About Simon Elchlepp

Simon Elchlepp is the AFI’s Project and Office Coordinator. A part-time online music critic and with a bachelor thesis on Moulin Rouge! and a Masters degree in Cinema Management, this German expatriate finds Melbourne, with its dozens of film festivals, a great place to be. His favorite exclamations that his friends have to endure regularly include "I need to go to the Cinematheque more often!" and "It's been way too long since I've been to the Astor!"

On the Box: Australian Television 2012 – Part 2

By Simon Elchlepp

In Part 1 of this article, we scanned some of the Australian Dramas, Mini-Series and Telemovies set to grace our small screens this year. Now it’s time to look at the funny business – Comedy and Light Entertainment – as well as at Reality TV and some kid’s programs we’re looking forward to seeing.

Comedy & Light Entertainment

Andrew Denton and his new game show RANDLING

For many viewers, Wednesday nights are a regular couch-date with ‘Aunty’. This may well continue with the premiere last week (2 May) of ABC1’s new Wednesday night line-up.  First there’s the hotly anticipated word-based game show Randling (8.30pm), featuring multi-AFI Award winner Andrew Denton’s return as show host. Following this battle of wits and words, AACTA Award-winning series Laid (9pm) returns in its second series, with Roo’s world turned upside down in another flurry of hilariously awkward situations. It’s all capped off by Agony Aunts (9.30pm) in which Julia Zemiro, Myf Warhurst, Judith Lucy and other high profile Australian women give men advice on how to navigate the difficult terrain of the modern relationship.

Here are some others we’re looking forward to:

Shaun Micallef Is Mad As Hell (ABC1, from 25 May 2012, 10 x 30min)

Shaun Micallef of SHAUN MICALLEF IS MAD AS HELL

Satire is notoriously difficult to get right, but Shaun Micallef’s satirical look at Australian news in 2007/08’s Newstopia was one of those shows that succeeded. Now Micallef is back for more in Shaun Micallef Is Mad As Hell, and the Newsfront­-inspired title promises a piercing look at how our media report about the world around us and shape our view of it. The ABC calls it “a half-hour weekly round-up, branding, inoculation and crutching of all the important news stories,” and in the absence of any Gruen Transfer this year, Shaun Micallef Is Mad As Hell could be just the media-skewering show we’ve been looking for in 2012.

Hamish And Andy’s Euro Gap Year (Channel Nine, first half of 2012, series)

Hamish Blake and Andy Lee of HAMISH AND ANDY’S EURO GAP YEAR

Some people are lucky enough to enjoy not just one, but two gap years. After Hamish And Andy’s Gap Year unleashed the two larrikin comedians on an unsuspecting USA, in 2012 it’s Europe’s turn to brace itself for a visit from Hamish and Andy. With a disused pub in London as their studio, Hamish and Andy’s Euro Gap Year will screen on Nine leading up to the Olympics. Sport will not, however, be the focus. Instead Hamish and Andy will travel the continent and visit Bosnia, Russia and France, among others, to introduce Australians to the curious yet endearing characters and customs of Europe’s various countries, which apparently include  ‘bus pulling,’ ‘ice-swimming’ and ‘festivals of snails’.

Lowdown Series 2 (ABC1, 2012 TBC, 8 x 30min)

Paul Denny, Dailan Evans, Adam Zwar and Beth Buchanan reunite for LOWDOWN SERIES 2

There are few things on the telly that are as satisfying as a satire which sets its aims on a mock-worthy target – and hits the spot. And so fans of Frontline and The Hollowmen will greet Lowdown’s second season with open arms. Adam Zwar returns as the Sunday Sun’s star entertainment reporter who compensates for his lack of a moral compass with a keen sense of which stories will drive up circulation. From exposing political sex scandals and violent actors, to outing gay sportsmen and setting up cheating TV chefs, Alex will do what it takes to save the Sunday Sun’s declining figures. Lowdown Series 2 reunites AFI Award winners Adam Zwar, Kim Gyngell (as the Sunday Sun’s editor) and series producer/writer/director Amanda Brotchie to poke fun at the tabloid press.

