Australian networks are expecting a ratings boost from American shows that have yet to prove themselves in their home market, writes Michael Gadd
SEXY and irreverent dramas, comedic science fiction thrillers and lawyers in many forms, usually young and idealistic. All of these and more will feature among the new US programs added to television schedules in the coming year. Australia’s commercial networks, Seven, Nine and Ten, have unveiled the shows they have picked up after the pilot season in the US.
All three networks will be praying for ratings winners from their deals with American networks and production companies.
Seven has the strongest existing catalogue of overseas programs, with shows such as Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy taking them to the top of the ratings.
It has also picked up some of the coming year’s most promising shows. Seven’s programming and production director Tim Worner says Grey’s Anatomy offshoot Private Practice is the most ‘‘ immediately bankable’’ new program his network has landed.
But he says the tongue- in- cheek dramas Dirty Sex Money ( starring Peter Krause, from Six Feet Under), Eli Stone and Reaper , about a young man who has sold his soul to the devil, are also ‘‘ new weapons which fit the Seven Network arsenal’’. Seven will also get first pick from the highly regarded drama Lipstick Jungle , based on the writings of Candace Bushnell ( whose newspaper column inspired Sex and the City ), police drama Life and the remake of The Bionic Woman.
As part of a split deal for NBC content with Network Ten, Seven has first refusal on two of these three programs.
Ten programming chief David Mott has credited a new arrangement with CBS and an existing deal with 20th Century Fox for putting the network in its ‘‘ strongest position ever in terms of US content’’. Fox has delivered the only sitcoms to meet with any hype this season, including the newsroom comedy Back to You starring
Kelsey Grammer, and at least three wellcredentialled dramas, including projects for Jimmy Smits ( NYPD Blue ) and David Duchovny ( The X Files ).
Nine was dealt a series of dud overseas shows last year, but the network’s affiliates, Warner Bros and Sony, could be set to make amends, with positive reports for their mid- season pilots.
Some of Nine’s strong new material features Australian talent.
There is significant buzz surrounding Cashmere Mafia , starring Australia’s Miranda Otto and Frances O’Connor, along with Lucy Liu. Hugh Jackman joins Melanie Griffith in Viva Laughlin , while Rose Byrne stars alongside Glenn Close in the law thriller Damages .
Nine has also picked out shows that could draw a more youthful audience to the network. These include Gossip Girl , a drama about rich New York teenagers; Chuck , a sci- fi drama featuring young Australian Yvonne Strzechowski ( Headland ); and Moonlight , which features Australian rising star Alex O’Loughlin as a vampire private investigator.
‘‘ Generation X and Y will get a big run with Nine next year,’’ Nine programming director Michael Healey says.
He says the new programs will significantly improve Nine’s international line- up, which has been carried for several years by its CSI franchise. Most of these new shows won’t air in Australia until next year and some won’t air at all, but those that do are expected to make a significant impact on how each network fares in the year’s ratings.
‘‘ There’s still a lot of water to go under the bridge after pilots: these shows still have to prove themselves in the US schedules, but there’s some good stuff out there this year,’’ Worner says.
Also in the wings, but not necessarily bound for these shores:
Hidden Palms : Kevin Williamson ( Dawson’s Creek ) is still doing the teen soap thing with this drama that follows a troubled youngster ( Taylor Handley, formerly the much- despised Oliver on The O. C. ) who moves to Palm Springs after
seeing his father commit suicide. Once there, he meets all sorts of quirky people, some of whom are hiding dark secrets.
Pirate Master: It’s days of plunder as Jack Sparrow meets Survivor in this latest offering from reality TV tsar Mark Burnett. The show has 16 contestants going on a high- seas adventure aboard a vintage square- rigger, where they live as buccaneers and travel around a Caribbean island in search of hidden treasure worth $ 1 million.
Army Wives : Kim Delaney ( NYPD Blue ) stars in this ensemble drama about the struggles, dreams and friendships of a diverse group of women, and one man, who form an unlikely bond based on a common theme: they all love a soldier who could be gone at any moment.
Filmed on location in Charleston, South Carolina, the show also features Sally Pressman, Brigid Brannagh and Brian McNamara.
‘‘ The thing I love about Claudia Joy,’’ says Delaney of her character ‘‘ is that her husband is the one with the position. But she also has a position, and that’s taking care of the women back home.’’
Claudia Joy is first among equals by virtue of her husband’s job. Thrown together unexpectedly with the wives of enlisted men, including a bartender named Roxy ( Pressman) who’s married to a man she’s known only a few weeks, Claudia Joy quickly puts the coping skills she’s learned as an army wife to good use.
Tyler Perry’s House of Payne : This new comedy dabbles in the lives of a multigenerational working- class family forced by circumstances to live under one roof. Life gets a whole lot more complicated when it’s discovered that one family member, a mother to two children, is addicted to crack. Created by Perry, the show stars Allen Payne, LaVan Davis and Cassi Davis.
Meadowlands : This follows the Brogan family who, as part of a witness- protection program, move into a bucolic neighbourhood to begin a new life. Picturesque and crime- free, Meadowlands appears to be a suburban paradise, but the Brogans soon realise it’s not so easy to escape their past. David Morrissey and Lucy Cohu star.
Age of Love : A reality dating series that attempts to answer the question: Does age really matter when it comes to matters of the heart? Australian tennis professional Mark Philippoussis, 31, is given a full house of women to choose from. But what separates this show from The Bachelor is that the women are divided into two groups: those in their 20s and those in their 40s. Mark Consuelos hosts what looks to be an intriguing social experiment.
Additional reporting AAP
Livelier fare: Peter Krause stars in Dirty Sex Money