A couple of months ago, my oldest friend Matt recommended a show by the name of Mr. Inbetween. He said he thought I’d enjoy it and that he was bingeing it. If you are like me, you have a massive list of recommendations along with shows you need to catch up on, want to check out, or want to revisit. Still, I trust Matt’s advice, so I added the show on Hulu and figured I would get around to it eventually.
Two weekends ago, I found myself with some free time. My wife was off hanging out with my family and I injured my back packing boxes. I was stuck on the couch and I found myself scrolling between my streaming services, looking for something new to watch while ignoring my already too large watch lists. Nothing really stood out to me and I had had an urge to watch Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, but I’m currently re-watching Better Call Saul with my wife, so it seemed like a waste of time to re-watch episodes without her. I wanted something gritty, realistic, and violent and that’s when I remembered Mr. Inbetween.
Mr. Inbetween is an Australian crime drama that began airing on FX in 2018 and was in it’s final few episodes when I began the show. I had barely heard about the show until around the time that Matt mentioned it, which was around the time season three had begun to air.
Looking over the show on Hulu, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Each episode was around 30 minutes long, which seemed quite short of a crime drama/black comedy. And let’s talk about the term black comedy when describing this show, sure it’s got some funny moments, but I think it’s sorely mislabeled as a black comedy. The Sopranos utilized humor more than this show does. But in actuality, I think black comedy is thrown around way too much as it, but that’s an argument for another time.
I hit play on the first episode and within the first minute I began questioning how long I was going to spend on this show. The Australian accent by one of the characters was quite thick and I just didn’t have the patience to spend time trying to understand someone. But by the time the scene ended, maybe two minutes into the show, something happened that grabbed my attention. Around three hours later I had finished the first season.
It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a TV show. It’s brutal, funny, smart, and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. I love the thirty minute run-times and I love the pacing of the show. At it’s core, the show is about a hitman and his everyday life. It’s about raising his daughter, caring for a sick brother, and dealing with idiot co-workers. It’s about feeling unfulfilled in life and wondering if you are in the right place. It’s a show about love, loss, trying to understand a frustrating world, all while seeing snapshots in a very normal life of a man with a not normal job.
I think my favorite aspect of the show is that it doesn’t spell everything out for you. In fact, many of the episodes are broken up into scenes that are loosely (or sometimes completely unrelated) tied together. It’s moments throughout the day or week of the life of Ray Shoesmith.
The moment I realized how much I appreciate the writing on this show was during a scene where Ray comes to join his girlfriend in bed. He had left a firefight where he had fired off a ton of bullets. He accidentally wakes his girlfriend and I begin thinking to myself, “There is no way a guy can just crawl in bed after that. He’s going to smell like gunpowder.” The scenes goes one for a few moments and just as it’s about to end his girlfriend asks, “What’s that smell?” It was in that moment, that I realized how much care was put into these scripts and it made me respect the show so much more.
The story behind Mr. Inbetween is also quite fascinating. The creator/writer and lead actor, Scott Ryan had been developing the character since the late 90’s. In 2005, he created a short film called The Magician while in film school. It’s a mockumentary about Ray Shoesmith and he wrote, directed, and acted in the film. He was a one man crew, but despite this the film garnered some attention and Nash Edgerton (brother of Joel Edgerton) took notice and helped Scott film some additional scenes to get the film up to a feature length runtime. The movie screened some and garnered some buzz, but ultimately nothing happened after this released. Both Scott along with Nash spent the next thirteen years shopping the story around to various networks and outlets but constantly ran into issues.
Eventually Scott gave up, began delivering pizzas before getting his taxi driver license. He became a cabbie and after giving up on his dream, a deal with FX occurred and Scott Ryan found himself writing twenty-six episodes of Mr Inbetween and starring in every one of them, while Nash Edgerton directed. Did I mention, Scott had never acted in anything else?
This week, Mr. Inbetween ended and while I hate that I didn’t get the enjoy the ride as it aired, I’m so happy to have discovered it. It’s an amazing show and one that I began watching again from the beginning before the final episode even aired. If you are looking for something gritty and dark, then give Mr. Inbetween a shot. It’s wonderful.
And I should mention, I’ve yet to watch The Magician yet, but it is available to stream on YouTube. From my understanding, it plays out like a student film and it’s very different in tone and quality compared to the TV show. So, it’s better viewed as a sort of novelty type video. So, don’t start with it.