Focus on the Television Nominees: Part 1 – Best Television Drama Series & Best Telefeature, Mini Series or Short Run Series

Did you know that the inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards marks the 25th year in which the AFI | AACTA has awarded excellence in television categories? Television Awards were first given out in 1986. No nominees were annouced that year, but winners were announced in ten categories around Mini Series and Telefeatures.

Fast forward to 2011/2012, and we have nominees in 13 television categories. These include Children’s Television Series, Comedy Series, Light Entertainment and of course Television Drama and Telefeature, Mini Series or Short Run Series.

You can see full listings of the nominees over on the AACTA website, but in the lead up to the AACTA Awards in January, we’re writing a two-part piece to provide you with insights and further reading on the high quality of our television drama nominees. In this post, we look at the nominees in the Best Television Drama Series and Best Telefeature, Mini Series and Short Run Series, and I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s been a great year for Australian drama on the small screen.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST TELEVISION DRAMA SERIES

And the nominees are:

East West 101, Season 3The Heroes’ Journey. Steve Knapman, Kris Wyld. SBS
Offspring, Season 2. John Edwards, Imogen Banks. Network Ten
Rake. Ian Collie, Peter Duncan, Richard Roxburgh. ABC1
Spirited, Season 2. Claudia Karvan, Jacquelin Perske. FOXTEL – W

In this category, for which the producers accept the Award, we have four strong contenders. East West 101, the tense SBS cop drama set in multicultural Sydney, won this Award back in 2009. Producers Steve Knapman and Kris Wyld have had great success in the crime and cop genres over the years, beginning their work as a writing/producing team with their acclaimed ABC drama series Wildside (1997-99). You can read more at the Knapman Wyld Television website.

Offspring, Season 2, the Network Ten romantic drama which has become appointment viewing has in the opinions of many, proved to be even stronger in its second season. Last year, Deborah Mailman won an AFI Award  for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Drama for her role as the bubbly Cherie, while John Waters was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Drama for his part as the lothario Proudman patriarch. This year, the series itself is nominated with producers John Edwards and Imogen Banks up for the Award. John Edwards, of Southern Star Entertainment, has been responsible for numerous AFI Award winning television dramas including The Secret Life of Us, Marking Time, Love My Way, Tangle, Rush and many more. Read more about Edwards here. Imogen Banks has been twice nominated for AFI Awards alongside Edwards:  for her work on Tangle (2010) and Dangerous (2007).

Rake, the witty and hilarious ABC1 series about a rascally and rogueish criminal barrister (played by Richard Roxburgh), is a strong contender, with its fearless lead character and wicked plotlines. The series was created by Roxburgh, Charles Waterstreet and Peter Duncan (Children of the Revolution, Unfinished Sky)  – and Duncan was also co-producer with Ian Collie, co-writer with Andrew Knight, and director of two episodes. You can read Encore’s on-set interview with Collie and Duncan here.

Spirited, a supernatural romantic comedy, screened on Foxtel’s W channel, sees leading lady and producer Claudia Karvan, along with co-writer and producer Jacquelin Perske up for the Award for this second series. They’re two women quite familiar with winning AFI Awards, having collected a swathe of them for their acclaimed drama series Love My Way (a show that was nominated for 18 AFI Awards and won eight over its three series). News that Spirited has just been renewed for a third series has the show’s ardent fans cheering. Visit the show’s official website here.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST TELEFEATURE, MINI SERIES OR SHORT RUN SERIES


And the nominees are:

Cloudstreet. Greg Haddrick, Brenda Pam. FOXTEL – Showcase
Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo. John Edwards, Karen Radzyner. ABC1
Sisters Of War. Andrew Wiseman. ABC1
The Slap. Tony Ayres, Helen Bowden, Michael McMahon. ABC1

Cloudstreet, Foxtel’s beautiful three-part mini series based on Tim Winton’s beloved book, is up against three ABC productions in this category. Producers Greg Haddrick (Head of Drama for Screentime) and Brenda Pam have previously collaborated on Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, and Haddrick is a three-time AFI Award winner and an accomplished screenwriter (MDA, Underbelly). With a talented and cohesive ensemble cast (wonderful casting by Mullinars), and superb production values, Cloudstreet is nominated for a total of eight AACTA Awards and is destined for a long life on DVD and blu-ray and will be in many a Christmas stocking this year. Check out the official website here.

The two-part Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo was a surprise hit on the ABC when it screened in April this year. The true tale of a brave young editor, Ita Buttrose (Asher Keddie) at the helm of Australia’s sexual revolution with Cleo, the magazine that reflected new freedom for women also featured a pitch perfect performance by Rob Carlton as a youthful Kerry Packer. (Both Keddie and Carlton are nominated for their performances in this production). Prolific producer John Edwards (see Offspring above) has a hand in this one too. To explore the show more, visit the official website here.