Sporting Nation (ABC1, 2012 TBC, 3 x 60min)

John Clarke ready to entertain us with SPORTING NATION

All those disappointed by the sad news that there’s no The Games: London Calling will be delighted to hear that 2012 will not pass without John Clarke having another go at the follies of organised sport. As has been well documented, Australians tend to be somewhat crazy about sports, so it’s time to find out why we take it so seriously. Meeting legendary sporting heroes, sports fans, sporting sages and sporting cynics, Byron Kennedy Award winner Clarke discovers that the story of Australian sport has all the elements of great drama – a rich golden age, a crisis that threatens its very existence, and a re-emergence against colossal odds. And it’s based largely on fact.

This Christmas (ABC, second half 2012, six-part series)

The Moody family from ABC comedy THIS CHRISTMAS

There’s hardly any time of the year that is riper for comedic potential than Christmas. No matter how far you’ve run to escape your family, the fights, bad gifts, boring uncles, overbearing in-laws and shocking family secrets, it will all catch up with you during the Merry Season. Each episode of This Christmas is set a year apart, as Dan (Ian Meadows) visits his dysfunctional family every year at Christmas. AFI Award winners Phil Lloyd (At Home With Julia) and Trent O’Donnell (The Chaser’s War on EverythingLaid) have mined similar territory before with Review with Myles Barlow – Christmas Special and will know how to milk this comedic setup for all it’s worth to generate plenty of laughter.

Josh Thomas

Please Like Me (ABC1, 2012 TBC, 6 x 30min)

This Christmas isn’t the only ABC comedy series of 2012 that will look at all the entanglements and embarrassments that family life brings with it. Well-known to comedy buffs through his stint as Generation Y team leader on Talkin’ ‘bout Your Generation, comedian and Logie Award-winner Josh Thomas writes and stars in Please Like Me. For Josh life is just kicking off, now that he lives in a share house and makes his steps towards being an adult and turning twenty-one. But then he’s forced to move back home to care for his divorced mother and grow up a bit quicker than he expected to. For AACTA and AFI Award-winning director Matthew Saville, Please Like Me marks his return to comedy after his work on We Can Be Heroes, while the show’s cast includes Debra Lawrence, David Roberts and Caitlin Stacey.

Also tracking:

An as of yet untitled Jane Turner and Gina Riley project on Seven (maybe more Kath & Kim following their upcoming feature film Kath & Kimderella?); ABC2’s multiplatform comedy The Strange Calls about a hapless city cop (Toby Truslove) who is demoted to night duty in the sleepy beachside village of Coolum; Myf Warhurst’s Nice on ABC1, which sees the former Spicks & Specks presenter take a nostalgic journey through popular taste, cultural icons and her own childhood.

Reality Television

If there’s something Australian TV viewers can’t complain about, it’s a dearth of reality TV formats. In only a few years, reality TV has seen a meteoric rise in popularity on Australian television screens. Buoyed by the success of MasterChef’s first season back in 2009, reality TV has now become the most watched TV genre in Australia, bumping sports broadcasts to second place. No wonder then that reality shows have become a crucial part of Australia’s television output. Reflecting this growth, and the industry talent and innovation within the genre, AACTA has announced a new Award for 2013 – the AACTA Award for Best Reality Television Series. Here’s a quick scan of just some of the shows on offer this year.

The Voice (Channel Nine, from April 15 2012)

There have been many talent casting shows in which singing hopefuls try to convince a panel of judges of their musical skills – but very few have been as strikingly successful as the Nine Network’s The Voice. With a jury that includes Keith Urban, Delta Goodrem, Seal and Joel Madden, chances for the show’s success were always good, but few would have predicted that The Voice would turn into the ratings juggernaut that it has become. With the show entering its final stage of live competitions and the start of audience voting, you can expect The Voice to continue dominating ratings and watercooler discussions.

Judging THE VOICE: Keith Urban, Delta Goodrem, Joel Madden and Seal.

My Kitchen Rules (Seven Network, January 31 – February 23 2012)

Following two successful seasons, My Kitchen Rules truly took off earlier this year and successfully challenged the MasterChef empire. Adding a team from New Zealand certainly increased the sense of competition and you can be sure to see more teams in 2013 turning their homes into an instant restaurant to serve dinner for the judges and the other contestants and aiming to impress with their culinary skills.

Manu Feildel and Pete Evans – judges of MY KITCHEN RULES 2012

Australia’s Got Talent (Seven Network, from April 16 2012)

First screening in 2007, Australia’s Got Talent has truly established itself as one of Australia’s most enduring reality TV shows. Amidst a sea of competitors that focus on singers, dancers or other artists battling it out for the sympathies of juries and audiences, Australia’s Got Talent sets itself apart and gives all self-made performers – be they singers, magicians or comedians – a chance to shine. Judges Dannii Minogue, Brian McFadden and Kyle Sandilands make their return for the show’s sixth season.

