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6 Degrees Entertainment

(Richard Roxburgh, Matt Day, Russell Dykstra, Danielle Cormack, Caroline Brazier, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2014 / BFS Entertainment)

Overview: Award winning actor Richard Roxburgh (Sanctum, Moulin Rouge) stars as Cleaver Greene, a reckless, brilliant and self-destructive Australian criminal barrister who is hilarious to jurors and an outrage to judges.

DVD Verdict: OK, did you know that Cleaver Greene's character is loosely based on one of Sydney's most colorful barristers, an author and co-creator of Rake, Charles Waterstreet. Both (fictional) Greene and Waterstreet have a Bachelor of Law from the University of New South Wales!

Anyway, moving on (just thought you might like to know that tidbit), and not being Australian and completely unfamiliar with Australian TV, I came to 'Rake' without any expectations or preconceived notions. I find the show is hilarious and mesmerizing at the same time, in no small part due to Roxburgh's performance. He's terrific as a cad with a heart of 14K gold plated brass.

In some ways, 'Rake' is reminiscent of, but doesn't imitate, the great Robbie Coltrane series, 'Cracker', with both lead characters brilliant in their professional lives, yet exasperatingly self-destructive train wrecks once they're off the clock.

'Rake's main character, a defending attorney named Cleaver Greene, has plenty of character flaws and he can't stay out of trouble, but he has a good heart and is loved and hated by the people in his life, especially those who are dear to him.

He has a secretary who embezzles from him, ongoing tax problems with the government, in love with a hooker, and owes bookies hundreds of thousands of dollars. This still doesn't cover all of his problems. At times he has a cocaine addiction, imbibes alcohol too much, and runs his mouth at the most inopportune moments. He's on a first name basis with his bookies muscle, who dispenses the occasional beating when Cleaver falls behind in his payments. This leads one to wonder how on earth did this guy get to be a barrister?

But in the courtroom is where this guy shines. He is brilliant, though disheveled in dress, and appearance, and usually in need of a shave, he is the master of the cross examination.

As I'm sure you know by now, and might have come here mistakenly because of it, 'Rake' has already just been "Americanized" by Fox, starring Greg Kinnear. So, I would suggest watching the three season of the original 'Rake' before trying out the glitz and glamor of the 'Americanized" version. Simply put, it's really good TV. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.