One of 2016’s most intriguing offerings, Cleverman. Photo: ABCEmbracing the world stage – finally
Love, crime and politics … where would television’s narrative be without those three vital ingredients? Despite the tendency to imagine television is a realm of ever-diminishing returns for the audience, this year looks promising.
Even the commercial networks, whose slates are typically the least thrilling, have dished up a few things which are rich in promise. On cable, and in streaming, where there is more room for bold ideas to breathe, it looks even more interesting.
There are some very ambitious ideas, including the brilliant Cleverman, which meshes indigenous mythology with the kind of genre-spinning television you expect from Britain or the United States. And some simply brilliant ones, such as the Luhrmann-Martin Netflix drama The Get Down.
Revealingly too, it seems often the best ideas are both the simplest and the truest. Former prime minister John Howard’s exploration of the Menzies legacy is already one of the buzziest programs of the year. Ditto American Crime Story, which is tackling the trial of O. J. Simpson. Please note: no producers were killed in the compilation of this story. Oh, and there are no dating shows in it. Not a single one. You’re welcome. SIX OF THE BEST
What is it? A telemovie biography of one of Australia’s most successful race car drivers, Sandown 500, Australian Touring Car and Bathurst 24 Hour champion Peter Brock, who died in 2006.
Star factor: Matthew Le Nevez as Brock, Ella Scott Lynch as his wife Bev, plus Brendan Cowell, Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Nadia Townsend and Steve Bisley.
Why it’s a gonna be huge: Brock’s life is a largely untold story, packaged in a genre where Ten has proven form.
What is it? A thriller set in the near future about a species from ancient mythology who live among us, but must “battle for survival in a world that wants to silence, exploit and destroy them”.
Star factor: Game of Thrones actor Iain Glen, plus Frances O’Connor, Deborah Mailman and Hunter Page-Lochard, plus directors Wayne Blair and Leah Purcell.
Why it’s a gonna be huge: It’s a sharp, high-concept genre drama from two brilliant production companies, Goalpost and Pukeko, which is easily the equal of anything from overseas.
The Get Down (Netflix)
What is it? A “mythic saga of how New York at the brink of bankruptcy gave birth to hip-hop, punk and disco, told through the lives and music of the South Bronx kids who changed the city, and the world”.
Star factor: Australian director Baz Luhrmann, Academy-Award winner Catherine Martin, writer Stephen Adly Guirgis and hip-hop pioneers Grandmaster Flash, DJ Kool Herc, and Afrika Bambaataa.
Why it’s a gonna be huge: The genius of the Luhrmann-Martin partnership, the creative freedom (and track record) of streamcaster Netflix and a kickass soundtrack.
Howard on Menzies (ABC)
What is it? Australia’s second longest-serving prime minister John Howard explores the life and legacy of its first, “our most successful and influential political leader”, Robert Menzies.
Star factor: Howard as host and interviewer, plus an all-star line-up of conversation subjects, including former prime minister Bob Hawke, media mogul Rupert Murdoch and comedian Barry Humphries.
Why it’s a gonna be huge: It’s a relatively simple idea, approached in an original way, with a most unlikely TV host as guide, and executed on the grandest of scales.
Secret City (Showcase)
What is it: A political thriller based on the novels The Mandarin Code and The Marmalade Files by journalists Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis.
Star factor: A top-notch cast, including Anna Torv, Damon Herriman, Dan Wyllie, Mekhi Phifer, Miranda Tapsell, Jacki Weaver, Alex Dimitriades and Alan Dale.
Why it’s a gonna be huge: Ripper cast, plus a top-notch writing team which includes Kris Mrksa, Belinda Chayko, Matt Cameron, Marieke Hardy and Greg Waters.
Wolf Creek (Stan)
What is it: A spin-off from the hit Wolf Creek movies, the series follows an American tourist who escapes the clutches of killer Mick Taylor and embarks on a mission to take revenge.
Star factor: John Jarratt, who played the serial killer Mick Taylor in two Wolf Creek films in 2005 and 2013, returns to star in the spin-off series.
Why it’s a gonna be huge: The original film was a global smash, pulling almost $US30 million in box office.
In sitcom Here come the Habibs, a Lebanese-Australian family moves to Vaucluse. AND THE A-Z OF THE REST
American Crime Story, The People vs O. J. Simpson (Ten)
An all-star cast, including John Travolta, Cuba Gooding jnr and David Schwimmer, bring to life the now infamous trial of footballer-turned-actor O. J. Simpson.
Australian Survivor (Ten)
Though its first iteration was not a success, the iconic American reality franchise has been exhumed for another go round.
A telemovie based on the Christos Tsiolkas novel about a young boy destined to become a swimming superstar. Stars Matt Nable, Rachel Griffiths and Jeremy Lindsay Taylor.
Chelsea Does (Netflix)
A four-part documentary series in which US comedian Chelsea Handler gets up close and personal with four subjects: marriage, racism, Silicon Valley and drugs.