The Block (Channel Nine, from April 16 2012)

Before MasterChef or Australia’s Got Talent, there was The Block, the Nine Network’s reality show for all hobby renovators. After a six-year break, The Block returned in 2010 and has been going strong ever since, and has already been confirmed for another season in 2013. Set in Dorcas Street in Melbourne (just a few blocks down from the AFI | AACTA’s Melbourne offices!), The Blocks current season once again taps into our national obsession with giving our homes a face-lift and demonstrating our DYI skills.

MasterChef  (Network Ten, May 6 2012)

Originating in the UK, MasterChefs brand of reality competitions arguably kicked off the current reality TV craze. Much has changed though since those early days when the show dominated the field, and competition is fiercer than ever, not least after My Kitchen Rules‘ success earlier this year. After season 3 of MasterChef  came in for some criticism for its tough challenges and tests, in 2012 the show promises to return to its basics: celebrating its contestants and their ambitions.

Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston – the testing trio of judges on MASTERCHEF.

Next Stop Hollywood (ABC1, 2012 TBC, 6 x 30min)

Next Stop Hollywood puts a spin on the format that is bound to appeal to film and TV fans. The show follows six aspiring young actors from Australia as they try to make their mark during pilot season – the frenzied period in LA when network television pilot shows get the go-ahead and casting begins. All of these young talents will have to fight to make it in the cutthroat US system. Produced by AFI Award-winning production house Matchbox Pictures, Next Stop Hollywood finally puts the cameras of reality TV onto the industry itself and promises to deliver captivating insights.

Aspiring Australian actors try to make it big in NEXT STOP HOLLYWOOD

Bollywood Star (SBS, from June 2 2012, 4-part series)

The popularity of Bollywood movies has exploded in recent years and more than a few have filmed in Australia. There’s no question that the films’ exuberant  and colorful dance numbers and songs make for enthralling viewing. To deliver not just another singing and dancing competition, SBS had the bright idea of tapping into our fascination with Bollywood movies with their new reality show Bollywood Star. The show will follow the search  for an Australian Bollywood star: an unknown who will go on to win the prize of a lifetime – a coveted place in the next movie by renowned Bollywood producer and director Mahesh Bhatt.

Bollywood meets iconic Aussie landmarks – BOLLYWOOD STAR.

Children’s Television

The Flamin’ Thongs (ABC3, 2012 TBC, series)

Whale Bay is home to Australia’s least visited tourist attraction, the Giant Thong. But that may be about to change, for all the wrong reasons. Behind this animated series are AFI Award-nominated director Colin South (DogstarThe CircuitStone Bros.) and writing team Bruce Griffiths and Simon Dodd, both veterans of Good News Week and each with four AWGIE (Australian Writers’ Guild) Awards to their name.

In Your Dreams (Seven Network, 2012 TBC, series)

Noel Price, one of Australia’s most prolific producers of first-rate children’s television, returns with In Your Dreams. Having produced children’s TV classics such as Blue Water HighDon’t Blame the Koalas and Spellbinder, two-time AFI Award winner Price sets In Your Dreams in both Australia and Germany. Price’s previous series, the country-hopping A gURLs wURLd, already looked at cultural differences and In Your Dreams takes this one step further, as Australian teenage twins Samantha and Ben Haselton discover what ‘culture shock’ is all about when they spend the summer with some eccentric, aristocratic and accident-prone relatives who live in a remote German castle.

Conspiracy 365 (Movie Network Channels, Family Movie Channel (FMC), 2012 monthly, 13 x 60min)

Conspiracy 365 is an action thriller adapted from Gabrielle Lord’s best-selling young-adult book series. It follows the life of teenager Cal Ormond (AFI award winner Harrison Gilbertson) as he ‘searches for the truth behind a deadly family secret’. Joining Harrison on the Melbourne shoot are Marny Kennedy (The Saddle Club), Taylor Glockner, Rob Carlton (Chandon Pictures, Underbelly), Julia Zemiro (Charlotte’s Web, The Wedge), Kate Kendall (Stingers), Ryan O’Kane (City Homicide) and David Whiteley. With the story unfolding as monthly instalments over the course of 2012 and the final episode to air in January 2013 now is still a perfect time to join the fun.

