Sometimes the best TV couples aren’t actually couples. They seem to know exactly what each other is thinking at any given moment. They can anticipate exactly what the other person needs to make them happy, calm them down, or give them a much-needed metaphorical kick in the ass. It’s love without romance, friendship without tension. And it’s that precise kind of authentic foundation that Season 1 of SundanceTV’s “Rosehaven” is built on.
Written by and starring Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor, the Australian comedy follows two best friends as they navigate through the day-to-day quirks of the title Tasmanian town. Emma (Pacquola) was recently abandoned by her newlywed husband, left stranded on her honeymoon in Bali. Searching for a way to escape the psychological pitfalls of such an unexpected break up, she escapes to Rosehaven where Daniel (McGregor) has returned to his hometown, trying to help keep his mother’s real estate service afloat.
Needing each other to keep some semblance of sanity, Emma and Daniel navigate the oddball corners of Rosehaven, with its hoarder locksmiths, friendly shop owners, and childhood bullies that populate the town. One of the enduring charms of the show is that it doesn’t treat small-town life as a punchline. The Rosehaven regulars have their quirks, but most of the laughs come from how unfit Emma and Daniel are at adjusting to a new set of responsibilities.
As the creative and on-screen engine of the show, Pacquola and McGregor have a tangible rapport from the outset. The series’ opening scene, with Emma navigating the difficulties of a wedding dress and a tux-clad Daniel offering his services, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were the ones getting married to each other. But the show wisely avoids any “will-they-won’t-they” tension, repeatedly showing how they can be an effective team without a whiff of romantic entanglement.
For a comedy, “Rosehaven” is surprisingly unafraid of silence. There’s a patience that comes in these conversations and occasional misadventures that feel true to the setting. There’s still life and energy in Emma and Daniel’s banter, but it isn’t showy patter. It’s talk between friends that has the distinct lived-in feel that comes from an adulthood spent at each other’s side.
Emma and Daniel work effectively in tandem, whether investigating new home rental properties or in dining room critiques of each other’s eating habits. But the show also gives them a chance to establish their own identities when they’re apart. It’s not just all about the contrast between Daniel’s non-confrontational timidity and Emma’s outspoken, personable nature. Seeing them start to rub off on each other in this small-town context (and watching them realize it) is part of the fun.
Season 1 of “Rosehaven” also does a very effective job at capturing the full scope of the town, not just reduced to a few simple exteriors on a back lot. The aerial drone shots that often open up a few of the episodes, with a single car on a wide-open highway, help emphasize that this is a comedy with literal space to move and to grow. Returning to the familiar haunts of the real estate office and the local pub don’t feel like narrative shortcuts — that’s just where everybody important in this town and in this story tends to gather.
It’s a series that’s sweet, but never saccharine, a difficult distinction for similar shows to draw. Sure, in some of Emma and Daniel’s mutual prodding, there’s an odd jab or two. But there’s never any doubt that it comes from a place of genuine affection. The way they champion each other through tricky times is what makes these small-scale problems and minor victories seem much larger. A victory for one is essentially a victory for both.
That authentic connection also helps sustain the show when it lands in more melancholy territory. For every solid friendship, there’s always an element of co-dependency lingering under the surface. “Rosehaven” shows how these two friends recognize whenever they’re in danger of not needing one another, which can be a frightening realization all its own. But in the true spirit of the show, for every step these characters take forward, they’re there to laugh with each other if either of them skip backward.
As they watch things in their life threaten to go south, as figures from their past literally lurk around street corners, “Rosehaven” becomes a comedy about making the best with what you have. In the case of these characters, they have each other, which is more than most shows have to begin with.
“Rosehaven” airs Wednesday nights at 11 p.m. ET on SundanceTV.