Sisters of War, the 97-minute telefeature first screened on ABC1 in November 2010, is based on the true story and war diaries of a nurse and a nun held prisoner of war by the Japanese in Papua New Guinea in 1942. Starring Sarah Snook, Claire van der Boom and Susie Porter, this is a story about women in extreme circumstances, and their extraordinary courage and will to prevail. (Snook and Porter are nominated for their work here, but more on that in a future blog post.) Sisters of War was written by John Misto (Days of the Roses, The Damnation of Harvey McHugh), directed by Brendan Maher (The Road From Coorain, After The Deluge) and produced by Andrew Wiseman. Wiseman, up for this AACTA Award, has previously been nominated for a number of AFI Awards, and has won twice (My Brother Jack, After the Deluge). Screenhub‘s interview with Wiseman can be found here.

The eight-part short run series The Slap, up for a total of  eight AACTA Awards, managed to be ‘watercooler television’, in the same way that the original novel by Christos Tsiolkas was a ‘BBQ stopper’ and book club favourite. In this Award category, the nominees are producers Tony Ayres, Helen Bowden and Michael McMahon, who are partners in the prolific local production company Matchbox Pictures (along with fellow producers Penny Chapman and Helen Pankhurst). Michael McMahon has won an AFI Award previously, for Best Documentary (Wildness, 2003) and was nominated for Best Film for The Home Song Stories, in 2007. Helen Bowden has also been nominated twice before, for Best Film (Soft Fruit, 1999) and Best Documentary (Girl in a Mirror, 2005). Tony Ayres is a writer and director as well as a producer (he directed two episodes of The Slap – ‘Richie’ and ‘Manolis’) and won two AFI Awards in 2007 for his semi autobiographical feature film The Home Song Stories. Find out more about Matchbox Pictures at their website.

The winners of the AACTA Awards for Best Television Drama Series and Best Telefeature, Mini Series or Short Run Series will be announced at the inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards Ceremony on Tuesday 31 January 2012 and broadcast on the Nine Network. Stay tuned for our post next week covering the nominees for Best Direction in Television, Best Screenplay in Television, Best Lead Actor and Actress in Television Drama, and Best Guest or Supporting Actor and Actress in Television Drama.

Why I Adore: East West 101 Series 3

by Lia McCrae-Moore

I was particularly excited when I found out that the third season of East West 101 was to be broadcast on SBS this April. And, no it wasn’t only because I wanted to watch Don Hany perfect his performance as the ever-manly Malik – though this was definitely an added bonus. It was more that the endless search for another gritty, thought-provoking political drama could finally come to a brief standstill. Once again, I could indulge my couch potato tendencies without feeling any twinge of guilt. My brain and body would not decompose during the viewing process. This series would be stimulating and polemic. It would be Australian crime drama at its best!

The ever-manly Malik - Don Hany (centre) in East West 101

The dramatic quality of East West 101 has remained consistently outstanding since its inception in 2007. Its delicate combination of strong script writing, direction, acting and production is everything you could expect from a collection of such seasoned professionals. The show’s prestige is reflected in its multiple AFI Award wins for Best Direction (Peter Andrikidis), Best Lead Actress (Susie Porter) and Best Television Drama (Krys Wyld and Steve Knapman). Filmed in and around Sydney, East West 101 continues to showcase the best of our local talent, both onscreen and off.

The first series of East West 101 was conceived during the post 9/11 era of terror and anti-Islam sentiment. It was a particularly intense period of heightened fear and resentment. Arguably then, the decision to make the show’s lead protagonist, Detective Zane Malik (Don Hany), a practicing Muslim, was politically as well as dramatically motivated. Producers and writers Krys Wyld and Steve Knapman clearly wanted to explore how Australia was responding to this new wave of racial and religious vilification.  Malik is the best kind of contemporary hero, one who wins over his audience with a genuine blend of vulnerability, compassion and conviction while remaining ardently aware of his cultural position as an outsider.

In the first series, Malik must navigate the internal tensions of the Major Crime Squad while simultaneously investigating a deeply personal and disturbing crime. Senior detective Crowley (William McInnes) continually questions Malik’s dedication and commitment to the Force but Malik remains determined to prove his loyalty and overcome Crowley’s unwarranted skepticism, without burning too many bridges.

In Season Two, the Major Crime Squad joins forces with the NSO (National Security Organisation). The team’s primary goal is to investigate the cause of a devastating car bomb attack. The Sydney media attributes the crime to a group of Muslim extremists but Malik remains doubtful. This negative media portrayal has detrimental consequences for the local Muslim community and Malik must position himself on the issue sensitively. He remains as impartial as possible though his new Inspector, Patricia White (Susie Porter), is paying close attention to him. Ultimately, her initial misgivings are disproved and she learns to trust Malik’s instinct, reinstating him as a positive role model in the Squad and in his local community.