Marny Kennedy, Harrison Gilbertson and Taylor Glockner from CONSPIRACY 365

Mako Mermaids (Network Ten, TBC, 26 x 30min)

Reef Doctors (see part 1 of ‘On The Box’) isn’t AFI Award-winning producer Jonathan M. Shiff’s only new show to be shot in the tropical waters of Queensland. After three successful series and an AFI Award win in 2008, H2O: Just Add Water see a continuation of sorts with big-budget spin-off Mako Mermaids. The $12.3M series focuses on three mermaids who are charged with the task of protecting their magical Mako Island from trespassers, only to be thwarted by the arrival of 16-year-old land-dweller Zac, who forms a special connection with the island and is granted a fish-like tail and amazing powers. Filming on Mako Mermaids has only begun this week, so we’ll have to wait and see if this promising new adventure series will air this year – but in any case, we’re looking forward to it already.

More mermaids for H2o’s Jonathan M. Schiff. MAKO MERMAIDS has just begun production.

That’s it for our quick wrap-up of Australian television. Feel free to tell us below what you’re looking forward to most. And if there’s a particular show you think we’ve missed out on, tell us that too or email our editor (editor [at] afi.org.au) with details.

You may also be interested in On the Box: Australian Television 2012 – Part 1.

On the Box: Australian Television 2012 – Part 1


By Simon Elchlepp

Now for the fourth year running, we preview some Australian television highlights coming up in the year ahead (you can find our stories from 2009, 2010 and 2011 to revel in a bit of TV nostalgia). As it’s already April, some of 2012’s highlights have already come and gone, but there are still plenty to look forward to. In fact, 2012 shapes up to be a particularly interesting year on the small screen, for while there are many continuing series building on successes of past seasons, there is an impressive number of original productions due to screen this year. The ABC, in particular, has increased its drama and comedy output dramatically in recent years, while the commercial networks seem more prepared to take the plunge on ‘event’ telemovies and mini-series than in previous years. What’s also notable is that Australian TV producers and writers keep mining the nation’s rich history for their inspiration, unearthing stories from both familiar and lesser known periods of Australia’s past.

The trend also continues for networks to offer more viewing flexibility, with online viewing services like the ABC’s iview, SBS’ On Demand and Network Seven’s Plus7, constantly improving the audience’s ability to catch up on viewing at times to suit their own schedules.

John Waters and Asher Keddie – OFFSPRING SEASON 3.

As in 2011, we’ll focus on the television categories celebrated in the AACTA Awards: Drama, Comedy & Light Entertainment and Children’s Television. Some shows that have premiered recently, or will do so in the next couple of weeks, are Randling – six-time AFI Award winner Andrew Denton’s long-awaited return as show host, as he presides over a battle of words between teams that include witty wordsmiths such as Julia Zemiro, Rob Carlton, Angus Sampson and Robyn Butler (from 2 May, ABC1); Laid Series 2, which sees Roo (Alison Bell) having her world turned upside down when she is introduced to her opposite – Marcus, who doesn’t kill everybody he has sex with, but heals them (from 2 May, ABC1); and  Offspring Series 3 (now showing on Wednesday nights, 8.30pm, Network Ten), in which Nina Proudman (Asher Keddie) faces more messy family challenges. We’ve also just seen the impressive telemovie Beaconsfield on the Network Nine.

As always, we can’t include everything, but here’s a taste of Australian content that’s still to appear on your telly in 2012. In Part 1 we’ll look at the Drama offerings. Next week, in Part 2, we’ll focus on Comedy & Light Entertainment and a couple of new Children’s shows set to debut this year.

Drama: Series, Mini-Series and Telefeatures

Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms (Network Ten, from May 15 2012, six-part mini-series)

One of the darker spots of Australia’s recent history is the Milperra massacre, a violent clash between the Bandidos and the Comancheros motorcycle clubs on Father’s Day, Sunday 2 September 1985 that left seven people killed and 28 wounded. Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms aims to shine a light on how this deadly conflict could built up in the bikie gangs’ tribal culture with its particular code of honour. The show’s strong cast reads like a who’s who of Australian male TV stars including Todd Lasance, Luke Ford, Anthony Hayes, Damian Walshe-Howling and Callan Mulvey, with two-time AFI winner Susie Porter and Maeve Dermody in other roles. Veteran TV producers Greg Haddrick and Roger Simpson and director Peter Andrikidis together have a whopping 13 AFI Awards and 32 AFI Award nominations to their names, so it’s safe to say that this project is in good hands.

