Wentworth Prison Series 1 (Channel 5) Review “No Place Like Home”

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There’s a distinct whiff of Orange is the New Black in the way Channel 5 have teased their newest import, Wentworth Prison, and you can’t really blame them for trying to cash in on the success of Netflix’s own woman’s prison drama. But the roots of Wentworth go way back to 80’s soap opera, Prisoner: Cell Block H – a show that UK audiences really took to back in the day.

Things have been changed to suit modern sensibilities, of course, and this updated series has been stripped of the campy sets, dialogue and black humour and populated instead with sex, violence and a heroine with a journey to go on. That’s Bea Smith, a woman whose been put away for the attempted murder of her abusive husband, and her experience in this first episode will surely inform her future trajectory up the hierarchy of her new surroundings. But first she’ll have to contend with warring queen bees Franky and Jacs, whose confrontation this week results in the death of a warden.

At least this has nothing to do with a serial killer. British screens have been populated with so much murder and so many psychopaths that it’s frankly a relief to watch something a little bit different. That said, I doubt this modernised prison drama will court the same cult following as its predecessor, despite strong performances and a potentially compelling story at its heart, and the show’s desperation to shock could become a little bit wearing after a few weeks. In one hour we’ve covered lesbian sex, rioting, murder, drug smuggling and torture – but none of that means anything without character development and good drama.

Wentworth Prison feels like a show that needs a little time to develop, but this first episode was a promising start nonetheless. What did you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Wentworth Prison airs on Channel 5 in the UK.