The ABC’s 2020 programming slate unveiled today is packed with new documentaries and factual series – but there is a distinct air of déjà vu in the categories of drama and comedy.
No new commissions were announced in either genre, but that does not necessarily mean there will be fewer local dramas or comedies on screen next year, despite budget cutbacks.
Referring to the $84 million funding reduction over three years on top of cuts of $50 million a year since 2014, Michael Carrington, ABC director, entertainment and specialist, tells IF: “To date, ABC management has found ongoing savings that will total about $17 million a year from next year.
“We’ve looked carefully at non-content related initiatives such as renegotiating third-party contracts. Management will also undertake reviews of our property portfolio and our acquisitions expenditure to assess where other savings may be made.
“It’s good progress but more needs to be done to meet our savings target. While we are trying to free up as much money as possible for content, difficult decisions will need to be made around what we stop doing and in which areas. It’s too early to say definitively how that might impact our content but we will need to make decisions based on quality over quantity in the years ahead.”
An ABC spokesman added that today’s announcement does not represent the full slate for 2020 explaining: “There are many programs not yet commissioned, so stay tuned for further announcements early next year.”
The broadcaster is funding development of the second seasons of Blackfella Films’ Total Control, Merman Television and Guesswork TV’s Frayed and Roadshow Rough Diamond’s Les Norton.
Given the healthy ratings of all three – particularly Rachel Perkins’ Total Control, which won its 8.30 pm slot last Sunday, drawing 558,000 viewers in the five mainland capitals, a season high – there seems a very good chance they will be renewed. Subject, perhaps, to international sales and agency funding.
Also, the 2020 line-up does not include Barons, an eight-part international surfing drama created by Micanical’s Michael Lawrence and 2Jons’ John Molloy.
Produced by 2 Jons and Fremantle, that project is in advanced development, with Liz Doran leading the writing team which includes Matt Cameron and Marieke Hardy. Shooting is due to start in Australia, the US and Indonesia in April-May.
There is no word yet on the renewal of RevLover Films’ Diary of an Uber Driver.
Next year’s drama slate will feature Stateless, a six-parter directed by Emma Freeman and Jocelyn Moorhouse about four strangers in an immigration detention centre produced by Matchbox Pictures and Dirty Films; Porchlight Films’ Fallout (working title), an espionage thriller set during the British nuclear tests in South Australia from writer-director Peter Duncan; the second series of Bunya Productions’ Mystery Road and Matchbox Pictures and For Pete’s Sake Productions The Heights; and the third run of Hoodlum Entertainment’s Harrow.
The latest addition to the comedy line-up is Why Are You Like This, a 6-part spin-off of the Fresh Blood pilot created and written by Naomi Higgins, Humyara Mahbub and Mark Samual Bonanno.
Produced by CKOL, the plot follows best friends Mia (Olivia Junkeer) and Penny (Higgins) as they navigate their 20s in Melbourne, along with Penny’s dramatic and aloof housemate Austin (Wil King).
What Horse? and Guesswork Television are filming the fourth season of Rosehaven with Zahra Newman, Josh Quong Tart, Natalie Tran and stand-up comedian Geraldine Hickey joining the regular cast.
No word yet on a renewal of Aquarius Films’ innovative sci-fi series The Unlisted created by Justine Flynn.
The imported series include the latest iterations of Agatha Raisin, Doc Martin, Doctor Who, Killing Eve and Vera.