Who leaked the memo? That’s the over-arching plot device as we launch into the ABC’s latest investment in long-form drama as tonight it launches Crownies onto our screens. It may seem somewhat pedestrian, however it’s a smart vehicle to maintain interest over this 22 part series launching tonight on ABC1.

While some have rushed to pan it (likely having not seen it), the episodes I’ve seen are smart, well-produced and engaging beyond the 16-39 demo it’s been lumped into. The 5 central cast members are all young solicitors with Generation Y attitudes, however the depth they bring to their characters (particularly Todd Lasance & Hamish Michael) belie the youthful enthusiasm and make it much more than the “Sex, Lies and Magistrates” tag line. I think I also may have a crush on Ella Scott-Lynch, but that’s a whole other redhead issue for me.

You wouldn’t be mistaken if you were to think Lasance has been everywhere this year either – he has. Roles in Cloudstreet, Rescue Special Ops and Underbelly have just about made him the 2011 “go to” guy. Indiana Evans continues to puzzle me as to how she secures acting roles, particularly afterr adding a strong supporting cast including Marta Dusseldorp & Lewis Fitz-Gerald leaving her to almost vanish into the scenery by comparison.

The backgrounds of the cast aren’t jammed into the first couple of eps – they’re layered across at least the first six and as the stories and week-to-week plots spin around them they help give you insight into who the characters are and why they may be responding the way they do to the various situations confronting them. There’s a scene in episode 4 where Todd Lasance’s Ben McMahon has to review the Police interview of a man who accidentally killed his baby by leaving him in his car all day and not realising until it was too late. It’s harrowing, and some of the best acting I’ve seen in an Australian drama this year.

There’s intrigue, dark pasts, racism & the manipulation of culture for personal gain, and – yes, it’s a bit sexy. Crownies is a direct and enjoyable drama that will attract audiences who enjoy intelligence in their storyline without an easy gag.

Crownies – Thu 8:30pm, ABC1.