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East West 101 (2007 - 2011)

Drama series
13 episodes x 60 minutes

Series synopsis:

Zane Malik (Don Hany) is a Major Crime Squad detective in Sydney’s west. As he investigates crimes that take him into the city’s dark sides, he struggles with the conflicting loyalties to his all-consuming job, his family, his community and his Muslim faith.

Also dealing with life-work tensions of their own are his boss Patricia Wright (Susie Porter) and colleagues Sonny Koa (Aaron Fa’aoso), Ray Crowley (William McInnes), Helen Callas (Daniela Farinacci) and Jung Lim (Renee Lim).

Curator’s Notes:

East West 101 uses the cop show genre to create an atmospheric vision of multicultural Sydney and explore the tensions of a post 9/11 world. The series premise is embodied by the intersection of Muslim, Arab, Australian and police identities in its protagonist, Iraqi-Australian Zane Malik, and his conflicting loyalties towards family, community and work. As the series progresses, it explores parallel tensions in the lives of some of his colleagues.

East West 101’s combination of action, police procedural and character-driven drama unearths social issues and cultural tensions in multicultural Sydney. As an example of the crime genre, East West 101 belongs to a school of gritty, socially-concerned drama series such as Australian predecessors Blue Murder (1995) and Wildside (1997–99) and US productions Hill Street Blues (1981–87) and NYPD Blue (1993–2005).

Many of East West 101’s key creatives also worked on Wildside, including producers Steve Knapman and Kris Wyld, director Peter Andrikidis and director of photography Joe Pickering. Wildside’s influence is visible in the show’s interest in the social context of policing and crime, its tough, fast dialogue, textured, gritty visualisation of contemporary Sydney, confrontational character dynamics and action scenes that build tension through frenetic hand-held camerawork and a powerful musical score.

The series builds its own distinct identity. While the performances are reminiscent of Wildside’s improvised approach, the dialogue is scripted. To obtain a naturalistic quality, director Peter Andrikidis explains in series one’s DVD extras that he avoided extensive rehearsals and emphasised speed in performance, working with a multi-camera set-up to capture overlapping dialogue and action.

He also explains that this was part of a faster-than-average production timeline, for instance generating the first series’s six hours in eight weeks of shooting. Pickering varies the visual approach depending on the nature of the scene. Alongside frenetic, hand-held action scenes, there are moments that use a slicker, darker look involving more controlled dramatic compositions. In addition, flashbacks and dream sequences use surreal montages and heightened colour saturation.

East West 101 was created for SBS and ties in with the broadcaster’s charter to reflect Australia’s multicultural society. In the development phase, the team worked with consultants including detective Hany Elbatoory, a Muslim of Egyptian descent. East West 101’s Major Crime Squad also has members from Anglo, European and Asian backgrounds and the communities their investigations bring them into contact with are similarly diverse. That the series responds to the charter using crime drama reflects a recent shift in emphasis in SBS programming. In their 2008 book The SBS Story: The Challenge of Cultural Diversity, Ien Ang, Gay Hawkins and Lamia Dabboussy identify East West 101 as part of a new wave of genre productions since 2005 that aim to attract new and younger audience members to the broadcaster.

To date, there are two series of East West 101, comprising six and seven episodes respectively, with a third series of seven episodes on the way. Series one first aired in 2007 and series two in 2009. The first series garnered a swag of awards in 2008, including AFI and AWGie Awards for Best Mini-series, an Australian Directors’ Guild Award for Andrikidis and an APRAAGSC Screen Music Award for composer Guy Gross. Series two received AFI Awards in 2009 for Best Television Drama Series, Best Direction in Television and Best Lead Actress (Susie Porter). In 2010, the series won Logie Awards for Most Outstanding Drama Series, Mini-series or Telemovie and Most Outstanding Actor (Don Hany).

Titles in this series

East West 101 – The Enemy Within 2007

When a police officer is shot after an armed hold-up, the Lakemba Major Crime Squad go in search of men 'of Middle Eastern appearance’. As the net closes around two suspects, Detective Zane Malik (Don Hany) doubts his unit’s tactics. ...