ABC Celebrities and staff join with ABC Chair Ita Buttrose to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the Corporation at the Ultimo studios, Sydney. (Image: James Alcock/ABC)

The ABC has unveiled a new slate of programming to coincide with its 90th anniversary year, including a second season of The Newsreader and a series adaptation of Marcus Zusak’s The Messenger.

A total of 11 titles were announced to mark the milestone, ranging from retrospective journeys to music explorations and learning opportunities.

ABC director of entertainment and specialist Michael Carrington said the new programs showcased an “impressive breadth of Australian storytelling”.

“With the increasing amount of global content available to audiences, ABC’s role as the home of Australian stories has never been more vital,” he said.

“Our commitment to supporting the local screen industry, nurturing new talent both on and behind the camera, and connecting with all Australians through quality content continues to be our priority.”

Teased at March’s Screen Forever conference, the second season of AACTA-winning drama The Newsreader will pick in 1987 with newsreaders Helen Norville (Anna Torv) and Dale Jennings (Sam Reid) back on screen delivering the biggest stories of the day. Off-screen they’re contending with rising public profiles, intensifying office politics, and a ruthless new CEO.

Created by Michael Lucas, who also produced with Joanna Werner, the first season of The Newsreader was ABC’s most-watched drama of 2021, securing a total average audience of 1.5 million across all linear and BVOD platforms.

Fresh drama will also come in the form of Lingo Pictures’ The Messenger, an eight-part series based Zusak’s best-selling novel of the same name.

Set to begin production next month, the story follows Ed Kennedy (William McKenna), who is just another stupid human, until one day he isn’t. That day, he stops an armed robbery and becomes an accidental hero. The next day, he starts getting messages… Four playing cards – the ace of diamonds, clubs, spades, and hearts. Each with their own set of tasks. Who’s sending them? And what the hell is a hopeless, cab-driving, guy like Ed meant to do with them?

Joining McKenna in the cast are Maggie Dence, Alexandra Jensen, Chris Alosio, and Kartanya Maynard.

Sarah Lambert leads a writing team Sarah Lambert that comprises Kirsty Fisher, Kim Wilson, and Magda Wozniak, while Lingo Pictures’ Jason Stephens produces with Elisa Argenzio. Helen Bowden, Markus Zusak, Mika Zusak, Sarah Lambert and Daniel Nettheim are executive producers, along with Sally Riley and Rebecca Anderson from ABC.

The series has received major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the ABC and will be financed with support from Screen NSW and All3Media International is managing international sales.

Stephens said the story was a “tale of untapped potential that reminds us we are each in our own way remarkable”.

“It’s about friendship and trying and falling down. It’s about unrequited love, bravery and getting back up. It’s about family and chosen family, but most of all it’s about the way small acts of kindness have huge ripples.”

The Messenger will air on ABC TV and ABC iview in 2023.

Craig Reucassel, Zan Rowe and Tony Armstrong.

The other new titles to be announced by the ABC are as follows:

The ABC Of….

A six-part interview series, hosted by actor David Wenham, in which a range of prominent Australians, icons of one field or more, revisit their pasts through moments drawn from the vast ABC Archives. Guests include Ita Buttrose, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Garry McDonald, Wil Anderson, John Howard and Sarah Ferguson. The series will air Tuesday, June 28 at 8pm

ABC 90 Celebrate! Thursday 30 June at 8pm

The ABC turns 90 this year and is inviting all Australians to celebrate the milestone with a special live two-hour television event. Hosts Zan Rowe, Tony Armstrong and Craig Reucassel will lead a night filled with festivities, entertainment, and fun. Included will be cast reunions, special guests, and performances from some of Australia’s biggest acts. Set to air Thursday, June 30 at 8pm.

Looking Black

High-profile First Nations Australians including Deborah Mailman, Leah Purcell, Bjorn Stewart, Miriam Corowa, and Nakkiah Lui, reflect and examine ABC’s history of Indigenous programming. Set to air Tuesday, July 5 at 8.30pm

Magda’s Big Health Check

Over three episodes, Magda Szubanski embarks on an immersive and personal journey to discover what health looks like in Australia today. She is determined to find the answers she needs about how we can improve our chances of a healthy life in the lucky country. This includes meeting everyday Australians and experts who offer real hope for us all to take action.

Limbo

A six-part comedy series about grief, ghosts, and how hard it is to let go of those we love, especially when they’re taken too soon. When Charlie’s best friend dies at just 38, he is rudderless and alone… until the wise-cracking ghost of his dead friend begins ‘haunting’ him. Limbo is created by Lucas Taylor and directed by Trent O’Donnell. Produced by Bunya Productions and Heiress Films for the ABC, the series will film in Queensland later this year and air on ABC TV and ABC iview in 2023.

It’s a Jungle Out Here

A hybrid scripted-documentary series for ABC Kids, that weaves a funny live action narrative with quirky wildlife footage. The series follows aspiring filmmakers, 14-year-olds Su and Pharrell behind the scenes of their fictional documentary series Australian Wild, as they try to find the best wildlife in Australia.

Reef School

Welcome to Reef School, where every day is an underwater adventure. Join the little Reefies and their teacher Mr Flip as they discover the extraordinary wonders of an imaginary Australian coral reef. Featuring the voices of Emma Watkins, Courtney Act, and Tony Armstrong, Reef School is a 20×11 min series for ABC Kids.

Take 5 with Zan Rowe

Based on the award-winning podcast of the same name, lifelong music nerd Zan Rowe, presents Take 5 with Zan Rowe – an interview show using music to delve deep into the lives of her guests. Across five episodes, icons in music and screen will share five songs they love and explore their connection to this curated soundtrack of their lives.

Soundtrack to Our Teenage Zombie Apocalypse

What do you do when you get trapped in the ABC building during a zombie apocalypse? Write a song about it, of course. Four music-obsessed teens are on a mission to win triple j Unearthed High – so the end of the world will have to wait. Soundtrack To Our Teenage Zombie Apocalypse is a 10×30 min ABC ME series offering action-packed, cranked-to-11, zombie-fueled fun.

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