L-R: Anthony Hayes, Matt Nable and Callan Mulvey rev it up in Channel Ten’s BROTHERS IN ARMS.

Dangerous Remedy (ABC1, 2012 TBC, telemovie)

Jeremy Sims will take the lead in ABC1’s DANGEROUS REMEDY.

The story of Melbourne GP Dr Bert Wainer is that of a long, hard struggle on two fronts. As Australian social mores rapidly change in the late 1960s, Dr Wainer, moved by the death of a young woman, embarks on a campaign to overturn laws that make abortion an offence punishable by up to 15 years in jail. But soon he’s not only up against the legal system, but also against an illegal abortion ring involving highly paid doctors, backyard abortionists, high-ranking police and power-broking politicians. As producer/writer’s Kris Wyld’s next project after the AFI and AACTA Award-winning East West 101, Dangerous Remedy promises to be another slice of first-rate Australian TV drama, brought to life by a high-profile cast that includes Jeremy Sims (as Bert Wainer), William McInnes, Susie Porter, Maeve Dermody and Gary Sweet.

Devil’s Dust (ABC1, second half of 2012, two-part telemovie)

For more than a century, asbestos was one of the most commonly used building materials, and it took decades to recognise its devastating health impacts. In Australia, a decisive part of that struggle were the actions of three men, recreated in the telemovie Devil’s Dust. These central characters are: Bernie Banton (Anthony Hayes), who takes legal action against James Hardie after contracting cancer from his years of working with asbestos; Adam Bourke (Don Hany), who becomes aware that James Hardie is selling a product that causes the death of thousands of people; and Matt Peacock (Ewen Leslie), the ABC journalist who reveals evidence of the link between asbestos and cancer, and then devotes his career to exposing the shocking truth and bringing justice to victims. Two-time AFI Award-winning writer Kris Mrksa and producers FremantleMedia Australia bring the moving story of this still ongoing national tragedy to the small screen.

Anthony Hayes as mesothelioma sufferer Bernie Banton in DEVIL’S DUST.

Howzat!  (Channel Nine, 2012 TBC, two-part mini-series)

For a while, discussion around Howzat! The Kerry Packer Story focused mainly on which network would screen this ‘sequel in spirit’ to ABC’s Paper Giants, and whether Rob Carlton would reprise his AACTA nominated and Silver Logie-winning performance as Kerry Packer. Now that both questions have been answered, it’s time to take a closer look at the actual production. And what we can see so far looks like a highly entertaining trip back to the late 1970s when a young Kerry Packer took on the cricket establishment. Then owner of Channel Nine, Packer set up a rebel competition, the World Cricket Series and ushered in the era of one-day cricket played under lights. Lachy Hulme, also appearing in Beaconsfield and recently seen in Any Questions for Ben?, The Killer Elite and Offspring, continues his strong run and portrays Kerry Packer, backed by a supporting cast of moustachioed stars including Brendan Cowell, Damon Gameau and Matthew Le Nevez.

 

Matthew Le Nevez plays Dennis Lillee, Damon Gameau as Greg Chappell and Brendan Cowell as Rod Marsh on set of HOWZAT! 

Jack Irish – Bad Debts / Jack Irish – Black Tide (ABC1, 2012 TBC, 2 x 90min)

Rain. Wind. Pubs. Beer. Sex. Corruption. Murder. That’s Melbourne in winter for you, according to Peter Temple’s Ned Kelly Award-winning series of Jack Irish crime novels. Jack is an expert at finding people who don’t want to be found – dead or alive – and doesn’t mind stirring up a bit of trouble. He’s a former criminal lawyer, part-time investigator, debt collector, cabinetmaker, mug punter, and sometime lover – and the producers couldn’t have found a better actor to portray this complex character than Emmy Award-winner Guy Pearce. But while Pearce is certainly the big name on the roster of Jack Irish, he’s surrounded by a supporting cast that reads just as impressively: Damien Garvey, Anthony Hayes, Shane Jacobson and Roy Billing co-star, directed by one of Australia’s most promising young TV directors, AFI Award winner Jeffrey Walker.

