Shaun Micallef as a fictional former prime minister who is desperate to stay relevant, a comedy series starring The Project’s Charlie Pickering and a modern re-telling of Anna Karenina…

These are among the highlights of the ABC’s 2015 line-up unveiled today by director of television Richard Finlayson. “The breadth and depth of our slate reflects the quality of Australian independent production,” Finlayson told IF.

The executive acknowledges producers are fearful of the impact of looming budget cuts to be imposed by the federal government but says, “We know the cuts cast a pall of uncertainty but we are getting on with the process of commissioning as best we can. By and large it is business as usual.”

Micallef will star in The Ex-PM as Australia’s third longest-serving Prime Minister who has far too much time on his hands and no one to waste it on in a CJZ production in association with ABC TV.

Pickering’s untitled comedy series will combine world events with his sharply comedic observations, with guests and fellow comedians, produced by Kevin Whyte.

The Beautiful Lie is a contemporary re-imagining of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, produced by Endemol Australia’s John Edwards and Imogen Banks, written by Alice Bell, Jonathan Gavin and Blake Ayshford.

Finlayson is delighted to work again with Edwards on the show which will follow three enmeshed families across three generations, praising the producer's ability to tap into contemporary issues. "Linear TV needs strong threads of currency," he observes.

Sticky Pictures’ Sammy J & Randy in Rickett’s Lane will star Saturday Night Fever’s Sammy J as an obsessive, socially inept junior lawyer who scrambles to hold onto his last ounce of dignity while clinging to the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. Heath McIvor will play his slovenly housemate Randy.

From Gristmill Productions, creators of Upper Middle Bogan, comes Little Lunch, a comedy about what happens in the primary school playground at snack time. There will be a second series of Working Dog’s Utopia and a third of Please Like Me, a Pigeon Fancier/John & Josh International production.

Wil Anderson and regular panellists Todd Sampson and Russel Howcroft will return in CJZ’s Gruen Entertainment.

Blood & Thunder will chronicle the musical partnership that created the Australian guitar sound and the most successful rock album of all time, AC/DC’s Back in Black, a co-production between Bombora Film and Music Co. and Beyond Screen. Finlayson said the band members had long-resisted approaches to be the subject of a TV series but had agreed to co-operate, partly because the show will pay tribute to their mentors the Albert family.

Screentime’s Stop Laughing: This is Serious will track Australia’s comedy revolution and our ability to ‘take the piss’ out of ourselves and others.
WTFN Entertainment’s Tattoo Tales will take viewers inside the walls of a tattoo studio on Bondi Beach.

The previously announced drama line-up includes Ruby Entertainment’s The Secret River, which stars Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Sarah Snook , Lachy Hulme and Tim Minchin, adapted from the Kate Grenville novel; Playmaker Media’s Hiding, the saga of a family forced into witness protection; Matchbox Pictures’ paranormal mystery Glitch (Patrick Brammall, Emma Booth, Emily Barclay, Rodger Corser, Genevieve O’Reilly, Andrew McFarlane); and Blackfella Films’ Redfern Now: Promise Me.

There will be third seasons of December Media’s The Doctor Blake Mysteries and Every Cloud’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Marking the ANZAC Centenary, Sam Neill will present a personal account of the Gallipoli campaign in Essential Media & Entertainment’s The Waves of ANZAC Cove. Mago Films’ The Waler: Australia's Great War Horse tells of the 120,000 horses that served with Australian forces. David Bradbury’s Vietnam ANZACs is an account of the Australian soldiers in the Vietnam War and the tragedy of the post- traumatic stress that followed, produced by Jenny Day and Bradbury.

Finlayson was also keen to emphasise two series designed to tap into national conversations, Making Australia Great in which writer and Canberra insider George Megalogenis will interview Australia’s last six prime ministers; and No Excuses!,  which will follow journalist Sarah Ferguson as she immerses herself in a women’s refuge to shine a light on the otherwise hidden world of domestic violence.

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