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» T.V.'s Halifax F.P is D.O.A.
by Claire Bickley

November 16, 1995

Halifax, F.P. is not the story of the Maritime bureau of a financial newspaper.

The Halifax in question is Jane Halifax. The F.P. refers to her profession: forensic psychiatrist. The show is a 12-episode crime-mystery series premiering tonight at 10 on Showcase Television.

The true mystery is why Australian television would build a series around a character and a star who are the weakest and least interesting elements of their own show.

As Halifax, Rebecca Gibney's acting relies on her lips - they purse, they gape, they grimace - and her eyes - they stare, they scrunch, they widen - and repeated extreme close-ups.

What are they looking for? My guess is acting.

Stoic in her lovely bob and her chisel-lined lips, her shapely suits and her sports car, Halifax seems more like a composite of product placements than a character.

Tonight's episode, My Lovely Girl, opens with the graphic depiction of a brutal murder which would seem less gratuitious if it had much to do with the rest of the story.

The killer is a man who'd killed before and had recently been released from a mental hospital. After she's called in to consult, Halifax criticizes the doctor who ordered him freed, unaware that he's her colleague and only apparent friend, a man embittered and frightened by their profession.

Segue to a nasty media frenzy, as a Melbourne TV outfit dogs Halifax over her own decision to release a man who'd previously killed. The man (Ben Mendelsohn) has built a new life and seems safe and fine but - and here's where the story holds some interest - what happens to someone with paranoid tendencies when everybody really does start watching their every move?

There are holes in logic, murky developments, red herrings galore and disagreeable swerves in the plot.

Worst of all, by giving so many of the characters maniac-related horror stories, the show appears to refute its own underlying premise that the media fuel such unreasonable fear of the mentally ill that people believe it's only a matter of time before everyone becomes their victim.


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