Aussie TV shows lead the way for the best of 2016
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.