Lawyer, punter, debt collector and sometime lover – Guy Pearce stars as Jack Irish.


Mabo 
(ABC1, June 2012, 117min)

Jim Bani and Deborah Mailman as Eddie and Bonita Mabo.

The life of Eddie Mabo has been the subject of several documentaries, most recently in Rachel Perkins’ groundbreaking series First Australians. Now Perkins, fresh from the success of Bran Nue Dae, returns to tell Eddie Mabo’s story in this telefeature. At its heart is the love story between Mabo and his wife Bonita that sustained their momentous struggle to change the face of Australia. In the lead role, Jimi Bani (The Straits, R.A.N.) is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that includes Deborah Mailman, Colin Friels, Miranda Otto, William McInnes and Ewen Leslie. The talent assembled behind the camera is just as impressive: Byron Kennedy Award winner Perkins works with a team that includes multiple AFI Award winners Anthony Partos and Sue Smith. Expect this to end up on a lot of ‘best of year’ lists by the end of 2012.

The Mystery of the Hansom Cab (ABC1, second half of 2012, 120min)

Period crime series are hot right now on Australian TV screens. A trip into the prohibition era revitalised Channel Nine’s Underbelly series and the 1920s glam and swagger of the ABC’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries endeared the series to many TV crime hounds. Now the ABC follows up its recent success with The Mystery of the Hansom Cab, a telemovie based on the first detective novel ever written in Australia in 1886 by Melbourne barrister’s clerk Fergus Hume. A milestone in the development of the literary crime genre, The Mystery of the Hansom Cab has been filmed three times as a silent movie and now returns to the small screen courtesy of producer Margaret McDonald and director Shawn Seet, who has shown a sure hand with such material as Underbelly: Razor.

Reef Doctors (Network Ten, 2012 TBC, 13 hour series)

In the current wave of crime and medical dramas that has swept Australian TV screens in recent years, family-oriented action fare has taken a bit of a back seat. That’s about to change with Reef Doctors, a 13-part drama series starring Lisa McCune in her first role since Sea Patrol wrapped last year. McCune stars as a single mother and leader of a team of doctors that serve the remote Hope Island Clinic, looking after residents of a small island community on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as tending to holiday-makers and thrillseekers. Reef Doctors also marks McCune’s first foray into producing and she is joined by two-time AFI Award winner Jonathan M. Shiff (Elephant Princess, H20 Just Add Water, Cybergirl), one of Australia’s foremost producers of family TV entertainment. Rohan Nichol, Matt Day and Richard Brancatisano complete the cast of this Australian-German co-production.

Rohan Nicol and Lisa McCune in REEF DOCTORS.

Puberty Blues (Network Ten, second half of 2012, series)

Claudia Karvan and Jeremy Lindsay Taylor – PUBERTY BLUES.

Like Bruce Beresford’s 1981 classic movie of the same name, Ten’s new series is based on the novel by Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette. It recently made headlines for its top-flight cast that includes Claudia Karvan, Susie Porter, Dan Wyllie, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Rodger Corser and Ashleigh Cummings. More AFI Award winners are found behind the camera, with Southern Star duo John Edwards and Imogen Banks (Offspring, Tangle) producing and Glendyn Ivin and Emma Freeman (Hawke, Tangle, Offspring) directing. It will be fascinating to see what this impressive team of creative minds will bring to the re-telling of the story of two Sydney teenage girls trying to fit in with the local surf gang. Early word has it that the series will not only portray the two girl protagonists, but also their families and friends in greater detail.

Redfern Now (ABC1, second half of 2012, series)

Redfern Now looks like it might become a landmark series in more than one sense. It is crafted by seven Indigenous Australians under script guidance from three-time BAFTA Award winner Jimmy McGovern, with over 250 Indigenous Australians to be employed in various roles including producers, directors, writers, actors, production and post-production staff. While this will provide career opportunities for creative Indigenous Australians on a massive scale and have an impact on the whole film and TV industry, what will transpire in front of the camera should be just as interesting. Produced by Blackfella Films (First Australians, Mabo, The Tall Man), Redfern Now will tell “the explosive and dramatic stories of six households in Redfern […] one of Australia’s most famous suburbs – an area full of contradictions; [an] Aboriginal icon, centre of black struggle, and a real estate goldmine”, according to McGovern.