The Crown (Netflix)
Ambitious 10-hour drama about the British royal family, starring Claire Foy as young Princess Elizabeth and former Dr Who star Matt Smith as the future Prince Philip.
Dafuq (ABC iView)
News satire following three “reporters” for a “non-mainstream, cross platform” news program who chase the stories no one else will, and make them all about themselves.
Deep Water (SBS)
An ambitious drama inspired by the gay hate murders in Sydney in the 1980s and 1990s, exploring “the brutal murders, the scores of assaults, the unsolved cold cases”.
Fuller House (Netflix)
Sequel to the ’80s/’90s sitcom Full House, in which D. J. (Candace Cameron-Bure) is now widowed and living in San Francisco with her sister Stephanie and best friend Kimmy.
Hanson: The Years that Shook Australia (SBS)
Documentary exploring the “most divisive politician of the 1990s” Pauline Hanson, “who said what some Australians were thinking and was destroyed for it”.
Here Come The Habibs (Nine)
Comedy about a Lebanese migrant family who strike it rich and move to Australia’s poshest postcode, and into the sights of snooty neighbour Olivia (Helen Dallimore).
Hide & Seek (Nine)
A contemporary crime thriller, from Matchbox Pictures, about police investigators on the trail of a network of potential terrorists who have entered Australia using false passports.
House of Bond (Nine)
The “rags-to-riches-to-rags” story of controversial business tycoon, and one-time Nine Network owner, Alan Bond, whose greed and ambition brought his empire to ruin.
Ice Wars (ABC)
Four-part documentary about the impact of crystal methamphetamine – “ice” – in Australia, from the police and health services, to the toxic waste the drug’s production leaves behind.
The Kettering Incident (Showcase)
A woman, haunted by past events, returns to a small town in Tasmania. Ripper cast includes Kris McQuade, Damon Gameau, Damien Garvey and Sacha Horler.
A modern romantic comedy from Judd Apatow about Gus (Paul Rust) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) who “navigate the exhilarations and humiliations of intimacy, commitment and love”.
British actor Tom Ellis plays Lucifer, who has moved to Los Angeles to indulge in “wine, women and song”. But is the prince of hell a bad guy? Or a good guy? Or something in between?
A two-part mini-series about the life of music journalist Ian “Molly” Meldrum, who came from a humble childhood in Quambatook to become one of Australia’s most influential cultural icons.
Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday (Netflix)
The “fun-loving hero of TV, stage and film” Pee-Wee Herman returns in a television film about his first ever holiday. Great cast includes Paul Reubens, Joe Manganiello and Alia Shawkat.
Primetime Comedy Pilot Season (ABC)
Six comedy pilots, from Eddie Perfect, Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan, Ronny Chieng, Lawrence Mooney, Matt Lovkis and others, which may return as full-blown series.
The Ranch (Netflix)
Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson, Sam Elliott and Debra Winger star in a comedy with a somewhat susdy premise, about a failed footballer who returns home to his family’s ranch.
The Rookie (Go!)
The rugby league version of Foxtel’s AFL series The Recruit, this is a reality series which will give an amateur rugby league player a shot at being “drafted” by an NRL club.
Comedy series starring Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola about a man who returns to his hometown and finds an old friend on his doorstep, on the run from her own marriage.
The Secret Daughter (Seven)
Jessica Mauboy stars as a country pub singer whose life is changed after a chance meeting in a series described as “a contemporary family drama”.
Stranger Things (Netflix)
A drama series from the makers of Wayward Pines about the disappearance of a young boy in the 1980s and the subsequent investigation which unearths terrifying supernatural forces.
Sunday Night Takeaway (Seven)
A local adaptation of the British live studio format Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which involves audience games and live music performances.
Top Knot Detective (SBS)
A mockumentary exploring the legacy of the “completely made-up Japanese ’90s SBS hit Ronin Suiri Tentai, or as it’s better known in Australia Top Knot Detective”.
Sam Neill stars in a four-part drama from the British broadcaster ITV about the “history, romance, intrigue and adventure” of Howard Carter’s discovery of the lost tomb of Tutankhamun.
“A ride through the sex and drug-addled music business at the dawn of punk, disco, and hip-hop” from producer/director Martin Scorsese, writer Terence Winter and co-producer Mick Jagger.
Rebecca Gibney and Geraldine Hakewill play two women who are “swept up in a roller coaster chase across Australia in a car full of money”; also stars Stephen Peacocke.
War and Peace (BBC First)
An epic adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, starring Jim Broadbent, Gillian Anderson and Greta Scacchi, from Pride and Prejudice writer Andrew Davies.
A reboot for television based on the iconic science fiction film of the same name, this is a “dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin”.
The Wrong Girl (Ten)
A modern romantic comedy about two flatmates who swear off men, until one of them falls in love with a man she meets at work; from House Husbands producers Playmaker Media.
The X-Files (Ten)
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson return as FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in a six-hour limited series about a special unit of the FBI which investigates paranormal events.
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