By the third series of East West 101, the Major Crime Squad have become involved in an international military investigation that has connections to the war in Afghanistan. This case has personal ramifications for Malik but he must temper his own anger and hurt in order to reveal the truth. The new volatile and disconcerting presence of Detective Neil Travis (Matt Nable) proves to be difficult and compromising. Malik discovers that Travis’s hostile attitude towards Islam is largely due to his military service in Iraq. In tracking down the case’s savage perpetrators Malik and Travis must negotiate their differences, but unforeseeable consequences arise, further complicating their fragile relationship.

In the episode The Price of Salvation Detective Sonny Koa (Aaron Fa’aosa) assists Mere Hahunga to reign in her wayward son, Sam. Sam has been involved in a brutal robbery led by the notorious Ned Reweti, the local Maori gangster. Koa feels it is his duty to ensure that Sam does the right thing by testifying against Reweti but Sam is not so easily convinced. His reluctance jeopardizes Koa’s own position within the investigation and ultimately leads to dire circumstances. Meanwhile, Malik is hell bent on seeking justice for the death of his only son by ruthlessly tracking down the killers. When the case claims another victim, Malik is determined to reveal the truth. But this proves to be more difficult and frustrating than Malik expects and he rapidly loses patience.

The episode cuts between these two storylines cleverly; interweaving the threads in a complex fashion that keeps you biting your fingernails and gasping at the television screen with anticipation. Each shot is framed with class and conviction, the camera honing in on important details but not lingering too long on the extraneous. The editing is quick and snappy so that the storyline steams along at a decent pace. After watching the last couple of series, I am now quite fond of the cast’s familiar faces. Their well-developed characters have become hyper-real extensions of my furtive imagination as they join me in my lounge room while I sip on a peppermint tea or toast my toes in front of the heater. Each season has built upon the last, adding layers of complexity to the narrative and solidifying its storytelling rigour.

But perhaps, what I appreciate most about this series is its willingness to engage with current socio-political issues and debates. It is not afraid to dissect the very real cultural divisions and racist opinions that exist in contemporary Australia, today. Rather, it courageously confronts these “difficult” issues by demonstrating the very real ramifications they have on the people involved. Both explicit and implicit racism is still prevalent within our society. East West 101 acknowledges this and encourages us as audience members to open up these displays of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour to a broader cultural analysis and criticism. It prompts us to question our immediate, often unthinking, emotional reactions and identify them as either warranted responses or irrational prejudices.

Tasneem Roc and Don Hany play a modern Muslim couple in East West 101

Tasneem Roc and Don Hany play a modern Muslim couple in East West 101

As the series has only just finished airing, I am reluctant to divulge too much more information. I would prefer to encourage you to watch it online or on DVD, your bum on the edge of your seat and your eyes glued to your screen. If you’re anything like me then you will watch with unabated enthusiasm, one episode after the other, as the team grapples with the next installment of corruption, rape or murder. Remember, this is Australian crime drama at its best. You won’t be disappointed.

All three series of East West 101 are now available on DVD.


East West 101
: AFI Award Wins

▪  Best Television Drama Series (2009)
▪  Best Direction in Television – Peter Andrikidis (2009)
▪  Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama – Susie Porter (2009)
▪  Best Telefeature, Mini Series or Short Run Series (2008)

East West 101: AFI Award Nominations

▪  Best Screenplay in Television – Michael Miller and Kristen Dunphy (2009)
▪  Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama – Don Hany (2009)
▪  Best Direction in Television – Peter Andrikidis (2008)
▪  Best Screenplay in Television – Kris Wyld (2008)
▪  Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama – Don Hany (2008)
▪  Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama – William McInnes (2008)
▪  Best Guest or Supporting Actor in a Television Drama – Taffy Hany (2008)


Read Previous ‘Why I Adore’ Posts
:

Paul Anthony Nelson (the ‘Why I Adore’ godfather and founder) introduces the concept, and rhapsodises about Mad Max. AFI Membership Administrator Lia McCrae-Moore revisits the lyrical beauty of One Night the Moon and Clem Bastow reminisces about a childhood spent watching the television show Round the Twist. Or you can read Anthony Morris flirting with disaster in his adoration of Romper Stomper, Annie Stevens going bridal with Muriel’s Wedding, or Popzilla bowing down before the altar of literary screen adaptations.

Contribute: We’re currently looking for more ’Why I Adore’ articles devoted to Australian film and television. Send a one paragraph summary to editor[at] afi.org.au and we’ll get back to you with more details.