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Water Rats (1996 - 2001)

Drama series
177 episodes x 60 minutes

Series synopsis:

Water Rats is a drama series centred on a pair of detectives in the Sydney Water Police.

Curator’s Notes:

Water Rats is distinctive for its focus on water-based crimes and use of Sydney Harbour locations. Its take on the police genre is ‘big city policing on the water’. It came from the stable of producer Hal McElroy and Southern Star at a time when they made two other police dramas airing on commercial networks – Blue Heelers (1994-2006) and Murder Call (1997-2000). Water Rats originated with John Hugginson’s idea for a telemovie set in Brisbane but evolved into a Sydney-based drama series as its other creators came on board.

One of those creators, Tony Morphett, also had a hand in Blue Heelers. Water Rats takes a more ‘masculine’ approach than its country-based cousin, emphasising action-driven police stories over soap-oriented serial plotlines. According to producer Hal McElroy, one of the reasons behind the show’s success – it endured on Australian screens for five years – was its appeal to the young male audience, a demographic that Channel 9 was keen to increase and retain at that time.

Shot on Super 16mm film, the production team dealt with the high amount of location shooting by using a continuous second unit. Water Rats had a higher budget than Blue Heelers, starting out with seven days to shoot each episode but eventually scaling back to five-and-a-half.

The show’s cast is built around a central partnership of detectives – initially this was Colin Friel’s Frank Holloway and Catherine McClements’s Rachel ‘Goldie’ Goldstein. In Series Four, Friels departed and Steve Bisley’s Jack Christey, who had previously appeared in a guest role, filled his shoes, also acting as a romantic interest for Goldie. When McClements departed, Dee Smart stepped in. Episodes typically involve several crimes, with one dominating as the main story-line. Serial stories about the personal lives of the characters unfold during and around the action.

Escalating production costs were cited as the reason for the series’s demise in 2001.

Titles in this series

Water Rats – Dead in the Water 1996

The Sydney Water Police are called in when there is an explosion on a charter boat full of schoolgirls and soon find themselves searching for more unexploded bombs in the harbour. Then a ferry is hijacked – could the two ...

Water Rats – Goes With the Territory 1999

The Sydney water police team are called in to investigate when a fishing boat explodes, fatally injuring a seventeen-year-old boy. What initially looks like an accident may be something more sinister: the boat belongs to Brian Geary (Steven Vidler), an ...