Nine Network maintains faith in local dramas and factual entertainment

Sigrid Thornton and Kate Jenkinson will star in ‘Amazing Grace.’

The pandemic-induced advertising downturn and temporary suspension of the local content quotas have not impacted the Nine Network’s prime-time commissioning and acquisitions for 2021.

That’s according to Nine’s program director Hamish Turner, who spoke to IF today after the network’s virtual Upfront.

The network revealed Kate Jenkinson and Sigrid Thornton will star in Amazing Grace (previously The Midwife), Playmaker Media’s drama set in the unconventional birth centre attached to a major city hospital.

Apart from that and the previously announced fifth season of Easy Tiger’s Doctor Doctor, there are no local dramas on the schedule.

However Turner is delighted with Beyond Lonehand’s Halifax: Retribution, which has been winning its Tuesday night slot since launching a month ago and will assess the data at series’ end before deciding on a renewal.

He flagged there will be more announcements on local commissions in the coming months. “The quotas obviously provide guidelines but we’re very much driven by ideas,” he says. “For us dramas provide tone and texture for the schedule.”

Turner acknowledged advertising revenues took a hit from March through May but have since recovered to pre-COVID-19 levels, particularly in Sydney and Brisbane, except in Melbourne.

“That has not affected our commissioning strategy,” he said. “We want to be as strong as possible moving into next year, continuing with our consistent platform. Our budget is looking to deliver across linear and BVOD.”

In Amazing Grace, Jenkinson (Doctor Doctor, Wentworth, Offspring) is cast as midwife Grace, a fierce advocate for her mothers-to-be, who has a dubious work/life balance.

Thornton plays Grace’s mother and the supporting cast includes Catherine Van Davies (Hungry Ghosts), Alexandra Jensen (Frayed, My Life is Murder) and Kat Hoyos (Here Come the Habibs!).

The creative team includes writers Jonathan Gavin, Ainslie Clouston, writer and executive producer Sarah Smith, set-up director and co-executive producer Shawn Seet and producer Diane Haddon.

Shooting starts in Sydney soon with funding from Screen Australia and Screen NSW. Sony will distribute internationally.

Lincoln Younes.

Zoë Ventoura, Lincoln Younes, Darren McMullen, John Waters and Chantelle Jamieson have joined the cast of Doctor Doctor as Rodger Corser’s Dr Hugh Knight and his dysfunctional family face their biggest challenges ever.

When the Knight family and the entire township of Whyhope are plunged into crisis, all eyes turn to Hugh to save them, posing the questions: Will Whyhope’s philandering medico be their messiah or is this a recipe for an even bigger disaster? And will Hugh finally find true love with the woman of his dreams?

Encouraged by the popularity of observational documentaries this year, Nine has renewed WTFN’s Paramedics and Emergency, which both shoot in Melbourne, and Screentime’s long-running RBT.

Due to debut next year, WTFN’s Mega Zoo follows the 800 staff and 5,000-plus animals at the Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and the Healesville Sanctuary.

From the producers of 60 Minutes, Under Investigation is a one-hour studio-based program hosted by Liz Hayes with a team of “story insiders” who will seek to solve crimes, uncover new evidence and hear from people who have never spoken publicly. Former top homicide detective Gary Jubelin will be a special contributor.