If Australian television has left you disappointed this year and never really set your heart ablaze, there are still a few chances for you to change your mind. Although the peak period for premieres was in February, the last few months of the ratings period still have plenty of gems of Australian drama and comedy; both returning series and brand new programs. The ABC has a series of fine returning comedies while SBS has two promising documentaries looking at Australia’s racial tensions.
The following 10 shows are due to screen in the last six months of 2014, although some may still be slated across until February 2015.
Please Like Me (ABC)
Josh Thomas’s debut TV series (pictured above) premiered in early 2013 to little fanfare on ABC2. Loosely based on Thomas’ own life, the comedy/drama follows a socially awkward 20-something man who realises he’s gay. The young comedian’s self-written series was intended for ABC1, but when the powers that be decided to switch it over to the secondary channel, the show found an audience on ABC’s online platform iView. Soon after, it was picked up by American cable channel Pivot, and was met with broad critical acclaim from international critics, many of whom compared it to HBO hit Girls. It ended up on many top ten lists of the year around the world, and was picked up for a second series, co-produced by Pivot and the ABC.
Mad as Hell (ABC)
That’s right, you don’t have to wait until 2015 for another hit of Shaun Micallef’s scathing political satire. Another ten episodes of Mad As Hell are due to air in September this year, and given the current political climate, it looks as though there’ll be plenty of material ripe for satire. The show began quietly in its original Friday night slot, but has maintained steadily rising ratings while continuing to cut closer to the bone, politically.
Once Upon a Time in Carlton (SBS)
Following SBS’s Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta and Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl comes a documentary looking at the multicultural communities in Melbourne’s Carlton. The Punchbowl version, which looks at the Lebanese communities in Sydney suburbs, attracted its share of controversy this year when it was revealed that one of the subjects of the program fabricated parts of his story.
Australia: The Story of Us (Seven)
It might surprise you to learn that one of our commercial broadcasters has decided to air a high-budget historical Australian docu-drama. Australia: The Story of Us is the local version of the 2010 hit US documentary America: The Story of Us, which was introduced by Barack Obama and became the highest-rating series ever aired on the History Channel. Australia’s story is fraught with controversy and fresh wounds, so it seems likely that such a high profile series will stir passions in some way. The local version is being created by Essential Media, who are behind Rake and Jack Irish.
Upper Middle Bogan (ABC)
Wayne Hope and Robyn Butler’s Upper Middle Bogan was a bit of a sleeper hit for ABC in 2013, with a cast featuring Glenn Robbins, Michala Banas, Patrick Brammall and Robyn Nevin flexing her comedic muscles. Tackling Australia’s oft-ignored class divide, it features a woman raised by an affluent family who discovers she was adopted. She reconnects with her real parents; a pair of drag racing fanatics from the other side of the tracks. The second series is due to air in late 2014.
There aren’t many more mysterious or fascinating figures in Australian public life than multi-billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart. With controversies including her bitter legal battle with her father’s widow Rose Hancock to her more recent bitter legal battle with her own children, the Rinehart story is already one of our greatest dramas. In early 2013, two Gina Rinehart miniseries were being developed – one by Screentime for Foxtel, and a four-hour, two-part telemovie by Michael Cordell, Claudia Karvan and Paul Bennett’s production company Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder for Nine. Although casting hasn’t been announced, the Nine series is meant to air this year.
The Great Australian Race Riot (SBS)
Peter Fitzsimmons takes a look at the history of race riots in Australia, and how they’ve shaped the nation, in a new three-part documentary series for SBS. The series goes all the way back to the 1800s and right up to today, revealing the racial tensions that have been turning points in our past.
The Code (ABC)
Playmaker Media (behind Nine’s House Husbands and Love Child) has created a political thriller for the ABC which follows two brothers in Canberra; a journalist and a computer hacker, as they unearth secrets at the highest level and become embroiled in a political conspiracy. The series stars Lucy Lawless (yes, Xena!), David Wenham, Adam Garcia, Aden Young and Ashley Zukerman and has already been sold to The Audience Network in the US and Sundance Channel in Latin America.
Party Tricks (Ten)
Offspring star Asher Keddie features in Ten’s six-part political drama Party Tricks as Premier Kate Ballard as she works to secure her re-election. Alongside Keddie stars Rodger Corser (Underbelly, Rush) as her opponent; a popular radio and television personality. Soon enough it becomes apparent that the pair once had a secret affair, and the political battle takes on a whole new meaning.
Production team Working Dog (behind Frontline, The Castle, The Dish and their recent theatrical debut The Speechmaker) are headed back to the small screen with a new political satire, Utopia. Their most recent political satire The Hollowmen covered parliamentary spin doctors and aired on ABC1 to solid reviews and ratings. Utopia features comedian Celia Pacquola and Rob Sitch.