out of trouble with the law. They were doing unspeakable things with their pet Rottweiler. A key issue was whether the dog was happy with the arrangement. The last shot shows him scratching at a closed bedroom door. This episode’s credits roll to How Much is That Doggie in the Window? His secretary is relentlessly stealing his fees. He only realizes her theft after he’s audited by the tax authorities. He’s hundreds of thousands of dollars behind what he owes. He fires her, but then rehires her with the proviso that she steal no more than 5% of his gross. She demands 10 and he agrees. He has no office; he moves from those of vacationing lawyers every few weeks as one returns and another leaves. There’s more, but you should have the concept by now.

The show is relentless against Australian politicians and when the plotline will allow, gets in a few shots at the American breed. About the only subject the program slightly pulls its punches is Australian Muslims. But even here it gets in a few shots before going predictably mushy. Basically, deep down, Cleaver is an American style liberal, though you really have to look hard to find him. For the most part the story is like that of a Rossini comic opera or an early Marx Brothers movie. Under all the crap Cleaver is decent guy, though he’d never admit it.

The acting by all the participants is riveting as are the stories that make up the eight episode of the first season. Most of the time you’ll be laughing out loud, except for the few times when the show goes Donizetti sentimental on the viewer. The Australian mastery of cynical humor is at its best in this show. It does its all to offend almost everyone. Highly recommended.