By Rachael Gavin
A TV documentary following the world’s toughest military selection process has been a surprise hit, despite being up against tough competition thanks to America’s queen of TV.
SAS – The Search for Warriors, from WA-based production company Prospero Productions, was watched by an impressive 455,000 viewers – an 11.7 per cent share of the audience – when part one aired last week.
Monday night’s second and final instalment reached similar heights but had a slight drop in female viewers thanks to Channel Ten’s Oprah interview special.
Julia Redwood, who co-produced the show with Ed Punchard, says the program’s success has blown them away.
“It’s interesting as to why it’s struck a chord with viewers. There are multiple factors: it hasn’t been done for 25 years and there are two generations of people who have no idea what they do.
“And I also think it’s the rawness and brutality of the guys, it shows them to be the heroes that they are.”
The online video attracted over 11,000 catch-up streams in the first three days after part one aired – a level usually achieved across a full 30-day window for other SBS shows, according to the broadcaster.
The Prospero team had wanted to do the series after tasting success with the Navy Divers and Australian Pirate Patrol documentaries but the SAS wasn’t ready for it.
Redwood says the project, which followed 131 men through the harsh 21-day selection process, was later put out to tenure by the SAS. And it was Navy Divers which helped them win the job.
Instinctively, Redwood knew the series would be good.
“Seeing the guys during the selection process, even before training I knew we’d have that rawness. It was the best opportunity to show who they are and what they do.”
But even with the support of the SAS, Redwood admits the biggest challenge for the production team proved to be getting both the military and the network comfortable with identification of the candidates and their stories.
“It was the hardest block for the broadcaster, to get them to trust us and the process. It’s becoming an increasingly difficult in the industry. Lawyers need to go more on trust and good faith.”
As for the future, Redwood says Prospero’s next project will be in the hand of the networks.
“Fingers crossed next year will be a good year. It’s a fragile industry and you’re only as good as your last show.”