Tricky Business (Channel Nine, from May 14 2012, series)

When the first Tricky Business promo was released, it didn’t take long for some to compare the series to Packed to the Rafters. Ultimately, only once the first episode has screened will we know how similar or different both productions are. What’s clear already is that the show boasts a strong cast that includes two-time AFI Award winner Shane Bourne, Gigi Edgley, Debra Byrne, Kip Gamblin, Antony Starr and Tomorrow, When The War Began star Lincoln Lewis. Tricky Business focuses on a family that runs a debt collection business. Channel Nine’s Head of Television, Michael Healy, promises a show with “a very strong balance between family and procedural.”

A complicated family with a business in debt collection – Channel Nine’s TRICKY BUSINESS.

Underbelly: Badness (Channel Nine, second half of 2012, eight-part mini-series)

Last year’s Underbelly: Razor arguably revitalised the long-running Underbelly franchise by injecting it with a good dose of 1920s glamour. But after that trip into the past, the question is whether there’s any historical ground left for the series to tread? Returning executive producers Des Monaghan and Greg Haddrick seem to have found the answer: Underbelly: Badness jumps closer to the present day than any previous Underbelly series. Set in 2001-2011, this latest series focuses on Sydney underworld figure Anthony Perish and how he was brought to justice after ten years of police investigation. Production company Screentime have landed a casting coup, as AACTA Award nominee Jonathan LaPaglia will return to Australian TV screens as Anthony Perish, after his much lauded turn in The Slap. The cast is completed by Matt Nable, Josh Quong Tart, Ben Winspear, Leeanna Walsman and Jodi Gordon.

 

Underground (Network Ten, second half of 2012, telemovie)

For 2012, Network Ten has lined up a roster of productions that are likely to generate plenty of discussion around the water cooler. Apart from Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms and 70’s tale of teenage rebellion Puberty Blues, there’s Underground. Few people have received as much media attention and polarised the public as strongly in recent years as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. And so you can bet that this telemovie about a young Assange and how he allegedly hacked the CIA website is bound to make waves. After weeks of intense online speculation, Ten have recently announced Underground’s impressive cast, headed by newcomer Alex Williams and including stars and AFI Award winners Anthony LaPaglia and Rachel Griffiths. The production will be directed by Robert Connolly (The Slap, Balibo, The Bank).

Wentworth (Foxtel, 2012 TBC, series)

One of Australian TV’s undisputed classics is Prisoner, which ran for seven years and has garnered a cult following around the world (the fact that there’s a 174 DVD box set with all 692 episodes out there speaks to the series’ everlasting appeal!). So Foxtel has some big shoes to fill in with its contemporary “re-imaging” of Prisoner called Wentworth. Little is known about cast and crew at this stage, but Foxtel Executive Director of Television promises “a dynamic and very confronting drama series, developed and stylised specifically for subscription television audiences.” Produced by Jo Porter (Packed to the Rafters, All Saints, Always Greener), Wentworth will follow the story of newly arrived prisoner Bea Smith and her rise through the ranks of the all-female prison hierarchy to the position of “Top Dog”.

Winners & Losers (Seven Network, 2012 TBC, series)

Currently, we don’t know much about the second season of Winners & Losers other than the fact that it will return to TV screens in 2012. But that bit of information alone will be enough to excite fans of one of 2011’s biggest ratings winners. The final episode of season one brought some big changes to the lives of Frances, Sophie, Bec and Jenny, which gives series creator Bevan Lee (Packed to the Rafters) “a new launching pad for season two.”  Filming on season two began on August 23 last year and we look forward to finding out what’s in store for the four girls at the heart of Winners & Losers.

What will this year hold for the four friends from WINNERS AND LOSERS?

Also tracking:

ABC’s Rake returns for a second series, while Seven Network has a new drama called A Place to Call Home from Packed to the Rafters creator Bevan Lee in the making. Some of Pay TV’s biggest 2012 shows have already been released, but you can still catch up, for example on Tangle in its third year and Conspiracy 365.  Costing $13m, the latter checks in as Australian Pay TV’s most expensive production to date.

Stay Tuned…

Next week, in Part 2 of this story, we’ll be checking out Comedy and Light Entertainment, including Hamish And Andy’s Euro Gap Year, Lowdown Series 2, Next Stop Hollywood, Please Like Me, Shaun Micallef Is Mad As Hell, Sporting Nation and This Christmas, as well as some children’s television picks.