Home­grown he­roes

Aussie TV shows lead the way for the best of 2016

Geelong Advertiser - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

Some­times TV is de­fined by mo­ments. Most peo­ple re­mem­ber that shift in tone af­ter Game of

Thrones’ Red Wed­ding where, from then on, any­thing seemed pos­si­ble. Fans of Off­spring will also re­mem­ber the im­mense shock and en­su­ing grief when beloved char­ac­ter Pa­trick was killed off sud­denly.

But over the past year, it doesn’t seem cor­rect to de­fine TV by its mo­ments, but in­stead by a move­ment to­wards in­creas­ing home­grown con­tent. Ev­ery net­work and even lo­cal stream­ing ser­vices seem to be in­creas­ing their quota of orig­i­nal Aus­tralian shows.

Ac­tors have been less likely to head for the bright lights of Hol­ly­wood but in­stead are tak­ing up the in­creas­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties closer to home, or at least are split­ting their time be­tween The City of An­gels and their own Lucky Coun­try.

Aus­tralian com­edy, for ex­am­ple, has been en­cour­aged from the ground up. Fresh from the stand- up cir­cuit, lo­cal co­me­di­ans are get­ting the chance to de­velop their work for TV by ABC’s Fresh Blood ini­tia­tive. Young com­edy writ­ers are given an op­por­tu­nity to see their idea made into a se­ries, which has re­sulted in two of the most unique sketch shows on TV, Wham Bam Thank You

Ma’am and Fancy Boy. Net­work TV isn’t the only place to view lo­cal com­edy. No

Ac­tiv­ity, an orig­i­nal Aussie se­ries from stream­ing ser­vice Stan, aired its sec­ond sea­son this year prov­ing that, much like Se­in­feld, do­ing noth­ing can be its own re­ward es­pe­cially in com­edy.

“I think we’re in a re­ally ex­cit­ing time for Aus­tralian com­edy,” Wham Bam Thank You

Ma’am’s Sarah Bishop said. “You’ve got all these amaz­ing, up­com­ing co­me­di­ans like Bondi Hip­sters, Aunty Donna ( a Mel­bourne com­edy group) and they’re all peo­ple who are in our show as well. A few years ago it felt like if you wanted to work with the best and cre­ate re­ally good work you had to go over­seas, but now I think there’s so much good stuff hap­pen­ing here there’s a re­ally good case for us to stay and col­lab­o­rate with peo­ple here.”

Up­per Mid­dle Bo­gan, which went into its third sea­son this year, is an en­dur­ing ex­am­ple of the power of ensem­ble com­edy. It helps when the per­form­ers gen­uinely like each other.

“We adore each other it’s quite funny, we talk about it all the time and I don’t know if peo­ple re­ally be­lieve it but we … spend time to­gether when we’re not film­ing,” said Michala Banas, who plays Am­ber Wheeler on the com­edy show.

It’s also been re­fresh­ing on net­work TV to see women lead­ing the way in prime time view­ing slots.

Af­ter a break of nearly two years, Off­spring’s Proud­man fam­ily came back for a sixth time in the Net­work Ten fam­ily drama, star­ring Asher Ked­die. No sooner had Off­spring sea­son six ended, Ten aired its new drama The Wrong Girl, based on Zoë Foster Blake’s book of the same name and star­ring Love Child star Jes­sica Marais.

Not to be out­done, the Seven Net­work cre­ated a whole se­ries around singer- ac­tor Jes­sica Mauboy. The slightly soapie The Se­cret Daugh­ter

Wendt: “Ev­ery­one’s got a story, ev­ery­one’s story is worth hear­ing.”

al­lowed Mauboy to ex­plore her act­ing abil­ity while keep­ing up her mu­si­cal side as she played part- time coun­try pub singer Bil­lie Carter.

An ac­com­pa­ny­ing sound­track al­bum, fea­tur­ing Mauboy singing Aussie clas­sics, be­came the singer’s first No. 1 al­bum on the ARIA charts.

“This is some­thing that, in the back of my mind, I’ve al­ways wanted to do as a per­sonal goal, vis­ually, cul­tur­ally and mu­si­cally. I still wake up and go, ‘ I’ve done it. I re­ally did it’,” Mauboy said about the show.

Aus­tralian drama be­came even smarter this year.

The thriller The Code came back for a sec­ond sea­son to ABC and con­tin­ued to ex­plore its world of cy­ber- se­cu­rity con­spir­acy.

But a sneaky sur­prise came from Fox­tel’s show­case chan­nel. The Ket­ter­ing In­ci­dent star­ring El­iz­a­beth De­bicki was a grip­ping gothic mys­tery filmed in Tas­ma­nia that wasn’t afraid to ex­plore the su­per­nat­u­ral. It also fin­ished with the year’s wa­ter­cooler mo­ment leav­ing many ques­tion­ing what had hap­pened.

Both Seven and Ten con­tin­ued the TV biopic trend that kicked off in 2014 with the INXS minis­eries Never Tear Us

Apart. This year we had the lives of mu­sic jour­nal­ist Molly Mel­drum ( Seven) and rac­ing leg­end Peter Brock ( Ten) played out on our screens and it’s a trend set to con­tinue with more leg­ends lined up for next year ( Paul Hogan, Olivia New­ton- John). Mean­while, SBS show First

Con­tact proved TV was still the best medium for stim­u­lat­ing na­tion­wide de­bate over an is­sue. In this case it was in­dige­nous rights as well- known fig­ures, singer- song­writer Natalie Im­bruglia, ex- One Na­tion politi­cian David Old­field, TV per­son­al­ity Ian “Dicko” Dick­son, co­me­dian Tom Bal­lard, ac­tress Nicki Wendt and for­mer Miss Uni­verse Aus­tralia Renae Ayris, tra­versed the coun­try to get a sense of all sides of the story, with Old­field po­si­tioned as the prime an­tag­o­nist.

It was a se­ries that not only sparked a de­bate but gen­uinely chal­lenged the peo­ple in­volved.

“I had a com­pletely trans­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. I re­ally took a lot of huge life lessons from it … just that lit­tle re­minder that ev­ery­one’s got a story, ev­ery­one’s story is worth hear­ing,” Wendt said.

But the run­away suc­cess was the re­turn of Aus­tralian

Sur­vivor to TV, al­beit on a new net­work ( Ten) show­ing that re­al­ity TV still has a strong­hold, par­tic­u­larly when it’s set on a trop­i­cal is­land and re­sults in an against- all- odds win from 24- year- old Kristie Ben­nett.

The true sur­vivors, though, have been MasterChef ( Ten),

My Kitchen Rules ( Seven) and The Block ( Nine) which have a tight grip on the public and show no signs of slow­ing down.

What’s an­other year?: Clock­wise from top left, Aus­tralian Sur­vivor’s Jonathan LaPaglia; The Se­cret Daugh­ter’s Jes­sica Mauboy; Fancy Boy’s Greg Larsen; Molly’s Sa­muel John­son; First Con­tact’s Nicki Wendt; and Up­per Mid­dle Bo­gan’s Michala Banas.

Firm favourite: Off­spring, star­ring Kat Ste­wart and Asher Ked­die, made a wel­come re­turn to our screens this year.

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