NINA: You don’t know me!
SCHOOLGIRL: Yeah, I do; you’re a dropkick uni student who’ll never live up to your strict Asian parents’ expectations.
NINA: …damn. They do know me.
The above exchange is from the very first episode of The Angus Project (available now on ABC iView as part of Fresh Blood, and on TV screens now), and, to my mind, it perfectly encapsulates one of the main themes of the series; that of personal identity, of being more than one defining characteristic or cliché. Alright, Nina (Nina Oyama, Tonightly, Utopia) is a dropkick uni student, but she’s a good and loyal friend and carer to Angus (Angus Thompson). Yes, Angus has his limitations (he’s in a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy), but he’s so much more than that:
ANGUS: I’m not a baby, I’ve got cerebral palsy.
NINA: Oh, do you have cerebral palsy, do you? ’cause I’ve never noticed-
ANGUS: Shut up! I’m a guy with cerebral palsy…and I’m going to steal horse adrenaline!
The world of The Angus Project is so much more than your standard sitcom fare; it’s 3D, it’s full of complications, of multilayered players. Veronica Milsom as Kath is the kind of person who justifies being just generally awful by doing apparently good works, and Sammy J appears as their drug dealer who, despite his fear of horses has an intimate knowledge of The Saddle Club. Adam Bowes as Wayne “Wizza” Miller (a gold medal-winning Paralympian who Angus aspires to interview) is an absolute nightmare, fully exploiting the cult of personality that has grown around his “inspiring story”.
Which ties back to the point of personal identity, and how The Angus Project does so many things right about representation; after a while, it’s almost irrelevant that there are two actors in wheelchairs because yes, they are in wheelchairs, but that’s not what they’re all about. Angus’ quest for an interview with Wizza for The Bathurst Gazette, and the bizarre journey it leads to, is one about the follies of blind hero worship, the importance of friends, and also a reminder why you shouldn’t carry party pies in your pockets. I really do hope that Nina comes to accept she’s more than what those schoolgirls pigeonholed her as, and that Angus succeeds as a sports journalist.
The first episode of The Angus Project is available on ABC iView now.